Windows NT 4.0 and PDF Documents.


Portable Document Format (usual file extension is .pdf) is a marvellous way to transport formatted documents between computer systems.

The original idea for PDF goes way back to the early 1980s and the work of John Warnock, the founder of Adobe systems Inc. He created a new language used to describe how printed information should appear on a page of paper - a standard now commonly known as 'PostScript'. It initially only appeared as an option on high end printers aimed at the professional market. The private end-user was still stuck firmly in the era of rasterised printer operation.

A group of software writers realised that an application that could accept PostScript content and convert it to a rasterised form, for viewing on a computer display or printing on a standard printer, would be extremely useful. The project became known as 'GhostScript'.

Some time later (in the very early 1990s) Adobe realised that the PostScript standard could be expanded upon to create a truly cross-platform 'portable' file to describe a formatted page. Adobe created a programme called 'Acrobat' and PDF was born.

Adobe also started providing a free 'Acrobat Reader' for nearly every major OS. Access to this tool assured wide acceptance, and PDF rapidly grew to become the defacto industry standard for transmission of formatted documents. This expansion was also aided by Adobe having the good sense to make the PDF format an open standard, presumably in the hope of stimulating development of other applications based on PDF structures.

The GhostScript team followed suit and added the ability to process PDF to their project.

Over the years Adobe have continued to increase the performance and features of the Acrobat product. Unfortunately, a lot of this development has tended towards adding unnecessary 'bells and whistles' to an otherwise stable and very useful programme.

PDF Readers.

Adobe Readers.
(Updated: 20 September 2007) Adobe still provide a free 'Acrobat Reader' for nearly all OS platforms. The current Windows NT 4.0 Acrobat Reader is Version 7.0.9. available here. No further versions are intended for release for Windows NT 4.0.

I personally prefer V5.1, it was smaller and less invasive and will work perfectly on 99% of .pdf content on the net.

UPDATE (16 May 2005):
I have discovered that the new V1.6 revision of the .pdf specification added a new compression option to the .pdf structure. Acrobat Reader V5.1 CANNOT read these compressed files and will report them as being 'corrupted and unable to repair'. Adobe Acrobat Reader V6.0+ can correctly open this new document format. If you want to stay with Acrobat Reader V5.1 I suggest you also install GhostScript Viewer as explained below. GhostScript V8.63 and GhostScript Viewer V4.9 (and later versions of these products of course) CAN read V1.6 compressed .pdf documents correctly.

FoxIt Reader.
FoxIt Reader V1.3 is another option for NT4 systems. Unfortunately, later releases of this programme (V2.0 and above), will only work on Windows 2000 or later. FoxIt Reader is a compact, self contained and simple programme which works well. There are some reported minor issues with it's inbuilt search function.

GhostScript Viewer.
If you prefer to work with a totally non-commercial approach, you can install GhostScript Viewer as detailed below, and use it instead to read and print .pdf and .ps documents, using the GhostScript engine to process them.

Editing PDF Documents.

On occassion it is useful to be able to manipulate an existing single or series of .pdf documents - for example to be able to:
  1. Extract one page from a larger document.
  2. Join a series of documents to create a single composite.
  3. Selectively insert pages into or remove pages from an existing document.
The excellent Freeware product PDF ToolKit can do all this and much more. It is a command line interface programme and can be a bit daunting for the inexperienced to drive. Angus Johnson has created PDFTK Builder which adds a GUI interface to PDF ToolKit making it extremely simple to operate. You can download PDFTK Builder here. (it includes a bundled copy of PDF ToolKit)

Both PDF ToolKit and PDFTK Builder function perfectly on Windows NT 4.0

NT 4.0 and Creating PDF Content.


Adobe offer their Acrobat Authoring products to create .pdf content. The last version capable of being used on NT 4.0 is Acrobat V6.0. The later releases (V7.0 and above) work only on Windows 2000 and later !

Other manufacturers also offer products with the ability to create .pdf content, either as a stand alone item, or as an inbuilt feature of their application. Most of these products are based on core technology sourced from Adobe or the GhostScript project. Depending on which '.pdf engine' is used, these products may or may not function on a NT 4.0 system. I suggest you test the programme for correct operation before purchasing.


The GhostScript programme functions perfectly under Windows NT 4.0 and gives users the ability to process and create PostScript and PDF documents with relative ease. The normal way in which this is achieved is to create a 'Phantom Printer' which can then be accessed from within any programme on the system. Printing to this 'Phantom Printer' does not create any hardcopy output, but instead generates a PDF document with a name and location nominated by the user. This approach is very simple to master and can be accomplished by computer users of any skill level.

Installing and Configuring GhostScript for PDF Output.

Unfortunately, the initial setup of the GhostScript package is a little complex. I have provided the information below to aid users in completing this task.

