PDF (Portable Document Format) Basics

Had a call from a neighbor last week who runs a home business. He had a situation where his suppliers were sending him PDF’s of schematics rather than faxing the diagrams to him as they had in the past – said it was more efficient. Which is totally correct. But, as he was unfamiliar with PDF files, this created a problem. So over the phone, we gave him a quick crash course on how to open, save and print his PDF email attachments. This got us to thinking that others might benefit from the same basic info we gave him. So here goes . . .

PDF (Portable Document Format) is a file that can present a document in such a manner that it has a wide variety of uses. When using PDF files – it is possible to have the complete document including the text, font styles, images and graphics, layout and other information that was coded in the original document to display in the PDF document. This makes it very easy to send forms, legal documents, reports, schematics, etc. as an email attachment – or offer them on line as a download. Anyone with an Adobe Acrobat Reader (Free Download Here) will be able to view the PDF document, whereas, if the document were sent in the original format, the recipient may not have the necessary software to open or view it.

Some features of PDF files –
  • PDF files use an open standard that was released in 2008 and continues to be maintained today.
  • PDF files can be printed and viewed on any platform (Windows R, Mac OS, Android TM – to name a few) 
  • PDF files are reliable and a trusted source with literally millions of PDF documents being used and offered online by businesses and governments.
  • PDF files look like the original document and can contain multimedia, video, 3D, maps – regardless of the program used to create them.
  • PDF files can be made secure by using a password or digital sign when created with Acrobat software (paid program)
  • PDF files can be easily searched
 Converting Files to PDF

If you plan on sharing files, sending documents, forms, diagrams, manuals, etc., doing so in a PDF format is best. However, before you can do this, you’ll need to convert the original ‘document’ into a PDF file. This can be done using a free online converter  or a paid version of Adobe Acrobat Pro.   From the screen capture below, you can see that the Adobe Acrobat Pro version offers many more conversions.

Working with PDF Files (Email Attachments)

Once you’ve converted and saved the document with a .pdf extension- you can then send it as an attachment or upload it to the Internet.

To send a PDF file, you would attach it to the email just like you would any other file. When receiving PDF files as an email attachment – like our neighbor, there are typically two options:

  1.  View
  2. Download

If the recipient only ‘Views’ the document, they will be able to see it on their monitor screen. Depending on the email program used, they may have other options when viewing, i.e., ‘save copy as’, ‘print’, etc.

If ‘Download’ is selected, they will be given the options to ‘Open’ or ‘Save’ – where ‘Save’ gives three (3) additional options of ‘Save’, ‘Save As’ (option to select file folder to save in), or ‘Save and Open’.

We prefer to ‘Save As’ to a folder of choice and then print out copies, or view when needed.

Creating an Original PDF

For those who want to create an original PDF document, we find Word to be the easiest to use if you don’t need anything elaborate. Word allows you the flexibility of choosing different page formats, various font features (face, color, size), the option to insert images, control of pagination, etc.. Anything you can do in Word will convert to the PDF file.

Once the document is completed, simply save the finished Word document and then convert it to a PDF file saving it with a new name – making sure to use the .pdf file extension. As mentioned, converting can be accomplished through a paid Adobe Acrobat program or by using one of the free converters online. Just follow the prompts. They usually make it pretty easy.

Helpful Links

There is much more to PDF files than the basics we’ve covered here. If you are looking for more in-depth information visit –

For a fre online converter try –

To purchase Adobe Acrobat products visit Amazon where you’ll find a variety of Adobe Acrobat Pro programs  available.

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