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Course & Subject Guides

Electronic Theses and Dissertations Support Guide

Converting your Pitt ETD Word Doc to PDF format

When your thesis or dissertation is complete and revisions have been made to the document, you will need to convert your word processing document to Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) in order to submit your file electronically to the University of Pittsburgh’s institutional repository, D-Scholarship@Pitt, at It is your responsibility as the author to completely review the PDF document for conversion accuracy, and to adhere to requirements for the electronic version. Refer to the ETD Format Guidelines Manual for details on PDF requirements.

 PDF is the cross-platform standard for electronic document distribution. PDF is a universal file format that preserves fonts, formatting, graphics, and color of any source document, regardless of the application and platform used to create it. You can convert any document to PDF using Adobe Acrobat software or some other service or third party application that can generate PDF files. Adobe Acrobat will provide the best results and greatest capabilities for converting your documents. You can view and print PDF files using the Adobe Acrobat Reader or a Web Browser that has the Adobe Acrobat Reader plug-in. Please refer to Pitt IT's software for students for pricing and availability ( It should be noted that the Mac versions of Word do not fully integrate the PDFMaker functionality and you may need to locate a PC to do the final conversion.

ETD Template v1.9 and later versions

If you are using the 1.9 or later version of the ETD Word Template, you may be able to easily save your ETD as a PDF in a few simple steps, even if you are on a Mac. 

For Mac users:

  • Complete your ETD editing and be sure to update your Table of Contents and any Lists of Figures or Tables you might have used.
  • Navigate to the File menu and select the Save As command.
  • Under the options for File Format, select PDF.
  • Be sure that the options for "Best for electronic distribution and accessibility (uses Microsoft online service) and hit Export. (see image below)

  • Open up the newly created PDF and check the bookmarks and other links within the document. 
  • If this method causes any errors or fails to create the PDF, you may need to use a PC with  PDFmaker and Adobe Acrobat DC to complete this step.
  • If your document is larger than 40MB the Word for Mac client might not be able to compile your document into a PDF. If that is the case you may wish to use the Pitt Virtual Lab client to use a virtual PC to do your conversion. (

For PC users:

  • Complete your ETD editing and be sure to update your Table of Contents and any Lists of Figures or Tables you might have used.
  • Navigate to the File menu and select the Save As command.
  • Select PDF as the file type and then hit the More options link under that drop-down menu.
  • In this Save As menu, click the Options... button in the lower portion of the box.
  • In the Options box that opens, select under the Include non-printing information section --> Create bookmarks using: Headings.
  • Be sure to not select the Word bookmarks as this will create more bookmarks than are necessary and not be acceptable by your school.
  • Hit Ok and then click Save.
  • This should open your PDF in an Adobe Reader application. Check the bookmarks and other links within the document.  
  • If this method causes any errors or fails to create the PDF, you may need to use a lab PC with PDFmaker and Adobe Acrobat DC to complete this step.

Adobe PDFMaker Conversion Settings

Important Note: Users trying to convert using MS Word for Mac OS will not be able to automatically create bookmarks from the Word document during conversion. The Print to PDF tool featured there will not do this. Converting on a PC does automatically create bookmarks, even if you wrote the document on a Mac.

Checklist before converting to PDF:

  • Update your table of contents and lists of tables and figures
  • Delete any blank pages
  • Check page numbering
  • Proofread
  • Make sure all graphics display properly

You will need to review the Acrobat preference settings within Microsoft Word before converting documents to PDF. Select the Acrobat tab, and then click on the Preferences button (second option on the Acrobat ribbon). The Acrobat PDFMaker dialog window will appear. Review each tab; Settings, Security, Word, and Bookmarks. (If you do not see the Acrobat tab, do not simply convert to PDF using Microsoft Word conversion. You will need to download Acrobat.)

The Preference Settings dialog box opens with the Settings tab displaying. There are seven Conversion Settings to choose from. These settings are designed to balance file size with quality, depending on how the Adobe PDF file is to be used. Select Standard in the Conversion Settings window for your document. Setting explanations can be seen under selected Conversion Setting.

Review the options on the Security tab. ETD files do not require any security settings on the PDF copy (passwords should not be required to open the document).

The Word tab lists various Microsoft Office preference options. Many word processing elements, such as footnotes, endnotes, and hyperlinks should be retained when you convert to PDF as long as these options are selected on the Word tab.

