How to print to PDF on iPhone, iPad, and Mac

Print to PDF is an easy way to preserve the information and layout of what you are currently viewing, saving a 1:1 digital copy of the documents and websites you use everyday. You don’t actually print anything, but the idea is that an exact replica of what would have appeared on paper, if you had sent a job to a real printer, is instead stored as a PDF file.

A big advantage of Print to PDF, or Save to PDF as it is often known, is that it is available in a lot of apps by default. Apps don’t have to support PDF output, they just have to support the normal printing features. This means Save to PDF is widely available across many iOS apps, and even more Mac apps.

The concept of Print to PDF began on the desktop and macOS exposes the feature relatively prominently. On iOS, the feature is harder to find. There isn’t an obvious button in the interface for it, but the capability is there — if a little hidden. Read on for step-by-step instructions to print to PDF on Mac, iPhone and iPad …

Of course, if an app includes PDF export features natively, use those inbuilt features instead of the print to PDF workaround. Pages, Numbers and Keynote include official features to save documents as PDF files, for example.

However, there are many apps that don’t offer features like this … and this is where print to PDF shines. More apps than you might think expose printing features, especially on iOS. This is because the market for real AirPrint printers is large, and apps that support AirPrint get ‘Save to PDF’ functionality for free.

Just looking at system apps, Apple includes Print functionality in Mail, Photos, Notes, Maps and Safari. Support for AirPrint across third-party apps is generally good, particularly those meant for productivity. On the Mac, printing is universally available.

How to print to PDF on Mac

From macOS, open any app that supports printing. This could be an Office document in Preview, a Keynote deck in iWork, an email message from Mail, or countless other examples. For our example, we’ll save a website to PDF using Safari.

  • Click Print from the File menu in the menubar, to reveal the modal sheet.
  • Preview the formatting and margins as you would for a normal print job.
  • Select the page range you want to save and adjust any of the other options. Anything you change here, like printing in monochrome or multiple pages per sheet, will also be reflected when you save it as PDF.
  • Press the PDF button in the lower-left corner of the sheet. This reveals a sub-menu of options.

  • The most direct ‘Print to PDF’ is the second item in the menu, called Save as PDF.
  • Select this to choose a location in the file system and macOS will put a rendered PDF there.
  • The other menu options offer some quick shortcuts if you want to include the PDF as an email attachment, send the PDF to a contact with iMessage, or straight to iCloud Drive.

How to print to PDF on iPhone

Printing to PDF from iPhone will work in any app that integrates AirPrint. This is because PDF saving options are hidden inside the normal printing modal interface.

The exact location of the Print button will vary from app to app. Usually, apps that expose a system share sheet include a Print action in the bottom row. Other apps have special menus which reveal a print button.

For example, Mail puts a Print button in the action sheet next to Reply and Forward. Some apps don’t offer any printing support and, in those cases, you are simply out of luck — there’s no way to print (PDF or paper ink) iMessages for example as of iOS 10.

  • In an AirPrint compatible app, open the Print UI, revealing the standard system sheet.
  • Customize the rendering options as desired, such as selecting monochrome output. A preview of the document will appear below these controls.
  • On an iPhone that supports 3D Touch — applicable to iPhone 6s or iPhone 7 — press firmly on the preview to make it expand and fill the screen. On an older iPhone without a pressure-sensitive display, perform a pinch-out gesture instead. This means placing two fingers on the page thumbnails, and spreading your fingers apart from each other.
  • In full screen preview mode, tap the screen once to reveal the toolbar with the Share button.
  • Tap the Share button in the lower left corner of the screen. This reveals the system share sheet, displaying a variety of actions for saving the PDF based on the apps you have installed on your phone.
  • To save as PDF, select the Add to iCloud Drive action. This will save a copy of the printout as a PDF in your iCloud document storage, which you can then import into other apps.

How to print to PDF on iPad

As they share an operating system, the steps for printing to PDF on iPad are very similar to the iPhone. These instructions are included for sake of completeness. The main difference here is finding the Print buttons in the first place as iPad and iPhone apps often have very different interfaces. From there the steps are basically identical.

  • In an AirPrint compatible app, open the Print UI, revealing the standard system sheet.
  • Pinch outwards on the preview area. A pinch out gesture means putting two fingers close together and then spreading them apart. This will expand the preview to fill the screen.
  • In full screen preview mode, tap the screen once to reveal the toolbars.
  • Tap the Share button in the toolbar at the top-right of the screen. This presents the system share sheet with export options corresponding to the apps you have installed.
  • To save the PDF as a file in iCloud, choose the Add to iCloud Drive button. This will save a copy of the PDF in your iCloud Drive folders, which you can then import into other apps (for example, use as an attachment in Mail) as you wish.

Save to PDF is a really useful trick to keep in your arsenal. On the Mac, it helps that apps almost always expose printing actions under the File menu. On iOS, it’s a bit more involved to find where each different app exposes its UI to open the AirPrint interface. Once you find it, though, the iPhone and iPad steps above are the same for every app.

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