PDF stands for Portable Document Format, a file format that originated in print publishing as a tool for proofing print jobs before sending them to the printer. Today, it has become the standard for sharing print-ready documents via the Internet.
The format was developed by Adobe and was originally available only to owners of the company's Acrobat software. During the mid-90s, Adobe began distributing Acrobat Reader software, a free tool for viewing PDF files – making it a popular choice for authors, publishers, and designers who wanted to get around the formatting limitations of HTML. PDF is now accepted as an open standard, and is widely supported by other software vendors.
Several characteristics of PDF make it a great choice for sharing or publishing documents over the Internet.
- Ability to retain formatting. PDF allows the original presentation and formatting of any document to remain exactly as its original author intended it to look, including images, fonts, and layout. This is a distinct advantage over other formats such as Microsoft Office documents or HTML, which can change the document’s appearance according to the software and fonts installed on the computer used to view the document.
Security. With PDF documents, you have full control over users' ability to open, print, copy, modify, or share documents. You can selectively enable or disable these actions for each document according to your preferences.
- Easy to create. Because PDF has become an open standard, many software vendors support the format. You don’t necessarily need Adobe's Acrobat software to create PDF documents. Many plug-ins for Microsoft Office, print drivers, or online conversion services are available free or for a fee and make it easy and convenient to publish or export to the format.
- Compressible. PDF file sizes can be shrunk to suit the needs of target users. PDF documents can be packaged and compressed while retaining the original quality, or can be down-sampled and compressed to dramatically reduce file size, making it quick to download over the web.
- Powerful and flexible. You can add interactive elements including form fields, hyperlinks, electronic signatures, and multimedia such as sounds and videos to your PDF documents. Although these features are also available with other formats, they are not as easy to package and share as PDF.
You may want to consider switching to PDF when you want to share or publish documents over the Internet. There are a number of free programs online that allow you to do this without the need of purchasing software. Loop PDF is one that I like and I have found it be one of the simplest PDF conversion tools out there. You have to create an account to use it, but after you do, the free tool lets you add PDFs from your computer or URLs, and combine them into a single document. You can also convert other file types into PDFs. Loop PDF easily converted files in just a few seconds for me.