The Bookmarks tab provides settings for converting text formatted with styles to bookmarks within the PDF file. The PDF version of your thesis or dissertation must include bookmarks for items such as the table of contents, list of figures, list of tables and appendix. Headings will convert to PDF bookmarks as long as Word Heading Styles have been used.

In the Bookmark Options section make sure Convert Word Headings to Bookmarks and Convert Word Styles to Bookmarks are selected. The Element Bookmark boxes selects Heading 1 thru 9 styles to be converted; you will need to select:

  • Abstract Heading
  • App Section
  • App Subsection
  • Appendix
  • Caption (set to level 9)
  • Committee Page
  • Heading
  • Heading (1-9)
  • Preliminary
  • Preliminary Bookmarks
  • Table of Contents Heading
  • Title Page

Once you have selected these styles check boxes under the Bookmark column, you will be able to have the Adobe PDFMaker generate the correct bookmarks in your PDF.


Running the Conversion

  1. Make sure the conversion settings are correct as described above.
  2. Select the Acrobat tab, and then click the Create PDF button.
  3. The Save As Adobe PDF File window with appear
  4. Select your desired folder location in the Save in box. In the File name box, Type your document name (do not use spaces in the file name). In the Save as type box PDF Files should appear.
  5. Click the Save button, and Acrobat will begin the conversion process. The conversion process can take a couple of minutes, depending on the length and nature of the contents in your document.
  6. Acrobat PDFMaker dialog box will appear, indicating the progress of the conversion. You can use the Show Details button to view stages of the conversion process (use the Hide Details button to return to the original dialog box).
  7. Confirm that the PDF file has been created. Acrobat will launch, so that the new PDF file can be viewed. You can also use the Start, All Programs menu to locate the Adobe Acrobat or Reader application and then open the PDF file from the open button of the toolbar.
  8. Print or review the PDF file on screen to make sure that all text and graphics have converted correctly. You can edit the PDF file in Acrobat if there are any problems with the text, but this is rather cumbersome on a large scale. It is advised that major changes take place in the word processing file.


ETD File Names

Consideration should be given to the file name of the PDF version of your thesis or dissertation. An appropriate naming scheme for your PDF file should include your last name, or a combination of last name, first name and middle initial, date/year, and should not contain any spaces.

Example file names include smithja_final_etd.pdf, smithja_final_etd2018.pdf, and smithja__final_etdPitt2018.pdf.  Please try not to use alphanumeric characters and try not to use spaces between the portions of the file name. It is better to use an underscore ( _ ) just in case there is an issue with the file system when uploading.

If you have multiple files that constitute your entire work, naming them with a numeric sequence (e.g., smithja_1.pdf, smithja_2.pdf) will allow you to link the files in the correct order and guide readers through the document in a concise manner. Electronic theses and dissertations can have multimedia objects linked to the ETD. Audio, video, or other types of files can accompany your text-based document, but will need to be linked to the PDF file. Any files that will be linked to the PDF file should have file names that identify the object as it is identified in the document (e.g., audio1.wav, figure1.jpg, video1.mpg). ProQuest’s Guide to Publishing states that if multimedia elements are used in the document, file formats should be identified in the dissertation/thesis abstract.

Graphic Objects

Graphics (i.e., photographic images, graphic objects, charts) can appear in either color or black and white in the ETD. However, black and white or crosshatched objects may render the best during the microfilming process for archiving dissertations. Crosshatching can be used to differentiate colors within an object (e.g., an Excel graph) if the object is not in full color. If black and white graphics are used, a link can be set up in the PDF file to a color copy if desired. Refer to the ETD Format Guidelines Manual for specific details on graphics within an ETD.


The PDF version of your thesis or dissertation must include bookmarks for various items in the Word document.

Specifically, bookmarks must be made for:
• Every item listed in the document’s Table of Contents
• All figures listed in the document’s List of Figures
• All tables listed in the document’s List of Tables
• Any captioned items such as equations or media clips etc.
• And for the Title Page, Committee Page, Abstract, and Appendix

Bookmarks can be automatically created from your Word document if you’ve formatted it with the correct styles. 

PDF Review and Settings

Once you convert your word processing document to PDF, it is your responsibility as the author to completely review the PDF document for conversion accuracy, and to make sure that the document adheres to requirements for electronic theses and dissertations. If the document contains links to web site addresses, test the links within Acrobat/Reader to confirm that they are still active. You should print or review the document on screen to make sure that all components of the document (e.g., text, formulas, and graphics) converted correctly. University of Pittsburgh ETDs must include bookmarks for the table of contents and lists of figures and tables.