4 Plugins To Provide PDFs of WordPress Posts But Why Manual Is Better

Providing PDF downloads of your WordPress posts can be an effective way for readers to engage with your longer content and to cut down on TLDR click-aways.

In this article, I’ll take a look at 4 plugins that will provide PDF copies of your posts and explain why (and how) you are better off doing it manually.

Image of WP logo with an arrow pointing to a PDF logo
When it comes to creating PDFs for your posts, manually is the best option

Too much content, so little time, or so we are told. Or perhaps it’s merely a case of shortening attention spans.

Whatever the reason, longer content requires a greater investment and if the visitor decides that she can’t make that investment now, then away she clicks and whilst your content has clicked up a page view, there’s no time-on-site and there’s no engagement.

Whilst there’s no guarantee, providing that same content in a format that is better suited to reading later, be it via a PDF stored in iBooks or even – and I’m getting all retro here – printed off, might just cut down the incidence of TLDR (too long, didn’t read).

There are a number of plugins that will automatically created PDFs for your posts but, as is often the way, none is perfect.

Manual PDF Generation Is Best

You can have a look through the reviews and see if any meets your needs but my advice would be to create the PDF manually. Sure, it is going to involve more effort on your part but the benefits of having properly formatted content are considerable:

  • complete control over image alignment (no plugin provided this),
  • properly place page breaks,
  • additional elements such as watermarks,
  • additional custom content,
  • being able to choose exactly which content should have a PDF download

Creating a PDF is easy. Virtually all major word processing apps, from Word to Pages to Google Docs, will let you create finely formatted documents that can be exported as PDF.

Once you have a PDF, assigning it to a post takes a couple of steps

1. In the Admin interface for you site, go to Media > Add New and upload the PDF

2. In the listing you’ll see your newly uploaded file and under Uploaded to it will say unattached. Click on unattached.

Screengrab of an unattached media file
Files uploaded directly to the Media library are unattached

3. Select the appropriate post (you can also search if you don’t see your post) and click on Select at the bottom of the dialog.

Screengrab of the post select dialog
Select a post to attach the media file to.

When you go back to the listing you’ll see that your PDF is now attached to the post.

But what about displaying a link to download the file?

Automatically Displaying A Link To The Manual PDF

We can do this really easily by using the the_content filter to add a link to any PDF that is attached to the post:

I’ve written this as a plugin (download it, save it as a zipped file and upload it to your site) but you could also, if you prefered, just copy the code to your theme’s functions.php.

4 Plugins To Help If You Can’t Face The Manual Option

If the idea of manually creating the necessary PDFs is too much – perhaps justifiable if you have a lot of content – then here are 4 plugins that can help, although each has its drawbacks.

  • PDF & Print (Bestwebsoft)

    This plugin provides for both enhanced print and PDF versions of your posts.

    You can select the stylesheet to use, the post types that should have a PDF, image alignment and whether to provide links on archive pages.

    The Pro version will also let you choose the specific content that should have a PDF.

    On the downside:

    • There are no specifiable headers or footers on the PDF
    • Featured images are not output
    • Images are not aligned correctly
    • Image captions are not displayed correctly
  • Print Friendly & PDF

    Screenshot of the pdf preview

    Another plugin that addresses both the print format and provides a PDF version.

    This plugin generates the best looking output, displaying the featured image, including images complete with captions (although always right-aligned it seems), allowing the button positioning and selecting which pages to display the links on.

    Unfortunately, this plugin won’t let you:

    • switch the function on / off for specific post type
    • Include / exclude specific content on which to show the link

    The most annoying aspect of this plugin, though, is the Amazon ads, which are displayed every time your PDF is being generated.

    The PDFs are actually generated by a third-party service which is okay but obviously would be lost if the generating service was unavailable.

    Best output bt ads are very off-putting.

  • Kalin's PDF Creation Station

    A comprehensive PDF plugin that lets you create PDFs from any number of posts rather than just switching on the functionality post by post.

    Full control over which posts should have the download link, this plugin offers considerably configuration of headers and footers and the addition of pre and post HTML via normal markup and a suite of shortcodes.

    It was also the only plugin that offered not generating a PDF as the default, the ability to switch it on for specific content, generation and publishing of a PDF on post publish and update and a minimum word count for generating a PDF.

    Highly configurable but its major drawback is its handling of images which are not aligned at all.

    The pick of the bunch and worth considering if you don’t have too many images in your posts or can live without their alignment.

  • WP Post To PDF Enhanced

    Based on WP Post to PDF this plugin allows selection of post types, restricting PDF access to logged-in users, the specific including / excluding of content (via post id).

    There’s a wide array of formatting options from displaying headers, to including a header logo, displaying the featured image and customizing the fonts.

    As seems to be the default position, images are no aligned, although caption display correctly and the header contents are not configurable (other than the header). I think I’d want the post title in there rather than the site title.

Of these, my pick would be PDF Creation Station with its highly configurable set-up, just so long as you don’t mind the non-aligned images.

I would still suggest, though, that manually creating the PDFs, especially for posts with images that need to be aligned individually, rather than as a generic default.

It lengthens the publishing process but if you make it part of the publishing process and be selective about which posts need to have PDF alternatives, the benefits will outweigh the additional workload.

Do you provide PDF downloads of your posts? Do you automatically or manually generate the PDFs?