What are PDF Files?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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The portable document format is a form of file that allows for the creation of electronic documents using any type of word processor or print media software. As a bonus, the document can be shared with others, who are able to open and read the document, regardless of the word processing software they use. Here is some information about how PDF files are created, and why they are such an asset in a variety of applications.

PDF files were developed by Adobe Systems, and served as a way for people using multiple word processing systems to share finished documents. Because there are multiple word processing software packages in use that are not compatible with one another, the need for a common file format that everyone could open and read became the centerpiece of the Adobe® Acrobat® software.

Regardless of whether the end user preferred open source, Microsoft®, or Corel® word processors, documents could be created in the program of choice, then saved as PDF files. With a full Adobe® suite, it is also possible to create the document using the Adobe® software with the same level of ease as any word processing program. The saved files can be shared with others, who will only need to download the free Adobe® Reader® to open and read the file.


One of the advantages of using PDF files to distribute electronic documents is that the file can be locked against editing by others, even if they have Acrobat® software. This has increased the use of PDFs for such applications as electronic newsletters, contracts, book manuscripts and finance reports. Because the documents are secure, the originator of the document maintains a high level of control, even when the document has been distributed widely. In addition to frequent use in the business world, PDFs are also used often to create electronic books for sale, online magazines, and electronic brochures for non-profit organizations.

While PDF files were originally developed by Adobe®, there are a number of products on the market today that will convert spreadsheets, text documents, and just about all forms of electronic writing software into PDF files. Generally, these products may be focused on converting other types of files to a PDF format, rather than creating PDFs from scratch. While many of these products seem to work well, few of them can compete with the features of Acrobat for the price. When it comes to creating and reading PDFs, the original may still be the best.


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Post 1

I need to know how to amend Adobe Reader so that the pdfs that I open will also show images and pictures that come with the pdf. Right now all I see is a medium gray box with no image.

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