I want to save an image opened in Gimp in PDF format. But when I click "Save As", the closest format to PDF is PS. I later learned that I can click on "Print", and then select "Print to File" in PDF format.

I recall similar things has happened before with other software as well, i.e. saving to PDF format is not available, but printing to PDF format is. So I wonder why is it that way? Why is it different for PS format?


Yes, it seems like being confusing and inconsistent for an end user to read this.

The cause for the difference is this:

  • Save as PostScript is a function that is accomplished natively, entirely by the application itself (in this case Gimp).

  • Print to PDF is a function that is accomplished by some external tool. In this case Gimp sents PostScript to a (virtual) PDF printer driver (in most cases using Ghostscript's PS->PDF conversion ability) which accomplishes the PDF generation (from the PostScript input it received).

This entry appears frequently in the Print menu, because all applications which can print at all can use this (virtual) PDF printer driver. It's the same for Gimp as is for all other applications:

  • If they can print at all, they must be able to also print to a PostScript printer.
  • If they can print to a PostScript printer, they somehow can generate the PostScript file format.
  • If they can send PostScript file format, a virtual PDF printer will happily convert it to PDF.
  • It's also possible to set-up a "print to Postscript", but there are a great many difficulties when doing this and it is perhaps best as just a footnote. :) – luser droog Jan 25 '14 at 9:20

Printing into PDF is just a conventional way of calling it, because PDF was first invented to use as a digital way of exchanging otherwise printed materials like manuals or legal papers. Export as or Render as would be a better way of calling it, but because of the conventions having come down the road a long already, it was put into the Print menu.

  • 1
    I don't know which it actually is, as I don't use GIMP, but .ps is PostScript, not Adobe Photoshop's format (which is .psd). – Vivelin Jul 24 '12 at 14:59
  • @horsedrowner You should have posted this comment under the question, not under my answer. – Whisperity Jul 24 '12 at 15:00
  • Thanks! But I said image can be saved as ps (PostScript) format not pdf format, and I didn't mention saving the project into some project file. – Tim Jul 24 '12 at 15:05
  • @Whisperity You're the one who mentioned it being Adobe Photoshop and you edited the question to add that as tag, hence I'm commenting on your answer, and not the question. – Vivelin Jul 24 '12 at 17:33
  • @horsedrowner I was confused by the ps extension, I had seen ps as photoshop image projects. Still, I guess my answer is not the best this way, so I cropped out the faulty blocks. – Whisperity Jul 24 '12 at 17:36

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