PDFs- the universal file format.

Regardless of your level of computer skills you will more than likely encounter pdfs on a daily basis.

Whether it’s getting your insurance documents sent to you by email or sending or receiving an important document for school or work.

But what is a pdf and how can you make one. We will answer this question in two separate parts.

What is a PDF?

The PDF file was created in the early 90s by Adobe. Adobe wanted the pdf file to be able to do two things.

1. Be able to be opened on any device. Using only a pdf reader or browser.

2. Look the same as when it was created, regardless of the device that it was created on or being viewed on.

When instructing students to send of finished versions off documents (such as CVs). I always tell them to create and format a Microsoft Word document to the way they want it to look. Then create a pdf from the Word document and then they can send that pdf send it to the prospective employer.

Years ago if you sat down at a desktop computer and spent hours creating a document in Microsoft Word and sent it to someone else, there was a very good chance that the person at the other end was also sitting at a “desktop computer” receiving it. So once they opened the document and viewed it on their screen it would look exactly like you intended it to look.

Now, you could spend hours formatting a Microsoft Word document on a desktop computer to send to somebody. You could spend time choosing the fonts, spacing, bullets and alignment and it would look like you have it perfect. You send it and the other person opens it on a smartphone or tablet, and it’s going to look completely different than the original that you spent so long perfecting.

With PDFs we don’t have this problem. You create and format the document to look exactly like you want it to look. Once you have all the changes made you can simply use  the applications feature to export the document to pdf format. You will then have two versions of the document.

1. The one you spent all the time editing, this could be on Microsoft Word or any other program.

2. The finished/final document that will open and look the same on any device.

You should save both versions to your computers hard drive for future use.

Another positive characteristic of the pdf is that it cannot be easily changed or edited. The main word there is easily. PDFs aren’t designed to be edited or changed, It is designed for final versions. This brings a very common question.

Can I change a pdf?

The average computer user wouldn’t be able to go about editing it, there are applications and techniques that you can use to edit or change the pdf. We will look at doing this in a future post.

So how do we create a PDF?

You would go about creating the file as you normally would. It may be in Microsoft Word, Excel of any other programs that allows file creation. The exporting to PDF feature will usually be tied into the saving options. In Microsoft Office the pdf feature can be found in the “save as type” section of the saving window. The same can be said for Adobe photoshop and illustrator. Apple uses an “export as” option for its iWork application suite of Pages Numbers and Keynote.

The beauty, as you can see, of the PDF file format is that it can be opened on every device and more importantly it will look the same on every device.

It really is the universal file format.