The Vastly Underutilized Create PDF from Clipboard Feature

PDF from ClipboardThere are many ways to create PDF files using Acrobat, but one of the most useful might not be very well known to many Acrobat users.

I’m referring to Create PDF from Clipboard.

As the name suggests, Create PDF from Clipboard takes whatever is on your Clipboard and converts it to PDF. Amazingly, it works for just about anything you can put on the clipboard. I use this feature in Acrobat every day, sometimes several times a day.

How do I access Create PDF from Clipboard?

While it’s not hidden, you might not have run across it. The Create PDF from Clipboard feature works in both Acrobat Standard and Pro. Here’s how it works:

  1. Copy something to the clipboard
  2. In Acrobat, X, choose File > Create > PDF from Clipboard
    - or – Click the Create Button and choose PDF from Clipboard
    - or  (Windows only) type ALT-F-R-C

The instructions above are for Acrobat X, but the feature works substantially the same in Acrobat 9.

Acrobat converts the content on the clipboard to PDF and create a new, Untitled PDF document. Save the new document and you’re good to go.

How it Works and Limitations

  • Converting text on the clipboard generally preserves fonts and formatting, but not always. Results are typically like pasting text into a new word processing document and converting that to PDF. Text is laid out generically and the margins may be different.
  • If there isn’t anything on the clipboard, or if the content cannot be converted to PDF, this feature will be grayed out.
  • The content you want to convert must be in an application. You can’t, for example, select a JPEG file on your desktop and copy it to the clipboard. Acrobat won’t know what to do and the feature won’t be available.
  • Some applications don’t copy with the same quality. I noticed that while I can copy Visio objects to the clipboard, that the results are bit-mapped when converted via the clipboard to PDF.

Read on to learn about a few ways to use this feature and I’ll even tell you about a related and even more obscure way to create PDF.


How can I use Create PDF from Clipboard?

Here are a few ways I use this feature:

  1. Grabbing Text from an Email
    While I can print emails to PDF, sometimes I don’t want to share the entire email or conversation.
  2. Grabbing text and images from a web page
    Great for those internet receipts. If you want to try something wacky, type CTRL-A to select everything on a web page, then convert. Results vary.
  3. Converting a single PowerPoint slide to PDF
    Ever hear, "Hey, can you send me that slide?" No, not the entire presenation, just – one – slide.
    In PowerPoint, select a slide and from the slide list on the left of the screen. Right-click and choose Copy, then switch to Acrobat.
  4. Convert part of an Excel spreadsheet to PDF.
    Select a range of cells and copy, then switch to Acrobat.
  5. Convert part of a Word or Word Perfect document
    A handy way to show changes to part of a document.
  6. Convert part of a PDF document to a new PDF document
    Surprisingly, this works! Use the Cursor tool in Acrobat to select text, then right-click and choose Copy.
    The text be extracted and reformatted.
  7. Adobe Creative Suite Products
    • Photoshop: Sometimes, I want to show a customer quick view of my Photoshop file. Choose Copy to grab the current layer or Copy Merged to grab all the layers to the clipboard.
    • Illustrator and InDesign: Copy and item(s) to the clipboard. Works great for showing design elements.
  8. Grabbing Screen Shots
    On Windows, tap the PrtScrn (Print Screen) key to copy an image of the screen to the clipboard. You can use the annotation tools in Acrobat to help explain how to use a feature or function. On the Mac, you can use the Grab utility.
  9. Grab a Frame from a Video and convert to PDF
    Download the free QuickTime player from Apple if you don’t already have it. Open your video and play the video to the frame you need. Pause playback and choose Edit> Copy.

Bonus: Insert from Clipboard

This feature is even a bit harder to find . . . Insert from Clipboard.

To find it, open the Tools Pane, then twirl open pages and click the More Insert Options menu.

Using this command, you can insert clipboard content into an existing PDF document.

After choosing this option, the standard Acrobat Insert Pages dialog appears allowing you to choose where to insert the new content.

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