The best free open source software for Windows

If you run Microsoft Windows, you owe it to yourself to try these 10 killer open source apps -- InfoWorld's top picks

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Stick it to The Man with PDFCreator

For many years, the act of creating an Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) file was either more complicated or more expensive than it needed to be. In the old days, you typically had one of two options: Spring for the full Adobe Acrobat product or take your chances with one or more third-party "print to file" solutions, many of which were overpriced or of dubious quality.

All of this changed with the emergence of GhostScript and its subsequent licensing under the GNU GPL. Suddenly, anyone with some programming chops could roll their own PDF creation and editing solution, using the GhostScript interpreter as their framework. Not a programmer? Not a problem -- there are several prebuilt solutions that allow you to generate a PDF. And by far the most popular of these is the PDFCreator tool hosted on the SourceForge Web site.

PDFCreator installs as a virtual printer driver under Windows, allowing you to dynamically generate PDF output from virtually any Windows application. It supports a broad range of Adobe PDF options, including password protection (both for users and authors) and 128-bit encryption. In fact, if there’s a downside to PDFCreator, it’s the sheer number of configuration options available. Fortunately, these settings are hidden deep within the program's Options dialogs. Novice users can simply print to the PDFCreator virtual printer driver and get good results with the default settings.

Bottom line: If you need to generate the occasional PDF file but don’t want to skimp on functionality or configurability, then PDFCreator is an excellent solution and a great alternative to Adobe’s pricey Acrobat product.

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Forget Adobe Acrobat. With PDFCreator you can generate PDFs on the fly, with a wide range of security and digital authoring components.
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