Required Components:


WARNING: Installation of the packages mentioned below is best done using the 'Administrator' account in a multi-user environment OR logged on as the 'Normal User' in a single user environment. (The 'Normal User' account still needs Administrator privileges however)
  1. Install GhostScript using the supplied installer package. Use Install Folder name of \GScript.
  2. (Optional) Install GhostScript Viewer using the supplied installer package
    CAUTION: Specify ONLY the top level folder location for this installation. The installer for this package automatically creates a folder named '\GSView' under your nominated location, and places the programme contents within it.
  3. (Optional) Run GhostScript Viewer. In the 'Options > Advanced Configure...' dialogue, ensure that the paths and settings are correct for the GhostScript installation completed in Step 1. GSView normally detects the presence of GhostScript automatically and will already have the correct paths set.
  4. Customise the PDFWrite.rsp text file using Notepad to correctly point to the GhostScript Library and Fonts folders for the Ghostscript installation. (Cut and paste the text below into NotePad to make a .rsp file specific to your installation)
  5. Copy PDFWrite.rsp to the \GScript folder.
  6. Extract and run the supplied Installer to add port re-direction capabilities to the OS.
  7. Select Start > Settings > Printers.
  8. In the blank area of the 'Printers' listing Right Mouse Click and select 'Server Properties' > Port Tab.
  9. Click 'Add Port' and select 'Redirected Port' and click 'New Port'. Accept the default value of RPT1:
  10. Extract the HP Colour Laserjet 5 PS definition file (HP__CLJ1.PPD) from the HP PostScript Printer Definitions Package to a convenient location. This definition file will be used shortly. (Rather than execute this package and install ALL the printer definitions, it is easier to just extract the single definition we require by opening the .exe package with WinZip)
  11. Run the AdobePS Printer Installer.
  12. When asked about which printer to install (instead of the 'Generic PS Printer' default offered) supply the HP Colour Laserjet 5 definition file extracted in Step 10. The .ppd file will be copied into the Windows NT system. The copy of the .ppd you extracted to a temporary location for installation can be deleted afterwards.
  13. Select RPT1: as the port to which this 'printer' will be attached. (RPT1: is the 'Redirected Port' we created in Step 9)
  14. In the 'Configure Port' dialogue, fill in the configuration settings as follows:
  15. 'Output' Dropdown = Prompt for Filename
  16. 'Run' Dropdown = Minimised
  17. Click OK to dismiss the 'Configure Port' dialogue.
  18. Click OK again to dismiss the Properties dialogue.
  19. Rename the 'phantom' printer we have just completed making to 'PDF Writer (GhostScript)'.
  20. Test to see that the installation functions as expected.

Content of PDFWrite.rsp

Here is a sample PDFWrite.rsp which you can copy into NotePad and customise to suit your situation:-ID:\GScript\gs8.63\lib;D:\GScript\fonts -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -r300 -dNOPAUSE -dSAFER -sPAPERSIZE=a4 CAUTIONS:

(ADVANCED) PDFWrite.rsp Options:

You can add options to control output resolution generated by Ghostscript. This primarily effects the quality of images and non-vector graphics reproduced in the .pdf file. Text in a .pdf file is not rasterised, so resolution settings are basically meaningless for scalable objects like true type fonts and vector graphics.

To change .pdf image resolution add the line as follows to PDFWrite.rsp:

-dPDFSETTINGS=configuration where configuration is one of the following options: You can also alter the default resolution setting. The pre-defined PDFWrite.rsp has this value set as:-r300 (ie: 300dpi) This value can be changed to commonly recognised printer resolutions. (eg: 240, 600, 720 etc..)


In some instances (eg: attempting to use the GhostScript PDF Writer system on a user account other than on the account that was used to install it) may result in a malfunction. The failure symptoms vary in these circumstances, but may include: First - ensure that you have followed the installation instructions provided above TO THE LETTER. Pay specific attention to wrong paths to the GhostScript executable code in the settings for the RPT1: dialogue box or misspelling or errors in the PDFWrite.rsp file.

Second - If operation is still incorrect the problem can usually be attributed to user privilege issues. Try the following steps to remedy the problem:

  1. In the "RPT1: Properties" dialogue box, select the "Run as User" option and test to see if this allows operation.
  2. Using 32 Bit Registry Editor (RegEdt32.exe) examine the user privileges for the keys:
  3. Ensure that user "Everyone" has privileges of "Full Control" on these keys and ALL sub-keys.
Third - If operation is still incorrect:


The above instructions are based on GhostScript V8.63. (which was current at the time these notes were written) An upgrade of GhostScript will change the folder paths for the Ghostscript executables and libraries. Ensure PDFWrite.rsp, the Printer Port Configure Dialogues and GhostScript Viewer (if installed) are updated to reflect the changes.


Thanks to Nihad Hamzic for additions and corrections on this page.

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Last Update April 7, 2010 at 8:39 PMAEST.