Many people need to be able to create PDFs, whether from Microsoft Word documents or other sources. The de facto standard application for creating PDFs is Adobe Acrobat. However, some would describe Acrobat as bloated, sluggish and buggy. At $299 for the Standard Edition, it's also expensive. There are many alternatives, but not all of them are safe.
First and foremost, if all you need to do is convert a Microsoft Office document to a PDF and you're already using Microsoft Office 2007 on Windows, then just download the free Save as PDF add-in. Nothing could be simpler. You wouldn't even have to download the add-in except that Adobe wouldn't allow it otherwise.
In the past, many people, even some of us at c4, used an open source application called PDFCreator. PDFCreator is free. It's relatively easy to use. Since it sets itself up as a virtual printer, you can create PDFs from any application that can print. So, what's changed? You may have noticed that we didn't link to the PDFCreator site. That was deliberate as it's been known for some time that PDFCreator contains malware.
What do you do if you need to create PDFs from an application other than Microsoft Office 2007? One option is CutePDF Writer. Like PDFCreator, CutePDF Writer adds a virtual printer to your machine. To create a PDF document, just print to CutePDF Writer. CutePDF Writer is currently free, even for commercial use. It works on x86 and x64 bit systems, including Vista and Windows 7.
And what if you don't use Windows? If you're on a recent version of Apple's OS X, then print-to-PDF functionality is baked into the OS. Yes, that's right. Adobe apparently has no qualms with Apple including such functionality in the OS, but Microsoft can't include the same basic functionality in one of their applications. Go figure.