Learning Centers

What is PDF?

April 01, 2004

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Editor's Note: This article is part of the Introduction to Acrobat & PDF Learning Center

If PDF did not exist, someone would have to invent it

The term "PDF" stands for "Portable Document Format". The key word is portable, intended to combine the qualities of authenticity, reliability and ease of use together into a single packaged concept.

To be truly portable, an authentic electronic document would have to appear exactly the same way on any computer at any time, at no cost to the user. It will deliver the exact same results in print or on-screen with near-total reliability.PDF icon graphic

You use word-processor, spreadsheet or presentation files everyday. But do you also email, post to a website and file using these formats? You could use PDF. What's the difference?

The difference between PDF and formats used for writing (Word, Excel, Power Point, Quark, HTML, etc) is profound. Properly made, PDF files are not subject to the vagaries of other formats. PDFs are not readily editable - and editing may be explicitly prohibited. A precise snapshot, a PDF file is created at a specific date and time, and in a specific way. You can trust a PDF like you can trust a fax. You can't say that about a Word file!

Adobe Systems invented PDF technology in the early 1990s to smooth the process of moving text and graphics from publishers to printing-presses. At the time, expectations were modest, but no longer. PDF turned out to be the very essence of paper, brought to life in a computer. In creating PDF, Adobe had almost unwittingly invented nothing less than a bridge between the paper and computer worlds. Adobe's business -- and yours -- will never be the same again.

PDF is electronic paper

What are the important qualities of paper? Paper is authentic, reliable and easy to use. Most of the world still trusts paper as "hardcopy" to convey ownership, seal a deal, retain proof of delivery, and so on.

PDF is designed and intended to fulfill the role of paper within the computer... to be the electronic equivalent of paper.

The elegance of the PDF concept is matched by the quality of execution in PDF technology. At more than 10 years old, PDF is a mature format, and Adobe Acrobat is mature software. PDFs may now contain in a single file not only text and graphics, but navigation, form-fields, security features, movies, javascripts and other elements that greatly enhance the effective distribution and use of electronic documents.

PDF yesterday, today and tomorrow

The ubiquity of PDF might tempt us to take it for granted. It is nonetheless instructive to recall that it all began with a single, seemingly basic functional requirement -- uncomplicated, flawless printing of an authentic original document.

Adobe's decade-old invention to save time at the printing-press has spawned the only plausible alternative to an actual paper document since the invention of the printing-press.

The new Learning Centers at Planet PDF will show you how to unlock the power of PDF to save time and smooth business, creative and development processes in all aspects of your organization.

Welcome, once again, to Planet PDF.

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