Generating PDFs With Adobe Acrobat Distiller

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Adobe Acrobat Distiller first shipped as part of Acrobat in 1993 as a way to transform PostScript files to PDFs that preserve the appearance of documents and were cross-platform. However, Distiller is no longer a separate Adobe application.

Instead, it was incorporated into a printer driver that creates PDF files. As a result, in many applications, the option to make a PDF appears when you go to print a document.

This process works with most file types, unlike the Distiller application, which required PostScript files.

People who still have a copy of Distiller can use it to turn PostScript files into PDF documents. Though there are other programs for generating PDF files, Acrobat Distiller was the primary one. Some page layout software programs can generate PDF files from within the program, but sometimes they are simply acting as a front end for Distiller, which must also be installed.

Tip: If all you want to do is look at a PDF file, you can do it for free with Adobe Acrobat Reader or the macOS Preview application.

Creating PDF Files With Distiller

Distiller works only with PostScript files. In your original program, save the document as a .PS file. You can then drag it into Distiller from the desktop, or you can:

  1. Open the Distiller program.
  2. Select Distiller > Job Options or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+J.
  1. Accept the default settings or make any changes to the resolution or degree of compression you want to use in your PDF, and then click OK.
  2. Open the PostScript file by choosing File > Open, select the file, and then click Open.
  3. Name the PDF file or accept the default suggestion, and then click Save to start the process of creating a PDF from the PostScript file.

    PDFs created with Distiller can be used anywhere PDFs are accepted.

    Weakness of Distiller as a Standalone Application

    Distiller requires a PostScript file to generate a PDF. Not all software programs offer .PS as an option, and those that do often require that the user be familiar with all the PostScript options to make the right choices.

    By comparison, the printer driver that replaced Distiller works with any document that can be printed, and the process is as simple as saving the document.

    Adobe Distiller Server

    A related product, Adobe Distiller Server, was released by Adobe in 2000. It provided high-volume conversions of PostScript to PDF formats using a server. 

    In 2013 Adobe discontinued Distiller Server and replaced it with the PDF Generator in Adobe LiveCycle.