Printing Directly to a PDF file

Streamline the PDF process
CUPS-PDF Virtual Printer  <br>Click to see a larger image
CUPS-PDF Virtual Printer
Click to see a larger image
Like many people, I did much of my Christmas shopping online.

At the end of an online transaction, you normally get a confirmation page that has your order information on it. I want to keep that info, but I don't want to print the page, so I normally print the page as a PDF.

I know that the process to print to a PDF is clunky, but while I was doing it over and over one day when I was shopping online, I decided that there had to be a better way.

I did a bit of digging around and found a way to greatly simplify the print to PDF process.

I rarely print anything any more. I got rid of my inkjet printer a couple of years ago because the ink cartridges kept drying up. I bought a laser printer and two years later I am still using the "starter" toner that came with with printer.

To print to a PDF file, you have to take a silly detour through your printer's dialog box and then hit the PDF button. I remember before Lion was released there was some discussion about how Apple should streamline the process with a Print to PDF option in the File menu of the Menu bar.

Apple wasn't listening and printing to PDF is the same in Lion as it has always been: clunky. Fortunately, when Apple misses an opportunity, there is usually someone out there who picks up the slack.

I found something called a "virtual printer driver" that lets you print directly to a PDF file. Once you install it, it shows up just like a printer on your Mac, but instead of directing the output to a printer, it writes a PDF file to your hard drive. Printing to a PDF file becomes as easy as:

Command-P, Enter

Note: I mention Lion only because a PDF printing feature was on my wish list for Lion. This tip works for any version of OS X.

Here's how to set it up:

  1. Go to this page. (The page is pretty geeky looking but don't worry.)
  2. Click the link that says "CUPS-PDF 2.5.0" to download the print driver. (The version number will probably change over time.)
  3. Locate the downloaded file called "CUPS-PDF" in your downloads file and open it.
  4. Go through the steps of the installer accepting all the defaults. Ignore the geeky terminology.
  5. Go to System Preferences from the Dock or the Apple menu and go to the Print & Scan pane.
  6. Click the + button under the printer list.
  7. Choose CUPS-PDF and click Add. (If you don't see CUPS-PDF as an option, choose Other... first.)
  8. From Safari, hit Command-P to bring up the print dialog.
  9. Choose CUPS-PDF from the Printer drop down.
  10. If the dialog box you see doesn't look like the one in the image above, click Show Details.
  11. Make sure that both "Print Backgrounds" and "Print headers and footers" are checked. If so, you are done. If not, check them and keep going.
  12. Click the Presets drop down and choose Save current settings as preset... and then choose Only for this printer.
  13. Click the Print button. This will make a PDF of your current page, but it is needed to save the changes you made in the print dialog box.
To create a PDF of the current page (in any app, not just the browser) just hit Command-P and Enter. The PDF file is created in the folder /Users/Shared/CPS-PDF/{your account name}


  • You can switch back and forth between your real printer and the PDF "virtual printer" any time from the print dialog box.
  • /Users/Shared/CUPS-PDF/{account name} isn't a very convenient place to look for your PDF files, but there is a geeky reason why they go there. You can create an aliasto this folder and put it anywhere.
  • You want to have Print Backgrounds checked when you are printing to a PDF so the PDF file will look exactly like the web page. When printing to a printer, you normally would uncheck Print Backgrounds to save ink/toner.

Related Items: PDF | Printer

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Printing Directly to a PDF file | 3 comments
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Printing Directly to a PDF file
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 06 2012

Great post.. thanks very much!

Printing Directly to a PDF file
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 20 2014

Thank you!!!!

Printing Directly to a PDF file
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 01 2014

excellent post !
result is just wonderful.