By DEIDRE M. BASTIAN HAVE you ever stumbled across a PDF file and wondered how to open it? Or maybe someone e-mailed you a PDF file, but you're not sure how to use it. Perhaps you tried to open it, but Windows would not allow you to do so. You may be saying: "This software sounds too much of a nuisance, and may not even be worth the hassle." Wait, relax and slow down. Before we declare a PDF storm in a tea cup, let us ascertain what PDF is, and how some of its bells and whistles work. PDF stands for Portable Document Format, which means that it allows electronic information to be transferred between various types of computers. It is readable on most platforms. In plain language, it is a file that will look the same on the screen and in print, regardless of what type of computer or printer is being used, or what software package created it. In 1993, San Jose-based Adobe Systems introduced the world to what was originally known as Adobe Acrobat. The software's main goal was to become the standard for transmission of large documents. Although it had some initial glitches and encountered stiff competition, the PDF file achieved its goal and became the format of choice for the world. Everyone from business owners and educators to government personnel uses the PDF file to transmit large documents, photos and images. However, many of us have encountered tricky situations with PDF files for different reasons. Admittedly I encountered a minor challenge this week while assisting a friend, which brought me to this topic. Users frequently report they cannot open PDF documents on their computer. Usually, this is due to a setting on their computer, rather than a fault with the file. However, Adobe provides information to resolve many of these problems by offering the Adobe Help key. To prevent glitches in opening files, double-clicking on this allows your PC to decide which default application should open the file. If no program opens, then you probably do not have an application installed that can view PDF files. Many factors can prevent a PDF from opening in Adobe Reader or Acrobat. These include damage to the PDF, damage to the software installation or update, an out-dated version, unrecognisable file types or PDFs created with non-Adobe programs etc. To configure Windows to open PDFs with Reader or Acrobat: WINDOWS USERS * Right-click the PDF, and then choose Open With, Choose Program. * Select Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat in the list of programs. * Click OK. To configure OS X to open PDFs with Reader or Acrobat: MAC OS USERS * Click the PDF file's icon in the Finder to select it. * Choose File, Get Info. * Click the triangle next to Open With. * Choose Adobe Reader from the Open With menu (if it' is not on the list, choose Other to select it). * Click Change All. Clearly, PDF files are not intended to be edited. It is a 'What You See Is What You Get' (WYSIWYG) format. This means it cannot be altered unless you possess the original password. But what if the PDF file contains grammar and spelling mistakes? There are ways of correcting this hitch, mainly by editing a PDF directly or converting a PDF to another format. This can be done by simply opening the PDF in Acrobat if it is not password protected, or if you have the original authoring password. Another way is to convert PDF to another format via a 'PDF to Word Converter program'. Basically, this PDF editor interprets the snapshot and converts it into a text file that is able to 'read' the file and output the text in a Word document. Password-protected PDFs: A PDF 'owner password' or the 'change permission password' is the password used to set document restrictions in PDF files for security purposes. This does not restrict the opening of a PDF file; only what can be done once opened. The creator of a PDF document can add a password security to a document to prevent unauthorised users from viewing the file. Meaning if the password was not shared, you cannot open the file. Unfortunately, passwords can easily be removed with PDF password removal tools, allowing full access to restricted PDF files. What do you need to view and print PDF files? Virtually anyone, including Windows, DOS, Macintosh and UNIX system users, can view and print a PDF file. To download a free Acrobat Reader, visit the Adobe site and down load PDF reader programs, some of which are Foxit Reader, Nitro PDF Reader, SumatraPDF and many more. If you have difficulty printing a PDF file, select: 'Use raster graphics' which is found in File/Print/Setup/Properties/Graphics. Configure the Browser: Some browsers may need to be configured to download PDF files effectively. Therefore, before you can open a PDF file, you will need to determine the type of file the PDF file extension refers to. Upgraded PDF Version: PDFs created from non-Adobe products may not comply with the complete PDF specification, which can explain why users may not be able to open a particular PDF in an older version. This forces one to revert to an earlier version of Reader or Acrobat to open the PDF. If you are faced with this challenge, here is how to install the latest PDF version. First, uninstall or remove all versions of older PDF versions. Thereafter, reinstall the latest version. Please note that depending on your settings, you may have to temporarily disable your antivirus software. Nevertheless, PDF files have the awesome task of sharing with others that do not have the same software; sharing files with others who use a different platform (Mac, Windows, Linux, etc); sharing files that can be protected from unauthorised viewing, printing, copying, or editing; publish electronic documents, ebooks, etc; printing files to many different types of printers, with all looking essentially the same; creating files with annotations, hyperlinks and bookmarks that can be shared via e-mail and on the Web; creating interactive forms that can be shared via e-mail and the Web. At the helm of the many resourceful features this flagship offers, it seems to have taken on a life of its own with the sole control of the PDF world for a long time. Part of the free Adobe Reader program, this Portable Document Format (PDF) is definitely a keeper. So until we meet again, fill your life with memories rather than regrets. Have fun and stay on top of your game. NB: The columnist welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org About the Columnist: Ms Bastian is an extensively trained graphic designer who has qualifications of M.Sc., B.Sc., A.Sc. She has trained at many institutions such as: Miami Lakes Technical Centre, Success Training College, College of the Bahamas, Nova Southeastern University, Learning Tree International, Langevine International and Synergy Bahamas.