Free, But no Steak Knives

Happy New Year! I hope it brings you success and, as in my case, does not have about half of it truncated like the last one.

It did go so quickly! I thought it may be nice if we started the new year with some very helpful freebees. Now I do not know about you but I am not rich and therefore keep my eyes open for good things that cost nothing except perhaps some bandwidth but solve problems for me.

How often have you wished you could save screen shots, web pages and the like and even edit them and do so in PDF format? PDF is a really great file format for downloading ebooks, brochures, booklets, user manuals – even music scores! But there is one problem with PDF documents. Unless you have the expensive Adobe Acrobat, they are read-only and impossible to edit. Adobe Acrobat XI Standard is priced at Amazon a hefty $295.99 whilst the list price is $299.

But sometimes you really need to edit PDF files, be it just adding your signature or filling in a PDF form. Wouldn’t it be great if there was software that allowed you to do it for free? Well, such tool exists – it’s called PDFescape. There are other programs but these, despite their effectiveness also cost and often are very clumsy with long learning curves. is a website that allows you to edit and create PDF documents without having to install a single piece of software onto your computer. In fact, you don’t even need to register unless you want some extra functionality. So, all you need to do is go to, upload and click on the splash image to enter the website.

You will then be offered to either register or continuer using the service without registering. I recommend that you create an account because it will enable you to log back in and work with previously opened files. Registration is quick and easy, so it’s really worth it.

You will then be offered to create, upload or open a PDF file. There is also an option to create PDF forms that can be filled by users who don’t have any PDF editing software installed on their PCs.

Once you choose the relevant option, the PDF editing screen will open. Use the icons on the left-hand pane to add text, images, form fields, links and lines. If you want to delete something, simply use the Whiteout function. When done, either click on the Save icon to save it on the website, only if you have established an account, or on the Download icon to download the end result. You can also print your new PDF right from the PDFescape editing page. PDFescape is an amazing free service and it has saved me on numerous occasions. Try it and I’m sure you’ll become a fan.

Publishing files to PDFescape allows you to upload and distribute PDF files. Once the upload is complete, you will be provided with a link to the PDF file on the PDFescape servers. You can distribute this link on your website, in emails, flyers, or other media.

Users who visit the PDF via this link will be able to fill out and modify the PDF file without needing to purchase or download any PDF software. You can set which tools your customers will and won’t be allowed to use. You can even specify whether your customers are allowed to export the PDF or if they have an option to “submit it” sending a copy of the filled out form to you via email.
There are a string of options providing incredible flexibility and as is usually the case you can expand on these by signing up to several flavours of the service for reasonable fees if you have such a need. For what I usually do the free service is more than ample.

To add a cherry to top this new year treat there is another useful facility that suits a small business or those who have a need for ad hock invoicing outside of fancy accounting software. If you don’t have an accounting software package installed on your PC, sending an invoice to someone usually involves slaving over Word or Excel to come up with something that looks vaguely acceptable and businesslike.

If you’d rather make your life easy, check out Invoice Berry at Once you’ve signed up, you can create an invoice to any client quickly and easily, just by filling in the online form. Sales tax/GST is calculated automatically if required. When you’re done, you can download the finished invoice as a PDF file to print or email.

You can even customise your invoices by uploading your logo to the site.

If you only need to invoice three different clients, Invoice Berry is totally free. You can delete clients that you no longer need to invoice, of course, but you’ll lose the history and reporting functionality that accompanies them.

I’ve used quite a few of these free online invoicing programs in the past. The reason I didn’t stick with a particular one is because in time they all became ‘paid’ programs or were closed down with the option to ‘upgrade’ to a paid version. The one I use at the moment is called Invoice Dude which is free and allows unlimited clients and items from what I can tell. I have found it easy to use and can even put a logo on the invoice for my business. When you ‘post’ an invoice it is emailed directly to the customer and also available in a PDF file for your own records as well.

There are quite a few such programs and another one worth mentioning is Zoho. This excellent invoice application resides at The free version even allows you to have many clients and it is extremely flexible. Their mobile site is equally nice for those on the move. It also provides an app for your smartphones catering for both Apple and Android platforms.

If you want to check out a fast and simple program is easier for a quick invoice and no registration required. The application was actually developed by Appfactory but you use the above URL to reach their site. Despite being a beta release it works very well.

So there you have some useful tools that are free and very well presented. I hope they help to make your new year just a little happier.

Arvo Elias

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