5 Great Tools for Converting HTML to PDF

If you've ever tried to print a web page that doesn't have a print style sheet attached to it, you know that it can be difficult to get them to look correct. The CSS styles that display pages effectively across different screen sizes and devices do not always translate well to the printed page. Background images, for instance, will not be printed.That alone will destroy the look and the flow of a page and its content when it is printed out.

PDF files have the advantage of looking the same no matter where you are viewing them. In fact, the name means "portable document format" and the ubiquitous nature of these files is really what makes them so powerful. So instead of trying to print a webpage to paper, it make sense to create a PDF of a page. That PDF document can then be shared via email or it can indeed be printed. Because CSS does not dictate styles or background images in a PDF the way that is does in a browser-delivered HTML webpage, you will find the result of printing that document very different! In a nutshell, what you see on the screen for that PDF will be what comes off of that printer. 

So how you do you go from HTML to PDF? Unless you have Adobe Acrobat (compare prices) or another PDF creation program it can be hard to convert HTML to PDF. These five tools give you several options for converting HTML files into PDF files.

Note: If you're looking for tools to reverse this scenario and to instead convert your PDF files to HTML, check out my companion article to this one and get some options in my list: 5 Great Tools for Converting PDF to HTML

Original article by Jennifer Krynin. Edited by Jeremy Girard on 8/18/16.

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HTML to PDF Converter
HTML to PDF Converter. Screen shot by J Kyrnin

A free online converter that will take any URL of a web page that is live on the web (without a password in front of it - this will not work with password protected / secure pages) and convert it to a PDF file that is downloaded to your computer. It adds a small logo to each page of the PDF, so be aware of that addition which will show what tool was used to create the document. That may or may not be acceptable to you, but it is what you get with this "free" price tag.

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PDFonFly
PDFonFly. Screen shot by J Kyrnin

A free online converter that will take any URL of a web page that is live on the web (without a password in front of it - this will not work with password protected / secure pages) and convert it to a PDF file. You can also enter text into their WYSIWYG text field and it will turn that into a PDF file as well. A two-line footer is generated at the bottom of every page of the PDF - in my test case it over-wrote some of the page contents. If this tool overwrites some of your page, that alone could be the deal breaker that forces you to consider a different solution.

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PDFCrowd
PDFCrowd. Screen shot by J Kyrnin

This is a free online converter that will take a URL, an HTML file, or direct HTML input and convert it to a PDF file that is downloaded to your computer. It adds a footer to each page with a logo and advertisement. This tool can be customized if you sign up for the premium license at around $15 per year. So basically, if you want the free version, you have to accept the advertising. If you want to remove the ads, you have to pay for a small licensing cost.

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Total HTML Converter
Total HTML Converter. Screen shot by J Kyrnin

This is a Windows program that you can use to convert web pages by URL or batches of HTML documents on the command line to PDF. There is also a preview window so you can see what file you're going to convert before you convert it. There is a free trial and the full version costs around $50. I recommend checking out the free trial to see how this option works for you. If it does indeed meet your needs, the $50 price tag may be acceptable, especially if you are turning lots of HTML files in PDFs.

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Click to Convert
Click to Convert. Screen shot by J Kyrnin

This is a Windows program you can use to convert HTML to PDF or PDF to HTML. The fact that it works both ways is attractive since it gives you lots more flexibility. You can also use this program to edit PDF documents or merge them into a single document, making it somewhat of a replacement for Adobe Acrobat itself. There is a free 15-day trial and the full version costs around $90. That cost makes it the most expensive one on this list, but it is also the most fully featured tool of the ones presented here. Once again, try the free version to get started and determine if this does work for your needs.