There are times when PDFs are the perfect tool for the job, specifically when you either want to very carefully control the presentation of the data (i.e. a resume), or want a single file others can save (i.e. a presentation for reading offline).

2019 Update: Just use a SwiftCloud doc, it’s easier. Below is the original article.

Google Docs has the ability to publish any doc into a PDF on-the-fly.

Why do this? So you write it once, and never need to re-embed it around the web and/or emails and/or other locations. Why create more work for yourself if you think you’ll need to edit the doc? Or if hooked to a form and the data within it changes, this keeps the online link always current, but still publishing as a PDF.

This is a fantastic feature for free reports, because it allows you as the website owner to change the doc anytime, without having to re-convert to PDF, then re-upload, re-attach to your email autoresponders, etc. It’s also great for sales reports that contain dynamic data, and great for multi-part docs at which Google docs is far superior to MS Word, simply because multiple parties can all work on the doc at the same time and always have the most current version, instead of tracking versions and changes back and forth. We use it for video scripts for example, or sales copy, and both us and the client can be looking at it real time, while on the phone, and by the time we hang up it’s 100% approved. The old way meant bouncing versions back and forth, and hoping the changes don’t overlap.

So, let’s publish a PDF on the fly. This is as simple as formatting a URL, however, Google has not really publicized this feature and I sort of found it by accident.

My girlfriend, actress (http://LidiaRyan.com) wanted to add her resume to her site. The problem (a good problem) is she keeps working, doing new projects, which means her acting resume changes a lot.

Since I’m busy, and an efficiency fan, I had her put the resume into Google Docs, then publish it, like so…

Step 1: Sign into http://docs.google.com – get an account (free) using your gmail account (free) if you don’t already have one.

Step 2: Create or Upload the document you want to publish. Once this is set up, the latest version will always show online.

Step 3: Enable Publishing, by clicking Share in the top right, then “Sharing Settings”

then clicking “change”…

you’ll see a popup with 3 choices; choose “Anyone with the link” in most cases, or “Public on the web” as you see fit.

Next, you’ll get a URL that looks like this:

Last, we just need to format the URL. Here’s how: Simply drop in your Google Doc ID into the red part below. The ID is everything after “id=” above i.e. the 1GrM……84Myp-y7pbxgYa…. etc. in the graphic above.


Obviously what matters here is adding the “MiscCommands?command=saveasdoc&exportformat=pdf” into the middle.

Now simply use that as you would with any other URL. For a working example, see the “resume” tab on http://LidiaRyan.com. In this case, I dropped it into a wordpress menu, which is at Appearance >> Menus >> Custom Links, then click “add to menu” and drag into place.

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