What is a PDF file?

What is a PDF file?

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November 13, 2022
What is a PDF file?

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What is a PDF file?

PDF stands for Portable Document Format. The idea behind this format is quite simple: a clear display of printed products in electronic form. The PDF file is usually used for a variety of documents, including e-books, application forms, user guides, scanned documents, and more; all of these files are sure to be in the PDF file format. One of the advantages of this format is its unpretentiousness for electronic devices—whether it’s an Internet browser, computer, or phone, you get an absolutely exact copy of the original document.

The original PDF format was developed by Adobe in 1991. It allows everyone to easily access and share documents, regardless of which computer or equipment is used to view the document.

The history of the PDF format

In the early ’90s, high-end software used to create graphics and documents resulted in enormous file sizes, especially if fonts, images, and other graphic elements were integrated into them. Computers at that time had a small fraction of the processing power available today, which meant that every bit of efficiency was vital. People had to move a particular font to their computer manually every time to work on files. And if you move that file to another computer that doesn’t have your font, then all of the text would get shifted into a pile, and it would be impossible to read it. To fix this, the software developers started lightening the load on the document file, they added the necessary information from the installation folder of the font, but it was still difficult to work with such files because, when you transfer the document to another device, you still lose the font you specified.

PDF has changed this completely. The developers at Adobe found a way to assemble all the parts of the file and make it smaller while preserving the font. After that, the PDF file made history and has been helping users work with documents simply and easily every day for more than 20 years.

The creation of this file had very important goals:

  1. The PDF format can be processed by any operating system.
  2. The PDF file can be opened without any software.


  1. A PDF file is very easy to use.
  2. Users benefit from this development every day.
  3. The interest in it has only grown over the years.

Adobe’s idea was to replace paper, putting PDF at the center of the long-awaited dream of a paperless office. Which it finally did, many years later. The company’s developers invented the PDF file format, thereby pushing the paper routine into the background.

Over time, PDF became necessary for literally everyone: universities, hospitals, schools, theaters, museums, hotels, and airlines… It has become ubiquitous, and we can no longer imagine our existence without such an important format.

Interesting fact: The first major user of the format was the U.S. Internal Revenue Service; it was in PDF format that their clients were sent tax returns to complete.

Time is passing, but the development of digital culture is going even faster and is rapidly renewing itself, making life easier for all of us 🙂

What is a PDF file used for?

Adobe's idea was to replace paper, putting PDF at the center of the long-awaited dream of a paperless office

To understand why it is so important to save your files exactly in PDF format, we will give you one simple example:

Imagine that you work in a hospital as a doctor. At the end of the month, you need to fill out logs with complete patient data and give them to the chief physician to sign. With the Microsoft Word program already installed on your computer, you add tables, type in patients’ names, addresses, phone numbers, diagnoses, test results, and complete treatment. You save all the files with the fonts and themes set, and after all the hard work is done, you hand over the completed documents for signature with complete confidence.

The next day, your superiors call you to their office. The chief physician opens the files with a bewildered look on his face and shows you completely shifted texts, pictures that have shifted down, and tables with names and phone numbers stretched out. It is impossible to make sense of your documents and find any information.
Why did this happen? The chief physician opened the received documents on a work laptop, with a small screen, and everything was reformatted.

To avoid such mishaps, it is customary to save all files in PDF format. It allows you to fully maintain the formatting, regardless of which screen or program viewed the file; the text cannot go beyond the page boundaries; tables and photos will remain in their places, and a breakdown of the text on pages will remain exactly as it was when the document was created. And you can be sure that when printing documents, everything will remain in the same place, as it was on the screen of the device because, when saving, you have chosen the format PDF.

When to use PDF files?

You should use PDF files:

  • when you send these files by e-mail
  • when the recipient should not be able to alter the document
  • when you don’t know what operating system it will be opened in

Most operating systems fully support PDF files. This means you don’t need to create a document specifically for Linux, Windows, Android, iOS, or macOS users – unlike a DOC file. PDF files can be opened from absolutely any device and in the original format. It is much more convenient and easier to use. And all the advantages are absolutely on its side.

The main difference between a PDF file and any others texts file is the formatting, which is retained. This means that no matter what device or operating system the PDF file opened on, it will always look the same. So what is a PDF file? Conclusion: A PDF file is a special electronic document format that does not depend on the chosen operating system or electronic document viewer. It is the same for any device. All you need to open a PDF file is a special viewer.

The main difference between a PDF file and any others texts file is the formatting, which is retained.

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