ART OF GRAPHIX: The document format that keeps on creating

IF you have ever downloaded a printable form or document from the Internet, there is a good chance it was a PDF file. 'PDF' is short for Portable Document Format, and is easily identified because all such files end in .pdf.

In 1991, Adobe co-founder Dr John Warnock launched the paper-to-digital revolution with an idea he called The Camelot Project.

The goal was to enable anyone to capture documents from any application, send electronic versions of these documents anywhere, and view and print them on any machine.

Today, the PDF has become a critical tool for attorneys, human resource managers and publishers, and the standard digital format for any business document.

You will often see product manuals, eBooks, flyers, job applications, scanned documents, brochures and virtually any other document made available in the PDF format.

PDF files can contain not only images and text, but also interactive buttons, hyperlinks, embedded fonts, videos and more.

Because they do not rely on the software that created them, or on any particular operating system or hardware, they look the same no matter what device they are opened on.

PDF files are very small, and the content can be stored compressed. So it is the best solution if you want to upload and distribute a document to the Internet.

Why use PDF files?

Imagine you create an advertisement for a marketing event or a newsletter in Microsoft Word, and share it as a .docx file, which is the default file format for Word documents. Unless everyone has Microsoft Word installed on their computers, there is no guarantee they would be able to open and view the document.

Sharing a file as a PDF file would help ensure everyone is able to view it as you intended. And because Word documents are meant to be edited, there is a chance that some of the formatting and text in your document may be shifted around.

Creating PDF files

There are several ways to create PDF files, but the method will largely depend on the device you are using. For example, if you are using Windows 10, click the Print dialogue box, then select PDF. This allows you to create a PDF file. If you are on a Mac, the Print dialog box has a PDF menu that allows you to save a file as a PDF.

If your computer has Windows 8 or earlier, you have a few options. The simplest method is to use software that supports a PDF export, such as Microsoft Office or Google Chrome.

Another option is to use a PDF converter such as Smallpdf, which is a free app that runs in your web browser. Smallpdf can convert various file types, such as Microsoft Office documents, into a PDF.

How to open a PDF File

Most web browsers, such as Chrome and Firefox, can open PDFs themselves. You may or may not need an add-on or extension to do it, but it is pretty handy to have one open automatically when you click a PDF link online. However, I find it to be a somewhat bloated program with lots of features that you may never need or want to use.

Converting a PDF File

Converting a PDF means that it will no longer be a PDF file. Instead, it will open in a program other than a PDF reader. For example, converting a PDF to a Microsoft Word file (DOC and DOCX) lets you open the file not only in Word, but also in other document editing programs.

If you instead want a non-PDF file to be a .PDF file, you can use a PDF creator. These types of tools can take images, eBooks, and Microsoft Word documents, and export them as PDF, which enables them to be opened in a PDF or eBook reader.

Securing a PDF file

Securing a PDF requires a password and prevents others from printing, adding comments, inserting pages and other things. Though protecting a PDF file with a password is recommended in some circumstances, you may end up forgetting what the password is.

By contrast, PDF files are primarily meant for viewing only, not editing. One reason they are so popular is that PDFs can preserve document formatting, which makes them more shareable and helps them to look the same on any device. Until we meet again, fill your life with memories as opposed to regrets. Enjoy life and stay on top of your game.

NB: The columnist welcomes feedback at deedee21bastian@gmail.com

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST: Deidre Marie Bastian is a professionally trained Graphic Designer/Marketing Coordinator with qualifications of M.Sc., B.Sc., A.Sc. She has trained at institutions such as: Miami Lakes Technical Centre, Success Training College, College of The Bahamas, Nova South Eastern University, Learning Tree International, Langevine International and Synergy Bahamas.


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