You may know that PDF is a kind of file format, but do you want to learn more about it? That's why we've written this piece to go through all there is to know about PDF, including its benefits and drawbacks.

What is PDF?

PDF, which stands for Portable Document Format, is a file format created by Adobe in 1992. It’s used to present text and image documents electronically. PDF is designed to be independent of software, hardware, and operating systems to display and exchange files. Based on the PostScript language, accurate color and effects can be ensured no matter what devices you use.

In 2008, Adobe made PDF an “open standard” by handing over control of PDF development to the ISO (International Organization for Standardization). ISO 32000-2 documents the specification for the current PDF version (2.0). ISO will also be responsible for upgrading and producing future versions, with technical assistance from Adobe involved.

The PDF file format can encapsulate text, formatting, color, and graphic images in a single file, and this file format can also contain hypertext links, sound, and other electronic information. It supports generating extra-long documents, and the integration, security, and reliability are highly guaranteed.

PDF format is also widely used for E-books. For readers, e-books in PDF format have the same effect as paper books, which restores the original appearance of the book to the greatest extent. In addition, it provides readers with a personalized way of reading because the display size can be adjusted randomly.

Two Categories of PDF

  • Native PDFs

Native PDFs are born to be PDF files; that is, PDFs are created digitally by Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc., and then they are saved in PDF file format. Native PDFs allow you to search and edit casually.

  • Scanned PDFs

The scanned PDFs come from scanning paper documents, of course, you can take them as a collection of images. The layout and quality of scanned PDFs are not as good as native PDFs. Searching on scanned PDFs is not supported.

Four Main Subsets of PDF

  • PDF/A (PDFs for Archive)

PDF/A (PDFs for Archive) is the ISO-standardized version of PDF which is dedicated to the archiving and preservation of electronic documents. The difference between PDF/A and PDF is that PDF/A prohibits some functions that are not suitable for long-term archiving.

  • PDF/E (PDFs for Engineering)

PDF/E (PDFs for Engineering) is also a subset of PDF targeted at the engineering and technology industries for interactive engineering file exchange, especially for some of the latest features used by the engineering and technology community for PDF technology, including object-level metadata and 3D models.

  • PDF/X (graphics exchange)

PDF/X (graphics exchange) is designed to provide designers, engineers, and graphic artists with an electronic file format that can be printed correctly. This format is the ideal one for print-ready file transfers.

  • PDF/VT

PDF/VT is an international standard published by IOS in August 2010 as ISO 16612-2. It defines the use of PDF as an interchange format optimized for variable and transactional printing. PDF/VT provides specifications for document structure and layout, content, and interaction of graphic objects in an imaging model that supports real-time transparency, layers, and full ICC-based color management.

Monica has accumulated more than three years of experience in writing tech products. Now she works as an English columnist for this website. With her extensive experience, Monica has offered many helpful and feasible recommendations.