When you create your own handouts and documents for class, it’s a nice touch to turn them into PDF documents. This way you can share them on the web or print them from another computer without worrying about compatibility issues. Plus, if you share them with other teachers they come across as more professional and “real” than a Word document.
The trouble is, not everyone knows that you can easily and freely turn office documents into PDF files. Typically, it’s assumed you need some (expensive) professional software to create PDF files. For example, you could get Adobe Acrobat Pro or Distiller. Not cheap options, and not for the average user.
I was reading the NJEA review that I got in the mail today, and they listed Zamzar as a great resource because, among other things, it can convert documents to pdfs. While this is true, you don’t need an online service like Zamzar. There’s another free option: Open Office.
Within the entire OpenOffice suite, you automatically have the option to save a document as a pdf file. If you create a handout in OpenOffice Writer, you can have a pdf file instantly by hitting the PDF button. If you want to share a presentation, you can open your Impress file and save it as a PDF. It’s built into the OpenOffice suite, in part, because OpenOffice is about using open standards to share information… PDF is an open standard. “.docx” is not.
I still wonder why more schools don’t turn away from expensive, licensed proprietary options when there are perfectly good open source alternatives available. For some students (i.e. graphic design, photography), you’ll want a PC or a Mac that can run the Adobe Creative Suite. For just about everyone else… Ubuntu, OpenOffice, and any number of open source alternatives is a perfect solution. I’d say something like 90% (or more) of students would be perfectly served by a purely open source system.
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