Short for Portable Document Format,
PDF is a file format developed by Adobe Systems. PDF captures
formatting information from a variety of
applications making it possible to send
have them appear on the recipient's
printer) as they were
intended to be viewed. A properly prepared PDF will maintain the original
graphics as well as the exact layout of the file (think of it as an electronic snapshot).
A PDF file can be shared, viewed, and printed by anyone using the free Adobe Reader
software regardless of the
operating system, original
design application or fonts.
Originally PDF was mostly used by
graphic artists, designers and publishers for producing color page proofs.
With its evolving technology, however, today PDF is used for
virtually any data
that needs to be exchanged among applications and users. It is an
open file format specification and PDF is available to anyone who
wants to develop tools to create, view or manipulate PDF documents.
I've Seen That Abbreviation
If you haven't been involved in designing
or distributing PDF files directly, your first introduction to PDF technology
may well have been a
hyperlink on a
Web page. When you click the
link, Adobe Reader either launches the file or informs
you need to download and install Adobe Reader to view the file.
Because a PDF is
independent of the application or
platform used to create it, it has
become a popular way to distribute and share documents via the
Internet. For many who use Adobe Reader only in association with Web
browsing, you may think PDF is something
which is relatively new
definitely not so
Key Terms To
Short for Portable Document Format, a file format developed by Adobe
Systems. PDF captures formatting information from a variety of
desktop publishing applications, making it possible to send
formatted documents and have them appear on the recipient's monitor
or printer as they were intended.
A design for a set of characters. A font is the combination of
typeface and other qualities, such as size, pitch, and spacing.
Additional Terms To
The Evolution of PDF
While the idea behind the format was tossed around as early as
1984, it wasn't until 1993 that Adobe launched its Acrobat 1.0
(and PDF 1.0) product line. Those first Acrobat products were touted as being "a
PostScript-based file format that can describe documents in a completely device and resolution independent manner."
Initially ideas of
CD-based books and magazines surfaced.
Imagine being able to walk into a
bookstore and read a portion of a book on PDF before purchasing.
PDF and the Acrobat software was a
new type of product that addressed some of the big problems in the publishing industry. PDF and Acrobat allowed
you to send your document across
networks (and different platforms) while preserving the fonts and
document formatting. In 1993
were a huge issue (four years before the 28,800 kbps
the standard in fact), Acrobat products offered a way to transfer
documents without having to attach multiple fonts. Additionally, the
documents could be sent without designers needing to worry about
application specific usage agreements.
With so much promise and industry buzz about
this new format and associated products, it is surprising that
Acrobat didn't take off like a rocket. Some industry watchers attribute its slower success
to that fact that users needed to pay for the PDF reader,
while others just didn't think outside the box and see the endless
possibilities associated with PDF.
In 1994 (with much ado), Adobe announced that its Acrobat Reader software
would be available for free through online services and
locations. In addition to an evolving distribution method, the products
themselves evolved from simply allowing you to view and print a document to providing a way to extract specific selections of
text or images from the file,
password-protect areas of the document, and much more.
Over time Adobe's PDF format and Adobe Reader
broke through its initial slump. Today Adobe PDF has achieved widespread use
and is now a streamlined format for exchanging documents. It is now, in fact, the standard format for the electronic submission of
drug approvals to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and
for electronic case filings in U.S. federal courts. Over
half-a-billion copies have been distributed since it's initial version 1.0
From an initial set of three products in
1993, the Adobe Acrobat family of products has grown into an offering of
nine products, designed to suit individuals as well as enterprise users who need to
create, view, and share PDF files.
The Adobe Acrobat Family - All
You Need to Create, Manipulate,
and Read PDF
To view a file in PDF format, you need Adobe Reader, which is a free application
distributed by Adobe Systems. The free reader allows you to share your PDF
documents with anyone and allow the end user to view or print the
document on any system. It's available for Windows, Mac, Unix,
Linux, AIX, HP/UX and Solaris operating systems. Adobe Reader is also available for
mobile devices running Palm OS, Pocket PC, or for Symbian OS. Users can
freely download Adobe Reader from the Adobe Web site.
