1. Perry, William MA, RN

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The Internet has brought the spirit of global communication and collaboration to nurses and other healthcare professionals in ways never before believed possible. These resources are offered to expand your opportunities for discussion, reference, education and research.


Adobe's Portable Document Format (pdf) file format is a great way of sending information to people so they can view it exactly as you intended. According to TechEncyclopedia at, "PDF files have become a de facto standard for transmitting documents to commercial printers and to the Web for online publishing. Countless files in PDF format are on the Web, and millions of people have downloaded the Acrobat Reader to view them. Acrobat Reader also comes on many application CD-ROMs, because support manuals are often published in PDF format."


I've frequently run into problems sending word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation files only to have version problems on the other end. While many "office" applications include a file reader that will allow the recipient to read the file, the portable document format has the advantage of free readers for the PC, Mac, Unix, and Palm platforms. The full version of Adobe Acrobat is a wonderful, robust, and very powerful application but does have a price tag which may be a barrier to some (although academic pricing makes it more affordable).


There are several applications available on the Web that give you the ability to create pdf files for free, making it a format of choice for everyone. No platform or version worries, no uncertainty of what the user will see as in a document converted to html.


goBCL ( is a free online service to convert Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents into pdf. It also gives you the option of converting pdf documents into html. A very useful feature is the ability to send documents to goBCL as e-mail attachments and have them e-mailed back to you in the requested format. While the file size is limited to 500K, it's a convenient and useful tool. There is a free registration and I have never received spam which seemed to come from this site.


pdf995 ( is a PC application that you use like a printer. Instead of choosing your usual printer, you choose pdf995 and the pdf file is created on your hard drive. It is an advertiser-sponsored product and each time you use pdf995 it displays a sponsor page in your Web browser. It does not put anything on the pdf files themselves. In addition to the ability to create the files, you can download a free companion product that allows you to combine documents, add links, or rotate pages. A small license fee will remove the ads if you don't want to deal with them.


One of the earlier conversion programs is called "Ghostscript" and is available at It takes a bit more to set up but is very effective as well and is available for several platforms.


There are several other free or low-cost pdf converters available on the Internet. Some, like Software 602 (, incorporate a word processor, spreadsheet, and other functionality. If you have a Macintosh running OS X, AppleWorks allows you to save files as .pdf documents straight from its word processing application. Perhaps someday PC word processing applications will offer the same feature.


Whether you choose the full-featured product from Adobe ( or one of these more modest applications, the goal is to promote communication.