Creating High-res PDF files for free


So I finished up a musical arrangement for the brass choir I play in, using the Finale scoring program, and I needed to e-mail the parts out before our next rehearsal. Now here’s the rub, Finale doesn’t make PDF files directly; you need Adobe Distiller to do that.

Being a cheap person and open-source advocate, I thought I should be able to use Ghostscript, but the scoring program is on Windows, and my good installation of Ghostscript is on Linux (with the nice True-Type fonts for Linux and some other useful tools). Windows doesn’t come with a generic PostScript driver, and using a kludgy printer driver like the Apple Laser writer limits your resolution to 300 dpi, which is not enough for a music score.

It took me a little while to find all of the relevant info from a couple of different sources, so I thought I’d lay out the process here:

From Adobe’s Web Site you need:

  • Adobe generic postscript PPD (“PPD Files: Adobe”; you want ADIST5.PPD from that zip)
  • Adobe universal postscript windows driver installer

You also need an installed and working copy of AFPL Ghostscript 8.0 or better from Here’s all you do:

  • Unzip the PPD archive and copy the ADIST5.PPD file someplace useful.
  • Run the PostScript windows driver installer
  • Tell it to use the “write to file” device.
  • Tell it to use the PPD you saved off in step 1.

Now when you print to that new printer device, you’ll get a PostScript file that is optimized for PDF output. You can set the resolution for that device to 1200 dpi on up, which is very handy (the original problem I had was that printing out Finale scores at 300 dpi looked really bad).

Drag that .ps file on over to the Linux box, and use Ghostscript to make the PDF. To make it easy on myself, I made a little shell script called “distiller” that invokes ps2pdf with the proper arguments (extra font path entries deleted for clarity):


ps2pdf -I/usr/share/fonts/msttcorefonts … -dPDFSETTINGS=/default -r1200 $*

I suppose I could automate that last bit using a Samba printer driver, but there’s no need for the moment.

The end result? I’ve got a beautiful looking full score PDF file that is fairly small (about 45k per page) that I can e-mail to everyone else in the group ahead of our next rehearsal.

Ain’t technology grand?

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