I really don't like printing. Most things I print just end up in the recycle bin or lost. However, there are times when it's nice to have a physical copy of something (like making a card or a poster).

I just created a tabloid sized poster in the GIMP. I needed to convert it to a PDF so it could be printed. I first saved the file with a .ps extension, so the GIMP saved it as a postscript file. Then, I ran:

    ps2pdf file.ps

And voila, courtesy of the wonders of free software, file.pdf was created.

Unfortunately, the pdf displayed the poster in letter size (meaning a good portion was cut off).

Hm. How does this work? I fumbled around with my GIMP and evince settings (evince is my PDF viewer of choice) to no avail. Then I realized that I didn't even know where the paper size is supposed to be set. In the pdf document itself? Or, does the PDF viewer need to be told? After some Internet searching, I discovered the pdfinfo command - which prints a summary of information about a PDF file. When I ran pdfinfo against my pdf file I got:

    Producer:       ESP Ghostscript 815.03
    CreationDate:   Sun May 25 12:46:12 2008
    ModDate:        Sun May 25 12:46:12 2008
    Tagged:         no
    Pages:          1
    Encrypted:      no
    Page size:      612 x 792 pts (letter)
    File size:      1108153 bytes
    Optimized:      no
    PDF version:    1.4

Ah - my pdf file itself is indicating letter size. I'm still not sure whether my original ps file contains any hints about paper site (although I read an interesting article on whether or not it should provide this information). However, I did find out that many programs use the libpaper library to determine paper sizes to use. With libpaper, your default paper size is configured in the file /etc/papersize. You can override this default by setting the PAPERSIZE environment variable.

ps2pdf seems to use libpaper, which is why it made my ps file into a letter-sized pdf file. I re-ran ps2pdf with a new value for the PAPERSIZE environmental variable:

    PAPERSIZE=11x17 ps2pdf file.ps

And sure enough, it worked:

    Producer:       ESP Ghostscript 815.03
    CreationDate:   Sun May 25 12:38:34 2008
    ModDate:        Sun May 25 12:38:34 2008
    Tagged:         no
    Pages:          1
    Encrypted:      no
    Page size:      792 x 1224 pts
    File size:      1108152 bytes
    Optimized:      no
    PDF version:    1.4