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Of all the computer tools and utilities – that I use in my genealogy work on a daily basis  - - - few are so helpful across the board as is the “PRINT to PDF” capabilities on most computers these days - which avoid any reliance on paper - and allow me to print to a file that is stored on my computer instead.

I use it almost every day in my genealogy work.

I highly recommend it as something to learn and leverage if you aren’t already using it. And a clear way to get away from “killing all the trees” by those who continue to insist on printing paper – when for 99% of the cases there really is no need.


A little background and explaining 

PDFs are particularly useful for many companies in the business world. Whether you’re invoicing clients, maintaining customer records in a consistent format, or sending important memos, you can be sure with PDFs that the person viewing the document will see it as it was intended to be.    It can also be extremely useful int he world of genealogy.

Here are 7 big benefits to making the PDF format a part of your business operations, and some options for how to create PDFs.

1.  Document format is maintained. One of the problems with sharing documents made in Microsoft Word or other word processors is that when you share a file from one computer to the next, the formatting can prove to be very different. This can cause confusion, or make you look bad to your clients or colleagues. You can rest easier with the PDF format, that your document will be presented exactly how you layed it out. It’s also ideal for sending documents that are intended to be printed out.

2.  The format is ubiquitous. Because it’s so good for what it sets out to do, PDF has been widely adopted all around the world. The format is easy to view and share, so whether you’re sharing a document with someone down the street, or on the other side of the world, PDF is a safe choice to send it in.

3.  They tend to have a small file size in comparison to other formats. The TIFF file format has many benefits beyond PDF, but the PDF format has the big advantage of compressing high-quality files to a relatively small file size. That’s ideal for saving hard drive space, particularly if you’re working with limited storage resources.

4.  The files can be protected by password. If you’re a business of any size, it’s possible, or even likely, that you’re handling some of your customers’ sensitive information. PDF files can be password-protected, giving you the ability make sure prying eyes are kept away from your important business documents.

5.  It works on any operating system. PDF works on all the major operating systems currently in use. So whether the viewer is on a PC or a Mac, or even on a newer mobile operating system like iOS and Android, there’s almost no worry about the receiver being unable to view the document.

6.  Easily integrate non-text elements (e.g. images, hyperlinks, etc.) PDFs allow you to maintain visually-pleasing layouts, and make use of links that will open up in the viewer’s web browser when viewing the documents on a computer or mobile device.

7.  It’s not likely to go away. Technology moves quickly, but PDFs are probably here to stay for the long-haul. The format is so widespread and has so much history behind it that it would take a fundamental shift in computing for everyone to adopt a different standard. An investment in PDF software now is sure to stand up in the long run, and give your company an excellent return on investment.



Getting to know Print to PDF on your computer

Windows 10 Print to PDF

MAC Print to PDF


Note that though most computers come with print to pdf options now – there are still various freeware applications that maybe go  beyond the basic capabilities of the standard print to pdf.


Some important things to consider
as to how this applies to your genealogy work.


Genealogical Forms/Charts Pedigree Charts/ Family Group Sheets/ Descendants Charts )

Any report/form/chart that is generated using a genealogy program can normally be converted to pdf format (if the software allows for “printing” of the item.  Simply select the “print to pdf” option in your list of printers.

As you click print – a window will pop up for you to create a pdf file name and designate a storage location on your hard drive.


Document files  (Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc.)

Just about any document file produced by just about any program  can be converted to pdf format – simply by choosing the print option – and then choosing the print to pdf printer option.



Image files (jpg, png etc) are great to record/store family related images – the problem is that each file stands alone – and it is usually nice to be able to brig multiple images together into a single document.

This can be done by selecting the images and then clicking on print – and selecting the print to pdf – printer option.   Aother method is to create a word document and importing in the image files into the word document and then printing the word document nd selecting the print to pdf printer.

Genealogists often have a large amount of email communications – and all so often, however, people don’t think about  preserving these email communications outside of their email system.

If an email account is closed – they could potentially lose a large amount of information (especially attachments) that have been sent.

Attachments can be downloaded from the email system – but the emails themselves are often eventually lost.  To avoid this people can convert their emails to pdf format.

This can be done either one at a time (quite tedious process), but there are also means by which a batch process could be run to do a mass to pdf format.


Most people these days know how to scan a document or image.  But it is surprising how few people know how to scan multiple pages to a single pdf file - using the paper feed of the scanner.

A great time saver  - so you dont have to sit there in the slow and tedious process of repeated scan on a slow desktop scanner.

Learn how to use the paper feed to pdf option - a  true time saver.

Web Pages

Any Internet web page that you visit can be converted to a pdf file – simply by clicking on the print option of the browser  and then selecting the PDF print option  among your list of printers. This is a nice way that you can save a permanent version of the web page that you can keep locally.

Sometimes because of the complex subcomponents of a web page – this results in a pdf document that is hard to read – another option is to copy and paste the pertinent information into a word document – formatted exctly the way you wish and then print to pdf from the word processor.

Entire Books

You may have noted that Google and other sites have uploaded various books in the public domain to the Internet.   Many of these you will be able to download in their entirety in pdf format. 

FamilySearch also provides similar capabilities.

Here are some examples.



In the case that  you want to create a pdf of only certain pages of the entire book  - you can print to pdf – but then only select the pages that you want to include.

PDF Utilities

Password Protection, compressing, converting, rotating, splitting, merging,  watermarking – are all just a few of the actiions that can be applied to a pdf file.

Here is a great FREE site  allows for some of this.
(you should never upload a confidential document to  a public web site like this – but most genealogy documents are not confidential)


Some additonal links of interest:

Files and folders on your computer

Building a digtla Library: