Creating Digital Stories using Foxit Reader Portable

USB Drive

Image courtesy of Phil Gradwell

The other day during #LINCchat, the topic of digital storytelling came up and a few options were shared amongst the chat participants. I thought it would be good to share another option that works really well with students who have limited access to the internet. This option makes use of a free, offline portable application that can be installed on a USB drive that the student can take home with them and use on any Windows computer.

This idea uses Foxit Reader Portable, a free PDF reader that allows users to create blank PDF documents on which you can then add photos, text, audio, and video files. In the end, users can create a multimedia document that can be played by almost all PDF readers.

Students can take their own photos or locate photos online, put them together on a page, and audio record themselves telling the story. They can then save and share that story with others who can see the photos and listen to the story being read by the student. You can even have students record replies and add them to the story. Here are some of the steps:

Installing Foxit Reader Portable on a USB Drive:

  • Insert a USB drive into your computer.
  • Go to Portable Apps and click on ‘Apps’ along the top.

portable apps main menu

  • Under the ‘Office’ category heading, click on ‘Foxit Reader Portable’

office category

  • Click on the big green ‘Download’ button.

Download button

  • Once it has finished downloading, double-click on the installer, and follow the instructions in the installer. Make sure your choose the USB Drive as the place you would like to install it.

Create a new document: 

  • You can create a new blank page by clicking on the ‘Create a Blank PDF’ button in the top-left corner of the page, or you can click on File -> Create -> Blank -> Create a PDF from a blank page.

Create a blank document button

Create a blank document menu

Adding a picture: 

  • Under the ‘Home’ tab, click on the ‘Image Annotation’ button on the far right.

Image Annotation button

  • Click and drag a box on the blank page where you would like the photo to be. The larger you make the box, the bigger the picture will be on the page.

Insert an image box

  • A box will appear. Click on the ‘Browse’ button, find your file using the file manager, and click on ‘Open’ and then ‘OK’.

Add an image

  • If you would like to resize the photo, click on the ‘Select Annotation’ button located under the ‘Home’ tab, then click on the photo. Move the red dots surrounding the photo to resize the photo. Click and drag the photo to move it around the page.

Select Annotation Button

resize photo

Adding an audio file: 

  • Under the ‘Home’ tab, click on the ‘Audio & Video’ button on the far right.

Add an audio file

  • Click and drag a box on the blank page where you would like the audio file to be.
  • A box will appear. Click on the ‘Browse’ button, find your file using the file manager, and click on ‘Open’ and then ‘OK’.

load an audio file

Playing the audio file: 

  • Under the ‘Home’ tab, click on the ‘Hand’ button on the far left and then click in the box where the audio file is.

hand button

  • A box will appear asking for your permission to play the file. Check the box ‘Remember choice until I close the document’ and then click on ‘Play’.

audio consent

  • The audio will continue to play until it the file is completed. If you would like to stop it earlier, simply click on the ‘Select Annotation’ button under the ‘Home’ tab.

Finding free photos: 

  • A great place to find free public domain images is Pixabay. All of these photos are free to download and use without having to give attribution. You also do not need to have an account.

Creating photos: 

  • There are so many ways that students can create images that can be added to the document. Here are some ideas:
    • Phones: Use the camera on your phone to take photos and then transfer to your computer using a USB cable.
    • Online: Use Pixlr Express to take photos using your webcam and then add effects, borders, text, and more before downloading to your computer.
    • Windows 8 and above: Use the Camera app to take photos using your webcam.
    • Mac: Use Photo Booth to take photos using your webcam.
    • Screenshots: Using Snipping Tool on Windows or keyboard shortcuts on a Mac.

Recording audio: 

  • There are a number of options for recording audio files. Here are some online and offline options:
    • Online: Use SpeakPipe Voice Recorder.
    • Portable App: You can download and use Audacity Portable or WaveShop Portable.
    • Windows (built-in): Locate Sound Recorder or Voice Recorder on your computer.
    • Phone: Use the voice recorder function on your phone and then download to your computer.
    • Voice recorder: There are a number of cheap music players that you can buy that record audio and then download to the computer through USB.
    • Mac: Use QuickTime Player on your computer.