Adobe Acrobat & Adobe Elements
To create PDF files for distribution, you'll need to have Adobe
Acrobat (available in Professional or standard versions). While specific
features between these products differ, any will allow
you to both create a PDF document from any application that prints and to
manage specialized content from other applications. All three support
Microsoft Office (while the Acrobat standard and Professional versions
support additional applications). These products also allow you to
protect documents with passwords and apply restrictions on printing,
copying, and alterations. You can also use them to view, print, and search
Adobe PDF files.
The standard version of Acrobat offers features such as support for
applications like Microsoft Outlook, Internet Explorer, Access and
Publisher. You can also digitally sign and certify documents, and
Combine application files into a single Adobe PDF document. Naturally
the Professional version of Adobe Acrobat offers even more features.
Some applications needed to design and create PDF files are available as
free 30-day trial versions from the Adobe Web site.
Adobe PDF Online
This subscription-based offering allows you to create Adobe PDF Online. You can
create and publish reports, spreadsheets and resumes for distribution. You can also archive
Web sites for easy reference and research, or turn scanned paper documents into
searchable Adobe PDF files. Create Adobe PDF Online offers a free trial where
you can create your first five Adobe PDF files for free, after which the service is available
through a monthly or yearly subscription fee.
Sharing, Serving & Dealing With Large
Adobe also offers products that can assist you in deploying PDF
distribution across your network or enterprise. Some of these products
include the following:
Adobe Acrobat Elements Server allows organizations
to centrally deploy and manage Adobe PDF file creation capabilities
across the enterprise.
Adobe Acrobat Distiller Server allows
workgroups to convert Adobe PostScript files to compact, reliable and
more secure Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files over a network.
Adobe Acrobat Messenger software is combined with a
scanner or digital copier to transform paper documents into electronic
files that you can deliver via e-mail, Web, fax and and so on.
Acrobat Capture software is a professional production tool that
teams with your scanner to convert volumes of paper documents into
searchable PDF files. Acrobat Capture is designed to provide accurate OCR, advanced
page and content recognition, and powerful cleanup tools let you turn
all your important paper-based information into electronic
How PDF is Used Today
It is becoming increasingly easy to
create PDF files as (from a user's stand-point) the process is almost as simple as
printing. Essentially, anything that can be done with a sheet of paper can be
done with a PDF. PDF technology is being used more frequently
offset printed documents
designer properly embeds fonts and images).
Adding to mainstream adoption, of
course, is the fact that many applications allow users to save, import or export
a document as a PDF (including popular publishing programs like QuarkXPress and
CorelDraw), and you can also find a variety of third-party PDF conversion software
tools available. With the capability to embed
metadata (data about
data) in a PDF file, along with the use of security options and electronic
signatures PDF is also becoming a standard for data archiving. It may have
taken a few years to perfect and years of dedication by the
development team at Adobe,
but today more and more people are turning to PDF as the solution for something
not even thought of in 1993.
Did You Know...
"In 1993 the initial Adobe Acrobat Product Line was composed of
three different products: Acrobat Reader, Acrobat Exchange and
Acrobat Distiller. At this time, these products were only available for a
Vangie 'Aurora' Beal
Last updated: July 1, 2005
Download the latest version of Adobe Reader
Adobe Acrobat Family
The complete Adobe Acrobat family of products. This section of the Adobe Web
site includes an overview of each product, as well as download and purchase
Home of the PDF community.
Quick Reference Article: Understanding Graphics Formats
Graphics file formats are not created equal. Each is designed to address a
specific issue. Knowing not only which one to use, but when and how to use it is
the key to presenting pleasing images efficiently.
Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Curriculum Guide (PDF)
Using Acrobat to Make a PDF File Accessible.
Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Curriculum Guide (PDF)
Creating Accessible PDF Documents.
Some uses of
PDF in the Educational Sector (PDF)
Paper by The University of Akron, Mathematics and Computer Science.
Creating PDF and PostScript
Tips for creating PDF and PostScript Files: using MS Word, Windows.
Scribus - Desktop Publishing For Linux
Using "Hidden" Features with Acrobat Reader and Scribus.
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