Creating PDF from Clipboard

Suppose you have a map contained as part of a layout and you want to clip out the map and send it off to a friend for directions to an event, or perhaps you want to take a screenshot of an FTP client application to show log-on instructions, or maybe you want to clarify the use of a dialog box in Acrobat or another application.

All of these examples and many more are excellent candidates for screen captures. To capture a screenshot of the entire monitor screen in Windows, press the Shift+PrtScrn (Print Screen) or PrtSc keys. The keystrokes copy the current view of your monitor to the Clipboard.

You can launch Acrobat or maximize it and select From Clipboard Image from the Create PDF task button pull-down menu. The Clipboard data opens as a PDF document in the Acrobat Document pane. If you have a menu or dialog box open, the screen capture includes the foreground items in the capture.

Screens captured on Windows through these methods create 96 ppi (pixels per inch) images; captures on the Mac are 72 ppi. If you want to capture a dialog box without the background on Windows, use Alt+PrtScrn (or PrtSc).

Copying a screenshot to the Clipboard works with any program or at the operating system level when capturing desktop or folder views, accessories, or virtually any view you see on your computer monitor. Once data are on the Clipboard, you can open Acrobat and convert the Clipboard data to a PDF document.


Converting Clipboard data on the Macintosh is handled exactly the same as when converting Clipboard data on Windows. However, if you want to first take a screen shot on the Mac, you use Acrobat instead of keystrokes. On the Mac version of Acrobat you have additional commands for capturing screen shots.

These commands are not necessary on Windows where your keyboard can easily capture screen shots; but on the Mac, no keystrokes exist for capturing a screen and saving the captured data to the Clipboard. All Mac keystrokes used for capturing screen shots, record the data in a file saved to the Desktop.

To capture a screen to the Clipboard, select File >> Create PDF >> and choose one of the three screen capture items you see listed in the menu:

  • From Screen Capture. Selecting this option. The entire monitor window is captured and converted to PDF.
  • From Window Capture. Using this open, and then pressing the Spacebar. A camera icon appears as the cursor. Move the icon on top of a window and click to capture just that window.
  • From Selection Capture. Using this option, but without following with pressing the Spacebar. A crosshair appears as a new cursor. Click and drag the area to capture and release the mouse button. The selected area is converted to PDF.

When you select one of the options for capturing a screen, the screen capture is made and the capture is converted to PDF and opened in Acrobat.

Taking Snapshots

In the default Select & Zoom toolbar, select the Snapshot tool and click on a PDF page. The entire page is copied to the Clipboard. You can then create a PDF file From Clipboard Image as described in the previous section. The page you create, however, is a raster image when you convert it to PDF.

You lose all text attributes when copying a page in this manner. A better solution for converting an entire page is to use the Extract Pages command. The advantage of using the Snapshot tool is when taking a snapshot of a partial page in Acrobat. You can select the Snapshot tool and drag a marquee in an area you want to copy.

When you release the mouse button, the selected area is copied to the Clipboard. Choose Create PDF >> From Clipboard Image from the Create PDF task button to convert the selection to PDF. Again, you lose all type attributes, but you can use this method if retaining text is not an issue or if you want to crop an image.

Using the Crop tool doesn’t reduce the page size or file size of a PDF document. Using the Snapshot tool results in smaller file sizes when copying smaller sections of a PDF page. Snapshots cannot be taken in password-protected files. If a file is encrypted you need to eliminate the file encryption before using the Snapshot tool.