Best Free PDF and File-Sharing Tools

Portable Document Format (PDF), is a file format used to present and exchange documents reliably across different devices and software. It was created by Adobe and is designed to be versatile and can contain links and buttons, form fields, audio, video, and even business logic. It can be electronically signed and the contents are viewable using a free PDF reader.

This might be a surprise for most, but FireFox, Chrome and Opera browsers have built-in PDF readers integrated. No wonder you can open PDF links or files, haha. If you prefer a desktop app, there’s Sumatra PDF. If you need a more powerful option, there’s PDFGear.

Want to create PDFs? Edit forms? Or need a viewer? No sweat, LibreOffice lets you do all that. Oh yes, LibreOffice is free. Another free editor of the same mold is AbleWord.

Have a small PDF problem? Don’t worry, I’m sure PDF2Go has your back. The site offers conversion, compression, resizing, editing, sorting, deleting, splitting, merging, rotating, and protecting PDF files, for free. In similar molds are Sejda, SmallPDF, and PDFCandy. Online services are limited by the maximum file size they can support. You can also remove password protection. Adobe itself has free tools such as the PDF to Word Converter. To convert a web page to a PDF file, use PrintFriendly Google Chrome extension.

For big files, it’s better to use desktop apps like PDF24 Creator or PDFSam Basic to merge, split, rotate, extract, and mix PDF pages. Tabula is a Java-based desktop app that extracts table data from PDFs and exports it to CSV or Excel.

To extract specific pages, I use the browser’s print button, select the pages, and save them as PDF or Microsoft Print to PDF. It works like magic! But what if you just need to convert the post/page content, without the header, footer and sidebar? No worries, use Google Chrome extension PrintFriendly – Print and PDF Web Pages.

On the web development side, you may need to export HTML content as a PDF file. I’ve tried several PHP-based HTML to PDF converters in one of my projects, but they all failed to generate accurate PDF documents. Complicated CSS results in garbled PDFs. Only mPDF stayed true to generating PDF files based on the original HTML design and layout. For it to convert properly, the HTML file must be UTF-8 encoded. It is based on FPDF and HTML2FPDF, but it beats both in performance.

File sharing is an integral part of web development, and what’s the faster way to share than peer-to-peer (P2P)? P2P allows the sender to transfer file/s directly to the recipient without storing any data on an intermediary server. However, for the transfer to be successful, the connection between the sender and receiver must be maintained until the download is complete. In the online realm, this means the sender’s tab in the browser, where the transfer was initiated, must be kept “alive”. The sender doesn’t have to be a medical practitioner to do this, just keep the tab open.

I’ve collected some of the best P2P services out there. Here are some of the criteria for inclusion:

  • Well, we already know that it is fast, so the main factor here would be the file size. There must be no limit.
  • No registration is required. No need to provide recipient email, message, etc.
  • Everything must be online. No need to download software. No need to use Flash or plugins or other crap.
  • It is very easy to use. Here’s my concept of easy: upload the file and share the link. That’s it!
  • Although not as important, good criteria nevertheless: you must have a clean and professional-looking page. Preferably, no ads.

JustBeamIt fits all of these. It also supports multi-file transfers. But it has two flaws, the generated link expires after 10 minutes and it is good for one-time use only. So the lone but lucky recipient must download it asap.

ShareDrop is unique and takes file sharing to a whole new level. Here the sender can share different files with different recipients all in one setting! The interface is cool too. It consists of semi-circles with the sender in the center. When recipients access the link, they appear in the outer circles, identifiable by their IP. The sender can then send a file to a specific recipient and a different file to another. Despite all its niceties, it has one setback, but it’s not a deal breaker. The sender can only share one file at a time. This can be cumbersome if it involves several files.

ToffeeShare has no file limit.

Wait! SendAnywhere deserves a special mention here. Instead of giving the recipient links to download, you give out an auto-generated 6-digit code. The main reason why it didn’t qualify is because the online service has a maximum file size limit of 1 GB (it is huge, but I have criteria to follow). If you don’t mind installing their software, which is available on Android, iOS, Windows(desktop and phone), Mac, Linux, and Chrome devices, there is no limit what so ever.

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