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How to Convert a PRN File to PDF

How to Convert a PRN File to PDF

Being able to view the contents of a PRN file can be advantageous in some situations. In this Techspirited article, we show you how you can convert a PRN file into the much more software-friendly PDF format.
Satyajeet Vispute
Did You Know?
Portable document format, or PDF, is mostly known for its read-only configuration, and is supported in all the popular operating systems.

A PRN file is a special file that contains specific instructions for a printer. It tells the printer what to print, where to print it on the page, which paper tray to use, the chosen mode of printing, the paper size to be used, besides a number of other details.

A PRN file is automatically generated by a printer's driver every time you give the print command. It is basically a means of translating the output of a word processing program, such as MS WORD, into something that the printer can understand and use.

Normally, this process takes place in a rather transparent manner; you give the command to print via the printer's software UI, the PRN file is automatically generated in the background and sent to the printer, and the printing takes place. However, there are certain advantages of intercepting the PRN file before it gets sent to the printer. For example, if you need to print a file created in AUTOCAD, and if you have the PRN file, you can do it even in another system without requiring to install AUTOCAD.

But just having a PRN file is of little use, as it can be opened with a limited number of programs such as ACD Systems Canvas 12, Microsoft Office Document Imaging, AllWeb FastPrint, Microsoft Windows Command Prompt, and Free Raw Print (FRP). Converting it to a PDF will allow it to be more accessible, and therefore more usable. But before learning how to convert a PRN to PDF, we first need to know how to capture it.

How to Capture PRN File

In most modern-day printing applications, it is quite easy to capture the PRN file before it gets sent to the printer. All you are required to do is simply open the normal printing dialog window, and select the 'Print to file' option provided there. This will automatically generate a PRN file in your specified folder. If your printer's software doesn't offer this option, you can use a third-party software such as Print Distributor for capturing PRN files.

How to Convert the PRN File into PDF

There are many ways to convert a PRN file to PDF. You can use one of the several online freeware converters to get the job done. Alternatively, you can use one of the following methods for the conversion.

For Windows and MAC

Note that the method described below is for the Windows OS, but it is also applicable to the MAC OS.

Step 1: Print the File Using PostScript Printer

After you are done creating your document in your word processing software, print the file via the PostScript printer installed on your system. This will result in the generation of a PRN file.

Step 2: Renaming to .PS

Once the PRN file is generated, it needs to be converted to a suitable format, before it can be converted to a PDF. For this, open Windows Explorer and locate the PRN file. Once you find the file, right-click on it, and select 'Rename'. Keeping the rest of the file name same, delete the PRN extension and replace it with a .ps extension. Click outside the file menu to save the new name.

Step 3: Conversion Software

Once you have converted the PRN file to a PS file, you can use one of the following two ways for converting it to a PDF.

a) Install Adobe Acrobat in your system, and in it, select the 'Create PDF' option. Find your PS file, and change it to a PDF format. Download Adobe Acrobat.

b) Alternatively, you can visit Adobe's website and convert the file to a PDF for free for the initial conversion.

For Linux

For converting PRN to PDF on Linux, you will need to install PS2PDF. This is a script that converts a Post Script format document into a PDF format. Let's consider that the PRN file you want to convert is 'example.prn'. Copy it to Linux and open the terminal. Run the following command in it: ps2pdf example.prn example.pdf

This will convert your prn file to pdf.

Using GhostScript

GhostScript is a software suite based on an interpreter for Adobe System's PS and PDF formats. Its main functions are rasterization or rendering of the page description language files used for the display or printing purposes, and for conversion between PostScript to PDF. GhostScript can be ported on many operating systems, including Windows, MAC OS, Unix, Linux, AmigaOS, Atari TOS, etc.

The following steps are involved in using GhostScript on Windows, for converting PRN files into PDF.

Step 1: Installing PostScript Printer

The first step involves installing a PostScript printer on your computer in order to create PostScript files. Note that you don't actually need to have the hardware attached to your computer. You only need to have its driver software. You can find the driver for an HP Laser Jet 2300L PS printer or an Apple LaserWriter Plus, or equivalent printer included in your Windows installation.

Simply go to Start -> Control Panel -> Printers, and then click on 'Add Printer'. Add one of the above mentioned printers to your computer. When you are prompted for the location of the printer, state that it is a local printer, and should print to 'FILE' and not to 'LPT1'. If you are asked whether you want to make this your default printer, click on 'No'.

Step 2: Downloading and Installing GhostScript

GhostScript is a free for download PostScript interpreter which can be used to convert PostScript files, so that they can print on a PostScript printer. GSView is its user interface on Windows, which makes it very convenient to use GhostScript on this operating system. Download and install both, GhostScript and GSView onto your system.

Step 3: GhostScript Configuration

Once you have installed GhostScript on your system, you are required to perform some settings on it. For this, run GSView and go to Options -> Advanced Configure. Make sure that the fonts path in the GhostScript Options, which is the third box down, mentions the following: -dNOPLATFONTS -sFONTPATH="c:\windows\fonts"

Step 4: PRN Generation

Open the document you want to print, and click on File -> Print. In the new window that opens, select the name of the PostScript printer which you had previously installed in the Printer Name box. Put a check on the 'Print to file' check-box below, and click OK.

Once the 'Print To File' dialog box appears, choose the file name and the folder that you want to save it in. By default, the file extension .prn will be added.

Step 5: Conversion using GhostScript.

Open the PRN file in GSview, by navigating to the location in which it was saved. From the 'File' menu in GSview, select 'Convert'. Among the list of options, select 'PDFwrite'. This step will effectively convert the PRN to PDF. For best results, keep the resolution setting on 'High' before clicking on OK.

Thus, a PRN file, which by itself is of very little use, can be converted via an online converter, or by using one of the methods described in this article into a PDF, which can be easily read, edited, and transferred.