If you’re an ARRL member, you probably know that their flagship publication, QST, is now available in a digital edition. It’s good to see that the ARRL has followed many other publications down this path. I already receive digital editions of Sky & Telescope and American Rifleman magazines. What these other magazines allow me to do that QST does not, however, is save the digital edition to my computer as a PDF file so I can view it offline. It’s possible to overcome that limitation with a little work, however.
The digital edition of QST does allow you to print (although it appears to now be adding a “Single Print Only” watermark to each page–yuck). And there are a number of utilities available to “print” to a PDF file. I’ve been using Primo PDF for several years–it’s free and does a great job. Primo PDF installs itself like a printer, so when you want to save something to a PDF file, you can select “Print” in whatever application you’re viewing it in, and then specify Primo PDF as the printer. I’ll walk you through the process with QST (since there are a few “gotchas” specific to printing QST to a PDF). This walkthrough assumes you’ve already installed Primo PDF. All bets are off if you’re using some other PDF printer utility–it may not work the same was as Primo PDF.
Here’s the web page with the QST digital edition:
Along the top of the window there’s a Print icon (to the left of the question mark icon). Click that, and the window will be overlaid with a print menu:
Here’s “gotcha” number 1. If I try to print all 175 pages of the magazine at once, Adobe Flash Player (the software displaying the magazine) crashes. So, I print about 1/4 of the magazine at a time by setting the page range to start at “Intro” and end at page 40. After that, I click the Print button. You’re going to wait a minute or so after that until you see the printer selector:
Make sure “Primo PDF” is selected as your printer, and then click the OK button. Now you’re going to wait again for a minute or so until the Primo PDF window pops up:
Here you can choose the quality of printing and specify a few other options. The defaults work pretty well. Go ahead and click the “Create PDF” button, and you’ll be prompted for a file name:
Now you’ll wait again for a minute or so until the Primo PDF window disappears, indicating that it’s done printing to the PDF.
At this point you’ve printed about 1/4 of QST to the PDF file. You can open the PDF now to verify that it printed correctly if you’d like, but next you’re going to repeat the process for the remaining fourths of the magazine. Go back and click the Print button again, this time specifying pages 41 through 80, and follow the same steps. When you reach the point where Primo PDF asks you for a file name again, use the same name as before. Primo PDF will then ask whether to append the new content to the existing file or to overwrite the existing file:
The obvious choice here is to append. Primo PDF will then add the new content to the end of the previous content.
Repeat for the remaining half of the magazine and you’re finished.
A few things to note: the digital editions take up quite a bit of disk space (the December 2012 issue took up 85 MB). Despite that, the print quality isn’t great. You might want to experiment with the Primo PDF settings in order to obtain higher quality, but the higher quality will come at the price of larger files.
Obviously, this isn’t the only use for Primo PDF. As I mentioned before, anything that you can print, from any Windows application, can be saved as a PDF by Primo PDF–documents, pictures, web pages, you name it. It’s a really handy tool.