What is a PDF?

Believe it or not PDFs have been around for 20 years! Originally released by Adobe Systems in 1993 to be a file format independent of software, hardware and operating system, PDF has become one of the most widely used file formats globally.

Essentially, a PDF (Portable Document Format) is a an open standard file format that allows you to share documents with full text formatting and images quickly and easily. 

PDF is a cross-platform file format meaning it can be accessed by a large number of devices - from PCs and Macs to tablets and smartphones. They can also be highly compressed so that a large amount of information can be stored and shared efficiently.

How are PDFs used?

On the internet PDF is the standard format used for many official documents such as guides, handbooks and manuals and has long been used for other types of document such as brochures and newsletters.

The average internet user will come across PDFs in many different ways, here are just a few:

How do I view a PDF?

Many modern internet browsers give you the ability to view PDFs online (in a new tab) but you'll generally need a PDF viewer to open those you've saved to your computer.

There are several PDF viewers available to install on your device but the most popular remains Adobe Reader - software made by the original developer of PDF, Adobe Systems.

Just Google 'Adobe Reader' and click on the first result in the list to download the latest version of this software. Once it's installed on your device you can view PDFs and even print them.

How can I use PDFs?

Many computer programmes give users the ability to convert Word documents, images and other file formats to PDF - take a closer look at your word processor or image editing software and you may see a PDF icon in the toolbar.

If you use documents at work or school it's best practice to share these in PDF format - the person you're sending the file to may not have the same word processing software as you (or even the same version) so they may not see the document the way it was intended.

The same goes for adding documents to your website, try to cater for everyone by converting your document to a PDF - it's much more likely to be seen and understood.