PDF Files: A Refresher Course

Okay. Right now you’re probably saying to yourself, “A refresher course on PDF’s? Who needs that?” Fine, maybe you don’t. Maybe you know all about Adobe’s Portable Document Format. After all, it’s been around since 1993. If that’s the case, feel free to leave this page to those of us who, for whatever reason, might not be tapping into the full potential of the PDF and could use a brief review of the many features and benefits that PDF’s have to offer.
Multiple Platform Convenience: PDF documents can be read anywhere on any device that can support Acrobat Reader or other PDF reading software. Unlike Word, the software to read PDFs is free and is supported on many different devices and operating systems. In other words, if you’re using Windows, you can send a PDF document to a Mac or Linux user, even someone on a mobile device, and know that they will receive and be able to view the document exactly as intended, without any changes. Also, when you click a link to view or download a PDF, it opens automatically in your browser window, making it possible to view the document without opening or downloading any other program.

PDF documents are secure: PDF’s were originally designed for and used by the Federal Government to insure the utmost security while handling sensitive documents and communicating internally and externally.  Unlike other documents that can be easily edited, resaved or copied, PDF files are read only by default and can only be edited or changed when deliberately converted into a word document or other editable format. PDF files can even be password protected or encrypted to prevent converting, editing or reformatting altogether. This functionality is essential for keeping proprietary information secure. In addition, PDFs are almost completely immune to viruses, spyware and other virtual dangers, allowing them to be distributed and opened safely.

Multimedia support: PDFs support many types of multimedia and interactive functions such as hyperlinks to direct users back to a website, bookmarks for large documents, web forms that can be filled out directly, and even music and video. And the best part is that all of these features and functions can be embedded as a part of the document itself.

File compression: PDFs can compress, optimize and reduce the size of documents and data without sacrificing any of the original elements or quality. This means that you can transmit the same document at a smaller size and a faster rate when you convert it to a PDF file. In light of the current size limitations providers have placed on email attachments—which can lead to undeliverable emails—the ability to create documents and compress them to the smallest file possible while still retaining image quality can save a lot of time, trouble and headaches.

Document legality: In order for a document to be admissible in a court of law, it must be kept in a format that cannot be altered or changed. It’s little wonder that PDF files are the preferred format of the U.S. Judicial System. Due to their secure nature, PDF files cannot be altered without leaving an electronic footprint or record of the changes. With this unique capability, PDF files meet all legal document requirements, allowing for the capture, creation and transmission of sensitive documents without any chance of their being compromised and rendered inadmissible in the process.

Authenticity: Another unique advantage of PDF files is that they can be imprinted with marks of authenticity, such as watermarks and digital signatures. This is especially valuable to financial institutions or corporations conducting sensitive transactions where the authenticity of all parties involved must be verified. When recipients view a document bearing such distinctive marks—which, like the document itself cannot be altered—they can be sure that the document is genuine and came from an authorized source.

Simplicity: With all their features, PDF files are surprisingly simple to create, provided you have the right software, aka, a PDF Converter. You can also scan paper documents into PDF format. In either case, all elements in the PDF file, including tables and graphs, will remain intact and will always resemble the original document. And with PDF, consolidating, transmitting and archiving data becomes a manageable task, even when dealing with large amounts of data originally generated in other formats. And as technology continues to evolve away from paper, PDF makes it possible to integrate paper based and electronic document systems, resulting in files that can be readily and securely stored, or shared and viewed universally for years to come.

Jared Rivers is a freelance writer who specializes in computer technology.