The Sad State of Free PDF Conversion Extensions, June 2020

2021 Update: The new print experience launched in Firefox 86 included a built-in PDF converter. It generally avoids the problem of PDFs consisting mostly of images and, starting in Firefox 90, links are embedded. To convert the current page to PDF, in the Print overlay, set the Destination to "Save to PDF". (Note: If you prefer not to have links embedded, you can toggle the print.save_as_pdf.links.enabled preference on the about:config page.)

Many users need to accurately and fully capture pages to PDF. On June 28, 2020, I tested 17 extensions that save the currently displayed page to PDF. There probably are more! If you know of a better free or low cost option than the ones listed in this page, please let me know.

While Firefox offers extension developers a built-in method to capture a tab to PDF, it is subject to the same restrictions as printing. In particular, content maybe omitted or truncated due to print layout bugs, and links are not preserved. A second group of extensions uses web-based services for conversion. On the plus side, these can generate PDFs with live hyperlinks. On the downside, there is a potential privacy risk, and free services may include watermarks and frustrating limits on layout. These were my results.

Group 1: Extensions that use the built-in tabs.saveAsPDF() method (Windows and Linux only)

This feature does not require any permissions for the basic function of triggering Firefox to create a PDF that should match Print Preview, so extensions that require intrusive permissions for no apparent reason, or contain numerous extra code files completely unrelated to the purpose of the extension were deemed Unacceptable.

Name and Version Permissions Judgment & Comments ID and Source

Printable – The Print Doctor
Version: 1.3

Other API permissions: activeTab, menus, storage

Unrated - My own extension

* Some global and per-page options
* Buttons to fix layout bugs require extra click(s)
* Button to fix "print as image" requires extra click

{66e7b680-7956-46aa-98ee-d702338e1ee1}
[AMO]/printable-the-print-doctor/

Print Edit WE
Version: 26.3

Access your data for all websites

Access browser tabs

Access browser activity during navigation

Display notifications to you

Other API permissions: contextMenus, storage, webRequest, webRequestBlocking

Fair

* Part of Recommended Extensions program to provide security/privacy assurance
* Manually click Tools>Fix Page Breaks to work around pagination bugs
* No global options (e.g., background color)
* No per-page options

printedit-we@DW-dev
[AMO]/print-edit-we/

FoxyTab
Version: 2.15

Access your data for all websites

Read and modify bookmarks

Input data to the clipboard

Download files and read and modify the browser’s download history

Display notifications to you

Access browser tabs

Store unlimited amount of client-side data

Other API permissions: activeTab, contextMenus, contextualIdentities, cookies, storage, theme, webRequest, webRequestBlocking

Fair

* Part of Recommended Extensions program to provide security/privacy assurance
* No global options (e.g., background color)
* No per-page options

foxytab@eros.man
[AMO]/foxytab/
Print/Print Preview
Version: 1.3

Other API permissions: contextMenus

Fair

* No global options (e.g., background color)
* No per-page options

{4e6c9475-6f44-463a-999a-cb7895cc5d04}
[AMO]/print-print-preview-context/

Save PDF
Version: 0.1

N/A

Fair

* No global options (e.g., background color)
* No per-page options

{077f4ca9-a296-4624-9524-4e9b3835f512}
[AMO]/save-pdf/

Save Page As PDF
Version: 0.0.1

Access browser tabs

Other API permissions: activeTab

Fair

* Requests unnecessary permission
* No global options (e.g., background color)
* No per-page options

{682a0676-858c-2019-a8c2-a28f872a9329}
[AMO]/save-page-as-pdf-file/

WebToPDF
Version: 1.0

Other API permissions: activeTab

Poor

* Requests unnecessary permission
* Extra click to download
* No global options (e.g., background color)
* No per-page options

{a9bd1d11-ad0c-444c-923d-f0acd5eb61e5}
[AMO]/web_to_pdf/

Print to PDF
Version: 0.1.0

Access your data for all websites

Access browser tabs

Other API permissions: contextMenus, storage

Unacceptable

* Requests very excessive permissions
* Global PDF options via Add-ons page
* No per-page options

{9ab38051-cd73-4e46-b7bd-dc147f6f6b29}
[AMO]/print-to-pdf-document/

Save PDF
Version: 1.2.1

Access your data for all websites

Access browser tabs

Other API permissions: activeTab, contextMenus, storage, webRequest, webRequestBlocking