Some ideas for using it in the classroom: 

  • Students create a personal story with narration such as about where they are from, their daily life, or an event in their life.
  • One student puts together a series of images and another student narrates a fictional story using the images.
  • Students can create a dialog using one image. Each students posts audio comments on the shared document and listens to what others had to say.
  • Pictures and photos are put on a document in the wrong order and students need to match the proper image and text combinations.
  • Students in groups have a discussion on a topic and audio record that discussion. All of the groups then post their audio file on one class page which gets shared with everyone.
  • For students who can’t make it to a class due to other obligations, teachers add audio files to PDF handouts so students can work on their own before the next class.
  • Students create dual-language stories with their first language. Students write and record  the story in English and their first language.

A guide to Reel App: Host and embed PPT and PDF files without registration

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Sharing images, PPT, and PDF files with students is simple enough, but to view the files online or embed them in a website, you would normally need to complete some sort of registration. That is where Reel App comes along. It is an elegant and simple place to upload images, PDF, and PPT files without registration and then you can share a link where recipients can view the slides or pages online. It even gives you an embed code to put into a blog or website. Here is how it works.

  • Go to Reel App and click on ‘Click to upload images, PPT files or PDFs’. A file manager box will appear and you can choose a file from your computer to upload.

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  • Once you have chosen a file, it will begin to upload. A box will come up ‘Creating your Preso’ and thumbnails will slowly appear below. Depending on the size of the file, it may take a while for images to begin appearing.


  • Once your file is uploaded, you will be taken to a new page saying, “Your preso is ready to go!’ Give your file a name and description in the boxes provided.
  • You can also give a name and description to each page/slide by clicking on each page/slide and then typing in the information.


  • At this point, you can also add more images or files by clicking on the ‘Upload more images’ link on the righthand side. After choosing a file, it will say ‘Uploading’ and will spin until it has finished adding the new pages/slides to the thumbnails.


  • You can also rearrange the pages/slides by simply clicking and dragging the thumbnails around. You can also delete a page/slide by clicking on the grey X in the top-right corner of each page/slide.
  • Once you have finished with the names and descriptions, click on ‘Save Preso’ and a box will appear asking you to confirm locking your presentation. Click on ‘Lock Preso & View Report Page’.

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  • You are now at the report page. If you would like to check out what pages people liked or didn’t like, this is where you will be given up-to-date results. Bookmark this page to return here at any time.

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  • To share the presentation with others, simply copy the URL found just above the ‘Start Preso’ button. A box will appear with a shareable link and the embed code.

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CutePDF Online Editor: A Registration-Free Online Multifunction PDF Tool

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While there are a number of free PDF tools online, Cute PDF Online Editor is one of the easiest and most complete. You can crop, reorder, add blank pages, password protect, and so much more for free and you don’t even have to register. Here is how it works:


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  • Go to CutePDF Online Editor and click on ‘Open File’ and choose the PDF file from your computer that you would like to edit.

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  • Once you have your document open, you have a number of tools at your disposal. Click on the ‘Advanced Tool’ option.

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  • Once you have that open, you will see a window similar to the one above. In here, you can rotate pages by click on them and then the rotate tools on the right. You can also delete pages by highlighting them and then clicking on the delete button. You can also click-and-drag pages around to move them. If you hold down the CTRL key in Windows or the Command key in Mac while you are moving them, it creates a duplicate page and leaves the original where it was.

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  • If you have a PDF with a lot of pages and you know the pages you would like to move or delete, you can exit the Advanced Tools option and choose the Extract Pages option instead. You will see a box like the one above where you can enter the page numbers in the appropriate boxes.

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  • If you don’t want to use the Advanced Tools to rotate your pages and your know the number of the pages you would like to rotate, use the Rotate Pages option instead. You will see a box similar to the one above where you can type in your page numbers and rotate them that way instead.

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  • Sometimes you will get a PDF where one or more pages are not the same size as the rest and this makes printing difficult. You can use the Resize Pages option to change the size of any of the pages in your document.

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  • Another thing you can do is add a blank page to your PDF. This is especially helpful when you want to print a PDF double-sided and you want certain pages to appear on a particular side of the page, such as in an exam document. Simply choose the Insert Blank Page option and tell it where you would like the blank page to appear.

