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The Beginner’s Guide to PDF Files

The vast majority of people who have worked with computers have encountered PDF files related to work, business or hobbies. These files show up everywhere, but the format may be confusing the first time you encounter it. Portable Document Files (the .pdf format) were designed to offer a read-only document format that anyone at a computer could use.

Today, you can even open PDF files on mobile devices such as your cellphone or tablet. Many people use these files to read, store and share information, so it’s worthwhile to examine where they came from, how they’re used today, and the best ways you can use PDF files yourself.

A Brief History of the PDF

The PDF file format is nearly 30 years old, which is a testament to how effective it’s been. Back in the 1990s, the managing team at Adobe saw that there was a problem facing computer users. The two most popular forms of computer, PCs that used Windows and Apple Macintosh computers, used two different operating systems and file structures. As a result, it was difficult for people who used these machines to communicate digitally with each other, which was a significant problem for businesses.

Apple quickly developed an identity as a better system for graphical design and artistry while Windows-based computers found a home as business machines. Adobe sought to bridge the gap by creating a format that both operating systems could read and allowed users to share pictures or text. The team at Adobe developed the PDF in 1993 and created the first programs that created and edited these files. For the next 15 years, Adobe used PDFs as proprietary technology, helping them grow as computer users saw the benefits of using this standard file format. After 2008, PDFs became open source, which meant that other companies could develop programs to interact with the file format, expanding consumer options when trying to use PDF files.

How Businesses and Consumers Use the PDF File Format Today

Currently, nearly every major company uses PDFs for their documentation. Instruction manuals, album liner notes, invoices, eBooks, and supplementary materials are usually in PDF format. Companies can even use fillable PDFs and digital authentication to have customers fill out information and sign agreements with the company. Whenever anyone scans a document, there’s a high likelihood that the scanner saves it to their computer as a PDF file.

Individual consumers use PDFs in those same ways due to the files serving as high-fidelity digital images that can also preserve text and other information. Although it’s possible to edit PDF documents, many people trust them over other file formats such as JPG because the latter is easier to edit with default programs included with Windows or on many mobile devices.

Opening a PDF File

Today, most computers come standard with a form of PDF reader. In fact, mobile devices may have a basic PDF reader. Even if you can’t edit the file using these readers, you can usually open the PDF as quickly as double-clicking on the file. The downside of default PDF readers is that they typically have limited functionality:

  • They cannot convert PDF files to another format, nor can they convert other formats to PDF.
  • They cannot edit PDF files, combine multiple PDF files into a single file, or split a single PDF into multiple files.
  • They cannot create forms for your clients and collaborators to fill out, nor can they secure and authenticate digital signatures.
  • They aren’t secure and may be vulnerable to malicious code or viruses embedded in the PDF.

There are many other features that basic readers lack, but these essential issues highlight the difference between Kofax Power PDF and standard readers.

If you want the full power available in the PDF format, then you should explore how Power PDF can help you do the work you need to do.

Going Beyond the Basics

Even though you’ve probably already used PDFs on many occasions, you may not yet know or appreciate how they can improve the way that you do business. As you develop new ways to interact with your clients, Power PDF can help you streamline your workflow, improve your client communication and better organize your file structure. These benefits all take time and effort to appreciate fully, so you will continue becoming more efficient for weeks or months after making the transition. If you’re curious to see how Power PDF can impact the work you do, try it for a risk-free 15-day trial period and experience the difference that Power PDF makes.

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