Downloading and Printing: Thoughts on Info Dissemination

 We are moving towards the midpoint in Collaborative Curiosity. You should be spending time thinking about how you might best disseminate information to and with your potential community partners.

There are times when we want our readers to be able to download and print our materials from our blog posts: informational handouts, flyers, white papers, other documents…the list is kind of long.

When we think of downloading and printing, most of us tend to think in terms of .pdf files.

Disclaimer: .pdf files have a controversial history on the web. Much has been written regarding their search engine optimization, accessibility, and appearance/appeal in the context of HTML dominant environments.  There are many great articles on the pros and cons of pdfs in web pages, but all of them start with the assumption that .pdfs were designed for downloading and printing.  If you want your readers to download and print something, you need to consider – just consider – .pdfs. There are many ways to incorporate .pdf files into blogs.  I’m going to talk about three of them.

#1. Upload the .pdf to your Media Library.

If you insert the .pdf into the document just as you would an image, it will look like this:

ConnectedCourseWhitePaper_Gogia (1) (1)

You can alter the hyperlinked text however you like. I’ll alter the link so it does not reflect my bad habit of downloading the same thing to my laptop over and over again.

Connected Course White Paper

You can also add an image thumbnail to go along with it, to make it look more interesting. Admittedly not the most exciting thumbnail image, but hopefully you get the point.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 11.14.18 AM

Connected Course White Paper

#2. Hyperlink to a .pdf that you have housed elsewhere.  

This can be effective, particularly if you were planning on posting your document on anyway [Example].  The downside of this approach is that all you get is a link – no visuals to go with it.

You could always upload a copy of the cover and put the link in the caption…something like this.  This is a screenshot I took of the first page.  I uploaded the screenshot and then added the link as a caption.  Click on the link and you go to, where you can download my document.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 10.19.46 AM
Click to download.


#3. Embed the .pdf directly into your post.

Vanilla PDF Embed is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to embed a .pdf reader directly into the post. Those of us who use regular, free sites (such as this one), cannot upload plugins such as Vanilla PDF Embed.  One of the perks of paying for a hosted site on WordPress (e.g. my site) is that you can upload plugins. Alternatively, VCU has paid for the privilege of offering RamPages users 85+ plugins, including Vanilla PDF Embed.  So if you are a RamPage user, you are good to go with these instructions.

How to use Vanilla PDF Embed on your RamPages site

Go to your dashboard.  Click on PlugIns. Check the alphabetical list.  If the prompt under Vanilla PDF says “Activate” then click the “Activate.”  If it says “Deactivate” then it is activated already – do nothing. I think you will all need to activate the plugin.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 11.32.18 AM
I’ve already activated my Vanilla PDF Embed on my RamPages site. If I wanted to deactivate it, I’d just press “deactivate.”


Once Vanilla PDF Embed is activated, upload your pdf file to your media library, copy the attachment url, and then exit the media library without posting.

using vanilla pdf

Paste the copied url into your post (visual or html view – it doesn’t matter) and you’ll get this.  Again, note that I can’t actually demonstrate this on my blog, since my blog is not a site. The hyperlink I just gave you – that’s to my RamPage site.  For someone teaching this sort of thing, it’s useful to have webpages set up on several platforms for demonstration and diagnosis purposes if nothing else.





5 Comments Add yours

  1. tutormentor1 says:

    Good advice. I’ve used PDF essays since late 1990s, created first in power point, to communicate my strategies. I embedded them into articles on for many years, but did not have way to track visitors. I started sharing these at in 2011. Initially had a stats bar and seemed to be responsive to posts on social media. I had recorded 100k reads by mid 2013. Then one day the count showed only 20k. They said that “bots” had been inflating the count. I’m back up to 68k which I hope is real people. In my web library I archive links to pdf articles and research from others. In my blog I link to these on an ongoing basis.


    1. Laura Gogia says:

      Hello! I used to use often as well – in fact I had an entire #4 about and that I ended up deleting for a couple of reasons. First, many of my readers complained about my work being on Scribd. I think their complaints stemmed from the fact that didn’t want to subscribe to Scribd just to download my things. As an aside, while I haven’t gotten a bunch of junk mail as a Scribd subscriber, was a junkmail nightmare. Because I was receiving a lot of complaints from readers, I transferred a lot of my work from Scribd to (which has its own problems, but they don’t seem as pressing at the moment). Second, WordPress has gotten REALLY picky about embedding codes for pdf readers – in fact, I tried embedding from Scribd for this blog post just to show the Scribd reader and the site wouldn’t let me do it. There are plugins that let you embed Scribd readers into your WordPress site reliably, but you can’t upload them on a standard WordPress site or on RamPages (VCU’s hosted WordPress community). Therefore, I still think Vanilla PDF Embed is the best way to go for pdf readers for the VCU students enrolled in CuriousColab. You are right, though, about the lack of tracking, which is definitely a problem if you need to track….


  2. tellio says:

    I use the embed fubction in Google Drive to embed pdfs. Will look at vanilla pdf embed.


    1. Laura Gogia says:

      embed function? All I know about it the sharable link…do you have something else?


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