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  • Once again, if you don’t want to use the Advanced Tools option to delete pages, you can use the Delete Pages option instead and just type in the page numbers you would like to remove.

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  • The Crop Pages option is useful when you get a PDF that has a large margin around the edge, or you would like to remove a section of a page. Simply choose the Crop Pages tool option and then either drag the corners to change the crop marks, or type them in. You can also select the pages to which you would like to do this.

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  • There are also a number of utility options available to add passwords, merge documents and images, add headers and footers, or put in document properties in the file.

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  • The Security option gives you the dialog box above. You can add a password, turn off printing, turn off editing, no extraction of material such as text or images, and no comment or form field options.

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  • Using the Merge PDFs option, you can put more than one PDF together and can also add image file as well into the PDF. You can also specify where to add them in the current document.

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  • Another handy option is to add a header and/or footer to your document. This is great when you want to specify certain information such as where the document is from or to add copyright information.

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  • The last option in the utilities is the Document Properties option. You can add add searchable metadata that can be used by the computer to find documents in a computer search. You can also change what happens when the PDF is opened such as turning off menu bars and hiding tool bars and window controls.

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  • Lastly, you can print, save, and close your document using the tools at the bottom of the page. Make sure you save your document before closing since it won’t prompt you to do so.

I hope that was helpful. Feel free to add your comments below or send me a tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!

FiveFilters PDF Newspaper: Create a PDF newspaper online for free


Even with the advent of online content, the printed page is still a simple and effective way of giving students reading assignments in class. This is especially true in situations where students don’t have access to computers at home or when you have limited access in the classroom. Creating a nice looking printout can be troublesome at times, but with FiveFilters PDF Newspaper, this is done quite easily. It only pulls the last five artciles, but it displays it in a very nice PDF newspaper. Here is how it works:


  1. Go to FiveFilters PDF Newspaper and enter in a webpage URL in the ‘Create PDF from URL’ box.
  2. Click on ‘Show options’ to get a few more options. Click on ‘Multiple stories’ to change it to ‘Single story’ for a nice looking single article page. This is helpful when the page has an RSS feed that pulls multiple stories and you only need the one.
  3. Since this is a European website, leave it at ‘A4’ if you plan on printing it on A4 or Letter Size paper.
  4. Type in a title for your page in the ‘Title’ box. This will appear at the top of your page.
  5. You can select to have your page go in descending order as on a blog, or ascending.
  6. You can select to have the time and date or images on your page. I haven’t had any luck with the images option, but it may work for you.
  7. If the page you select is only displaying a partial text on the page, use the ‘Fetch full text’ option.
  8. Click on ‘Create PDF’ and your PDF page will either appear in your browser or download depending on your setup. This page prints up very nicely.

This is a nice way of creating a newspaper-like page for your class. Students could even create one as a project. I wish you had the option of adding in other content such as from another page, but this is a free site and it works very easily. Check out my list of other PDF tools as well.

How do you see this working in your classroom? Share your ideas with others by using one of the three options below:

  1. Post your thoughts to this post by entering in your comment in the box below.
  2. Send me a Tweet at @nathanghall and I will make sure to add it to this post.
  3. Send me an email using the contact page on this website and I will add it to this post.

Thank you!


ExtractPDF: Extract images, text, and fonts from a PDF for free

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Have you ever been in a situation where you have wanted to extract the images or text from a PDF file but you don’t have Acrobat? Here is a free online tool that doesn’t need registration.


  1. Go to ExtractPDF, click on ‘Choose File’ to upload a file from your computer (max 10MB) or enter a URL from an online PDF file and click on ‘Send File’.
  2. A box with tabs will appear. The tab that is open is the image tab displaying all of the images that are in the PDF. These images are the original files, even if there has been masking applied in the PDF. Click on ‘Download all images as zip file’ to download to your computer. You will need to open the compressed file folder with your computer software. Inside the file folder will be all of your images in their original format.
  3. On the website, click on the ‘Text’ tab to see all of the text from the file and click on ‘Download result as file’ to download the text file for editing with your word processor.
  4. Click on the ‘Fonts’ tab to see a list of the fonts. Click on the ‘Download all fonts as zip file’ to download to your computer. You probably will not be able to use the fonts properly, so it is  advisable to use the name of the font to help you locate the rightful owner of the font and obtain it through that means instead.
  5. The last tab, ‘Metadata’, just supplies the information about what program created the PDF, when it was created, as well as other information.

