PDF – What, How & Why?

This is a question I receive often: How can I edit a PDF?

First I think it is important to understand what PDF is. Developed in 1993 by Adobe the Portable Document (file) Format (PDF) is used to render two-dimensional documents independent of hardware, software or operating systems. That is tech-talk for it is a file to show documents on any computer (or device). PDF became an open standard on 01 July 2008 in ISO 32000-1:2008.

There are a number of uses for PDF. Primarily, PDF is useful when the creator wants to ensure the document can be viewed on multiple computer systems and maintain fidelity. Other uses may include sharing information that should not be changed or edited by recipients. Among other uses the PDF document may be created into a fillable form that includes areas for entry and limitted code (example for valiation). Digital rights management (DRM) and document security (restrict printing, password protect, etc) are also options for the PDF format.

Can I edit a PDF?
Not really. PDF files are representations of source documents. The program used to create PDF files takes a source document (for example MS Word) and converts the Word document into a PDF format. The original .doc / .docx file remains intact but a PDF file is produced from this source document. If a changes needs to be done to a PDF file, for example corercting (intentional) a typo, the change would have to be done in the source document in this case MS Word and the PDF file recreated.

I’ve seen people who changed a PDF document.
The PDF format does allow for annotation, and markup. You must have a program for doing so. Adobe Acrobat Professional Extended not only allows you to create PDF documents but also provides the option to make changes and markup but to add additional information. These changes should not be considered edits to the documents but additional in the form of layers. These edits do not change the original content. 

What about PDF forms?
Many of us have seen forms that are PDF documents. We can fill these forms out and print paper copies of the output. However, without a PDF creating tool you cannot save the information entered into the form once the file is closed. 

If you wish to create forms the best tool I am aware of is Adobe Acrobat Professional Extended. This will allow you to create forms that may be distributed to people who can fill them out and print them (or save – see above). If however you want to capture that information in a database backend – you will need a lot more experience. It is do-able.

What is a PDF converter? 
PDF converter is the generic term for a program that takes your original source document and converts it into a PDF file. It does nto matter which program you use (some are free, others have restrictions). As an ISO 32000 standard a PDF is a PDF is a PDF – it can be read anywhere.

I recommend for those who use Microsoft Office 2007 to download and install the Save as PDF add-in freely available to licensed users of Microsoft Office 2007. The download for this add-in can be found at http://bit.ly/d7oOH6 




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