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How to convert a file to PDF on Windows or macOS

PDF is one of the most practical formats for business, but what happens if you have trouble converting a file? With Dropbox, you don’t have to worry. You’ll get a ton of awesome features when using your Dropbox account, including simple and easy file conversion. 

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Converting a document, spreadsheet, or image to a PDF is not only convenient, it also gives you added flexibility. PDFs are a popular choice because they give you:

  • Security
  • Compatibility 
  • Small file size

It’s easiest to convert files using Dropbox, whether that’s to PDF or another format, but we’ll also cover how to convert files or pictures to PDF on Windows and macOS in this guide.

Jump to the instructions:

How to convert a file or picture to PDF on a Windows device

When using Windows, there are a couple of methods you can try if you’re in a pinch. Beware, you might find limitations on the file types you can convert when using these techniques.

The following suggestions are two simple methods to try on Windows. The instructions may vary slightly depending on the version of your operating system.

Method: 1 Converting a file or picture to PDF using ‘Microsoft Print to PDF’

You can convert files using ‘Print to PDF’ on Windows. The ‘Print to PDF’ method can be snappy once you know it, but this approach only works for the following file types:

  • Text files
  • Microsoft Office documents (like Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, or Word documents)
  • Photos, but a lot of app-specific picture files are not compatible (like Photoshop files)
  • XPS files, which are Microsoft’s proprietary equivalent of a PDF

Follow these steps to convert your file on Windows using ‘Print to PDF’:

  1. Find the file, open it up
  2. Press Control + P to open the print menu, or go to File and then Print in the dropdown
  3. Under the Printer name, select the option for Microsoft Print to PDF
  4. Click Print—don’t worry, you’re not physically printing anything
  5. Choose a name for your new file and click Save

‘Print to PDF’ is a handy feature, and this method is both fast and simple—but it’s only useful for common Windows file types.

Method 2: Converting a file or picture using Microsoft Office apps

You can also convert many files from the Microsoft Office suite by using their built-in saving functions. This method will only work if you have the relevant application on your machine, like Word or Excel.

Follow these steps to convert your file into a PDF from a Microsoft Office application:

  • Open the file you want to convert
  • Go to File and then select Save as
  • Choose a file path, to set the save location for your file
  • Choose a name for your newly-converted file
  • Use the dropdown menu to select the filetype PDF (*.PDF)
  • Click Save

There you go — you’re done! Note that this method is useful for converting Microsoft Office files into other formats too (like older versions of Microsoft Word and Excel, or ‘open document’ formats like ODT).

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How to convert a file or picture to PDF on macOS

Mac users love PDFs for their compatibility with other devices. If you have an image file from a photo or design app—or just a written document—it’s often possible to use macOS to convert it to PDF.

The following methods will provide a quick method when you’re using macOS. Please note, instructions vary slightly depending on the version of your operating system:

Method 1: Convert a picture to PDF using Preview on macOS

Preview is the macOS image or PDF viewer, so it can’t help much with converting document files. This method works best for the following types of picture or image files:

  • PNG files
  • JPEGs (or JPGs)
  • Bitmaps
  • Miscellaneous other picture files
  • PSD and TIFF files, which are the only graphic image file format supported

Preview is not as versatile as converting files directly within your Dropbox cloud storage. But, to try this method, you can use these steps:

  • Go to the file and select it, select multiple images by holding down the Command key
  • Use Finder and select File in the top-left corner, to reveal the dropdown window
  • Select Open With and then click the Preview app
  • Once Preview opens, select File again to reveal another dropdown menu
  • Click Export as PDF
  • Pick a name and a file location
  • Click Save

Your new file will be ready to use from your new save location. Preview is a solid macOS app, and offers a simple conversion method, but has a lot of limitations on the file types you can convert.

Method 2: How to convert a file to PDF using the File menu on macOS

You can convert documents and other files on macOS by using the File menu. This method is best for documents. But, again, this method only works on a few file types—such as the following:

  • Text files
  • Microsoft Office documents (like Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, or Word documents)
  • Files from equivalent Apple applications (like those from Numbers, Keynote, or Pages)

Try the following steps to use the File menu method to convert a file to PDF on macOS:

  • Open the file in its relevant application
  • Click File from the menu at the top left of the screen
  • Select Print from the dropdown menu
  • Select the PDF dropdown in the lower left section of the Print menu
  • Click Save as PDF then choose a filename and a save location
  • Click Save

There you have it! Many apps allow you to save to PDF on macOS. When working with macOS applications it may be smart to just save a PDF version to avoid the need for conversion later.

You can back up, convert, manage, and store all your files using Dropbox. Try Dropbox for yourself.

How to convert a file or picture to PDF using Dropbox

Using Dropbox is a simple way of converting many types of files to PDFs. Dropbox conversion has much more reliability and flexibility than you get when using the Windows and macOS methods.

Use the following steps to use Dropbox for converting your file to a PDF:

  • Sign in to your Dropbox account
  • Find the file and hover over the file and click the ellipsis ()
  • Hover over Save as… and select PDF

The PDF file will be in the same location as the original file. View the full list of convertible file types and other conversion details on the ‘How to convert Dropbox files’ support page.

A screenshot of Dropbox Sign that shows how easy it is to send a PDF for signing after conversion.

Tips for working with PDFs in Dropbox

The following tips will be useful when you work with PDFs using your Dropbox account:

  • You can start by using a Dropbox Basic account, which gives you 2 GB of free storage
  • Once you’ve got your PDF you can convert it back to its original format or another one. This can be useful if you want to convert a PDF back to a Word or Excel file for further editing
  • If you want to add a signature to your new PDF you can use Dropbox Sign, see ‘How to add a signature to a PDF’ for instructions
  • You can edit a PDF when previewing a file on, see ‘How to edit PDFs in Dropbox’ for more information
  • You can easily make annotations to new or existing PDFs using your Dropbox account, see more about our powerful annotations features

To get the best out of Dropbox and your PDFs—try a full account. Find a plan and sign up today.

Use Dropbox to convert, manage, and store your files

Whether you've got an important document like a contract or an exciting image like a poster to share with your team, Dropbox is a versatile tool for working with a variety of file types.

File conversion to PDF and other formats is essential for school, work, and personal projects, so it’s important to have a fast, accurate method of doing it.

You can use the methods for Windows and macOS above but, with Dropbox, you get so much more than a file converter.