This is a really handy tool if you would like to either extract just the text for editing before printing, or you can use it to extract images that you can’t find through other means. It is still advisable to find the legal owner of the images. A handy tool to help you with that is TinEye which will locate other places that are using the image you find.

If you have any comments, please share them in the comment section below, send me tweet at @nathanghall, or email me using the contact page on this website. Thank you!

18 Registration Free Online PDF Tools

Even with the movement to online content, printed pages are still needed for certain things within the classroom. One of the most common ways of sharing and storing documents online is through PDF. The nice thing about PDFs is the ability to maintain formatting from computer to computer. Being able to manipulate or create a PDF without having to install or purchase Adobe Acrobat is one of the most requested features for teachers. Being able to do this online for free without giving away any personal information is even better. Here are 18 online PDF tools that do not need registration or email:

PDFescape : The most comprehensive of all the free online PDF tools. Create, read, and edit PDF documents. Create and fill in PDF forms all within your browser without needing to register. Some of the more noteable tools including the ability to insert and remove pages from a PDF document, annotate and markup a PDF, as well as creating fillable forms.

FoxyUtils : There are four simple, yet effective, tools: split a PDF (remove a range of pages), merge PDFs (combine 2 or more PDFs into one document), unlock a PDF (in case you forget the password), protect a PDF (add a password and restrict usage).

PDFAmigo : Create PDF forms with a number of options and ways to customize the look of the page. Collect data via email.

PDF Newspaper : Enter a webpage with an RSS feed and convert the last five posts into a nice looking PDF newspaper.

PDF to Word Online Converter : Upload a PDF and the site will convert it into a Word document without needing to install anything or provide and personal data.

PrintWhatYouLike : Enter a webpage URL on this website or use their bookmarklet and the site will grab the information from the website allowing you to remove what you don’t want before making it into a PDF to download and print.

Online PDF Tools : Has a set of eight PDF tools including converting, merging, rotating, and unlocking PDFs. Some of the unique functions include creating a PDF flipbook and converting Instagram and Facebook photos to PDF (those two functions require your passwords). h/t to @deewaker72

2ePub Converter : Converts 14 different types of documents, including PDFs, into one of four different ebook files. h/t to @NMHS_Principal

Capture Webpage : Create an image or PDF from a webpage. If you select one of the image files, it will create one long image of the site instead of splitting into seperate files or only what can be viewed on the screen. Great way of capturing an entire page.

Sejda : A number of advanced split and merge functions as well as encrypting and rotating PDFs. h/t to @makeuseof

Witwall Tech : A super simply way of cropping a PDF online. Upload your own image or find one online. Create a preview, drag over the area you want to keep, and crop. Automatically downloads a cropped version.

I Love PDF : Extract, split, or merge PDFs quickly and easily. Even stores the finished files online for up to 1 hour.

PDF Extractor : Extract images, fonts, and text from a PDF. Upload your own file or find one online.

Neevia Online : Compress large PDFs, merge, or resize files. It also has a number of advanced options. h/t to @claganach

Print Friendly & PDF : This is one of the easiest and nicest ways of creating a clean PDF document of a webpage for printing. Select sections to delete and keep or remove images. Use the simple bookmarklet to access from any webpage. See my screencast on how to use PrintFriendly here

Joliprint : Create a newspaper-style PDF from a webpage. Download the file or upload to Facebook, Twitter, or Google Drive (needs password access to upload to those three sites).

Sciweavers : This is a series of online web applications inlcuding a number for PDFs. Merge, split, print, and extract images from PDFs.

PDFSplit : Split and extract pages from PDFs.

I hope that helps you. Let me know if there are any tools that you think should be added to the list. Mention it in the comment box below,  send me tweet at @nathanghall, or email me using the contact form here. Thanks!

Tech Recipe: How to use PrintFriendly to create a PDF from a webpage

I have been playing with the idea of creating how-to videos on technology in the classroom and have finally started with, a great website for creating PDF files from websites.

I hope to create a series of Tech Recipe videos to help teachers and students learn how to use some of the best free tools available online.

Let me know what you think. I would appreciate any (constructive) comments you may have.