Unacceptable

* Requests very excessive permissions
* Numerous extra code files
* Global PDF options via Add-ons page
* No per-page options

{57c9b8b0-e41b-7c9b-4890-f6ce48908edb}
[AMO]/save-pdf-expert/

Save PDF
Version: 2.3.1

Access your data for all websites

Access browser tabs

Other API permissions: activeTab, contextMenus, storage, webRequest, webRequestBlocking

Unacceptable

* Requests very excessive permissions
* Numerous extra code files
* Global PDF options via Add-ons page
* No per-page options

{0d83297b-ee0f-4470-b047-ea1eb5161e0a}
[AMO]/save-pdf-pro/

WebToPDF
Version: 13.1

Other API permissions: activeTab

Unacceptable

* Hijacks new tab page
* Requests unnecessary permission
* Generates enormous pages (e.g., 20" x 200")
* No global options (e.g., background color)
* No per-page options

manish.p05@gmail.com
[AMO]/webtopdf/

Group 2: Extensions that use a web-based service to convert the page to PDF

This kind of PDF conversion is less private because you either are (A) informing a website of the URL you are viewing, which sometimes may be sensitive, or (B) sending the content of the currently displayed page, which may contain sensitive information but may be necessary for sites that customize the content to you.

Name and Version Permissions Judgment & Comments ID and Source

PDF Mage
Version: 2.1.2

Access your data for all websites

Access browser tabs

Download files and read and modify the browser’s download history

Other API permissions: activeTab, contextMenus, storage

Good (after resizing window)

* Uses page displayed in browser (consider privacy)
* Page too wide/text too small unless you resize window
* Toolbar + context menu access
* Option to PDF the current selection
* A4 portrait sized rather than letter portrait
* $10/year to use other options

jid1-GeRCnsiDhZiTvA@jetpack
[AMO]/pdf-mage/

Online PDF Editor (pdf2go.com)
Version: 4.2

Other API permissions: activeTab, contextMenus

Fair

* Uses public URL (not logged in, not file://)
* Some images missing on long page
* Toolbar + context menu access
* Requires extra click on their site to start converting
* A4 portrait sized rather than letter portrait

{5fe0e3b1-ef04-41af-aae8-4653d2dbd0eb}
[AMO]/online-pdf-editor-pdf2go-com/

Save as PDF
Version: 1.12

Access your data for: https://pdfcrowd.com/*

Access browser tabs

Fair

* Uses public URL (not logged in, not file://)
* Some rendering glitches
* Inserts promotional watermarks on every page
* A4 landscape sized rather than letter portrait
* $13/year to remove watermark and use other options

save-as-pdf-ff@pdfcrowd.com
[AMO]/save-as-pdf/

PDFmyURL
Version: 1.32

Access your data for all websites

Access your data for: https://pdfmyurl.com/*

Access browser tabs

Download files and read and modify the browser’s download history

Other API permissions: activeTab, storage

Poor

* Uses page displayed in browser (consider privacy) – option to send public URL instead does not work
* Some rendering glitches
* Inserts promotional watermarks
* A4 landscape sized rather than letter portrait
* Useless file names

{ad70f28a-ef26-48ed-80bb-2dc821d3e506}
[AMO]/pdfmyurl-save-webpages-as-pdf/

PDF Wise
Version: 4.1

Access your data for all websites

Access browser tabs

Unacceptable

* Uses public URL (not logged in, not file://)
* Insecure (HTTP) request
* Annoying animated toolbar icon
* No apparent way to opt out of blog updates?
* Conversions failed (server not available)

{4dc0db93-2f11-4dba-ae6a-c82e57a10599}
[AMO]/pdf-wise/

Group 3: Special Purpose PDF Extensions

Unlike the more general purpose extensions listed above, these may be used for occasional needs.

Name and Version Permissions Judgment & Comments ID and Source

Print Friendly & PDF
Version: 2.1.0

Other API permissions: activeTab

Interesting "Text View"

* Uses public URL (not logged in, not file://)
* Simplifies the layout, which may omit desired content
* Option to delete other unwanted content
* Navigates away from current page
* Shows ads in overlay

jid0-YQz0l1jthOIz179ehuitYAOdBEs@jetpack
[AMO]/print-friendly-pdf/