PDFCreator

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PDFCreator
PDFforge.png
Developer(s) PDFForge
Stable release 1.7.3 (April 25, 2014; 2 months ago (2014-04-25)[1]) [±]
Written in Visual Basic
Operating system Microsoft Windows
Available in Multilingual[2]
Type PDF printer/creator/ Adware
License

Mixed proprietary and open-source:

  • GNU GPL
  • FairPlay License
  • "also bundles other components that can have other licenses"[3]
Website www.pdfforge.org

PDFCreator is an application for converting documents into Portable Document Format (PDF) format on Microsoft Windows operating systems. It works by creating a virtual printer that prints to PDF files, and thereby allows practically any application to create PDF files by choosing to print from within the application and then printing to the PDFCreator printer.[4]

Since 2009, PDFCreator has included closed source adware, toolbars and other controversial software that is installed by default.[5]

Implementation[edit]

The application is written in Microsoft Visual Basic and released to the public at no charge. It works with 64-bit and 32-bit Windows versions including Windows 7, internally using mostly 32-bit code. The actual PDF generation is handled by Ghostscript, which is included in the setup packages.

Besides being installed as a virtual printer, PDFCreator can be associated with .ps files to manually convert PostScript to PDF format.

PDFCreator can convert to the following file formats: PDF (including PDF/A (1b) and PDF/X (X-3:2002, X-3:2003 and X-4), PNG, JPEG, SVG, TIFF, PS, EPS, TXT, PSD, PCL, BMP, PCX, RAW.[6] It also allows to digitally sign PDF documents.

Between 2009 and 2013 the installation package included a closed-source browser toolbar that was considered by many users to be malicious software. Although technically an optional component, the opt-out procedure used to be a two-step process (prior to version 1.2.3), which was considered by many to be intentionally confusing.[7] In addition to the spyware activity described below, the toolbar allowed one-click creation of PDFs from the current webpage and included a search tool. As of version 1.2.3, the opt-out procedure only required unchecking one checkbox during the installation process.[8]

Since version 0.8.1 RC9 (2005) PDFCreator supports access to its functionality via an ActiveX interface, allowing any COM enabled application to make use of its functionality.[9]

PDFCreator allows the user to disable printing, copying of text or images and modifying the original document. The user can also choose between two types of passwords, user and owner, to restrict PDF files in several ways. The former is required to open the PDF file, while the latter is necessary in order to change permissions and password. Encryption can be either 40-bit, compatible with Adobe Acrobat 3.0 or 4.0, or 128 bits for Acrobat 5.0 or higher.

Starting with version 0.9.6, there is full support for Windows Vista and version 0.9.7 provides support for Windows 7.[10] [11]

Adware toolbar controversy[edit]

Starting with version 0.9.7 (February 2009),[11] PDFCreator included an adware toolbar.[12] [13] The end-user-license agreement for PDFForge Toolbar by Spigot, Inc. (versions prior to 0.9.7 have a different, optional toolbar called "PDFCreator Toolbar"), states that the software will:

...modify your Microsoft Internet Explorer and/or Mozilla Firefox browser settings for the default search engine, address bar search, "DNS error" page, "404 error" page, and new tab page to facilitate more informative responses as determined by The Toolbar[14]

PDFForge, which created PDFCreator, wrote a FAQ entry regarding the toolbar that stated:[15]

Is this spyware then? I think the main difference is if this is done unasked and undisclosed amount...Furthermore, the company works together with major Anti Ad- and Spyware companies to ensure, that it can be consider transparent and unharmful for the user. These include: Microsoft Windows, Anti-Spyware Webroot SpySweeper, Computer Associates Pest Patrol, PC Tools Spyware Doctor, Aluria Spyware Scanner and Spyware Eliminator.[15]

In November 2011, PDFCreator still[16] installed the toolbar unless the user declined it. SourceForge, which hosts the downloads for PDFForge, hosted most of PDFCreator, but not the toolbar.[5] The PDFCreator installer downloads the toolbar from another website if the option to install the toolbar is not unselected.[5]

In March 2012 the company announced that the toolbar had been discontinued with version 1.3.0.[17] The company stated:

We have also removed the Toolbar from the setup, as it caused some confusion among the users. We are now trying a different advertising partner. This should reduce the problems the users had with the toolbar, as they felt that it was installed without their knowledge."[17]

As of 23 March 2012 PDFCreator included the MyStart toolbar by Incredibar.

