One of my favorite SharePoint Server feature are the Word Automation Services, that include the very interesting convertor to pdf. It is available since the 2010 version but somehow it seems not to be known as much as it should be.
Let’s imagine a typical approval workflow scenario: a document is submitted by a requester, one or many approvers review it, the requester makes some amendments on the document and it is reviewed again until definitively approved. Lastly converting it to PDF would be the cherry on top of the cake. This is possible thanks to the Word Automation Services!
So, how does it work?
The SharePoint Word Automation Services use a timer job to make the conversion. By design it cannot be run immediately, it can be done very quickly though. Basically, the Word document to be converted is put in a queue, the automation service picks it, convert it to pdf and place it where specified. It can also replace the original Word Document.
The call to the Service functions can only be made with proper coding. The option is not available directly in the SharePoint UI neither in SharePoint Designer workflows.
What about PowerPoint and Excel files?
PowerPoint automation is available with SharePoint Server 2013 but not 2010. Excel to PDF is not supported, same for the other Office products.
Other alternatives / SharePoint Foundation
Let’s note this is not available with SharePoint Foundation. If you want to manipulate Word Document you can still use OpenXML but be aware that it does not include a convertor to PDF.
You could also build your own convertor, but be very careful as you may be tempted to use Word Interop (explicitly not recommended by Microsoft), which implies having Word running on the server… scary, isn’t it? So be sure to choose wisely what SharePoint version you need if conversion to PDF may interest you.