On 13 June 2012 PDFCreator once again included another controversial bundled software package, which tests as spyware, called SweetIM.[18]

In July 2012 the project disabled reviews and ratings on its sourceforge repository.[19]

On 30 August 2012, PDFCreator version 1.5.0 was released which included an installer for the "AVG Security Toolbar." There was an option to disable installation of the "AVG Security Toolbar, but it was not clearly identified. Furthermore, installation of PDFCreator required acceptance of the AVG EULA even when installation of the "AVG Security Toolbar" was disabled.[20]

On 23 October 2012, PDFCreator version 1.5.1 was released [21] which includes an installer for iClaro Search adware/spyware. Compared to previous adware choices, once installed, iClaro cannot be removed using the "Add/Remove Programs" option.[22]

On 14 January 2013, PDFCreator version 1.6.2 was released[23] which includes an installer for Install Entrusted Toolbar. The setup screen for Install Entrusted Toolbar has a single option in black font. The description for Express (recommended) reads:

Install Entrusted Toolbar, set default search & new tabs to Entrusted Search, and set my homepage on my browsers to Entrusted Search[24]

The second option for Custom installation (advanced) appears greyed-out with no description until the user clicks on it. When the user clicks on the second option, the Express (recommended) option remains in black type, unlike when the default option is selected.

As of 27 March 2013, PDFCreator version 1.6.2 includes "Trustworthy Toolbar", exhibiting the same description and greyed-out behavior as "Entrusted Toolbar".[citation needed]

As of 23 October 2013, PDFCreator stealthily installs more malware, including Amazon's Internet Explorer toolbar, without notifying the user. [25]

Awards[edit]

The now defunct OpenCD project chose PDFCreator as the best free software package for creating PDF files in Windows.[26]

In August 2008 InfoWorld magazine recognized PDFCreator with an Open Source Software Award from the field of more than 50 available open source or free PDF creation applications.[27] [28]

Both of these awards predate the inclusion of the contested spyware.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "PDFCreator release announcement". 
  2. ^ "PDFCreator: Translations". 
  3. ^ "License". PDFForge. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  4. ^ "PDFCreator". PDFForge. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  5. ^ a b c jasonspiro (2011-05-31). "Ticket #19639: PDFCreator installer includes the closed-source "pdfforge Toolbar"". SourceForge issue tracker. Geeknet, Inc. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  6. ^ "PDFCreator: Features". 2013. 
  7. ^ asjones (November 2009). "Yahoo Toolbar - Installs Even if I Uncheck box". PDFCreator Forum. Archived from the original on 2012-02-20. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  8. ^ "PDFCreator 1.2.3 installation screenshot". Archived from the original on 2012-07-16. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  9. ^ Jahwe2000 (2005-09-23). "PDFCreator 0.8.1 RC9 available". Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  10. ^ Jahwe2000 (2008-09-19). "PDFCreator 0.9.6 released". Sourceforge. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  11. ^ a b Jahwe2000 (2009-02-04). "PDFCreator 0.9.7 released". Sourceforge. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  12. ^ Walker, KL (2009-05-18). "PDFCreator with PDFForge is causing havoc with toolbar install". Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  13. ^ Raj, Victor (2009-03-17). "Malware — urlseek20.vmn.net". Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  14. ^ "Terms of Use". pdfforge.mybrowserbar.com. 2013-01-10. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  15. ^ a b "Is the PDFCreator Toolbar Spyware?". Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  16. ^ Heindörfer, Frank (2011-01-04). "/trunk/Setup/ToolbarForm.isd, revision 812". PDFCreator source code repository. lines 121–134. Retrieved 2013-02-24.  The constant "ToolbarInstallToolbar" is defined in another file: Heindörfer, Frank. "/trunk/Setup/Language includes/english.inc, revision 859". PDFCreator source code repository. line 73. Retrieved 2013-02-24. )
  17. ^ a b philip (2012-03-12). "PDFCreator 1.3.0 released". PDFForge. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  18. ^ "WOT Reputation Scorecard: sweetim.com". WOT Services. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  19. ^ "Reviews for PDFCreator at SourceForge.net". Sourceforge. July 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-30. 
  20. ^ philip (2012-08-30). "PDFCreator 1.5.0 released". pdfforge.org. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  21. ^ philip (2012-10-23). "PDFCreator 1.5.1 released". pdfforge.org. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  22. ^ Sean Doyle (2012-01-01). "What Is The isearch.claro-search Virus (Claro Search)?". Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  23. ^ philip (2013-01-14). "PDFCreator 1.6.2 released". pdfforge GmbH. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  24. ^ "PDFCreator 1.6.2 installation screenshot". Retrieved 2013-03-20. 
  25. ^ "How to Remove PDFCreator Malware: 6 Steps (with Pictures)". Wikihow.com. 2013-10-08. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  26. ^ "OpenCD 07.04". linuxdistributions.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  27. ^ "Best of open source productivity apps: PDF creation". InfoWorld. 2008-07-30. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  28. ^ Dineley, Doug (2008-08-04). "Best of Open Source Software Awards 2008". InfoWorld. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 

External links[edit]