Adobe Portable Document Format

This page contains guidelines for properly producing and sending PDF files. A little preparation and testing can avoid a lot of problems.

What is PDF?

When you convert a document into Portable Document Format (PDF), you obtain a file that can be read, navigated, searched, and printed by anyone with a PDF viewer, such as (the free) Adobe Acrobat Reader. Since PDF viewers exist on a wide variety of platforms, PDF files are universal.

The look of a PDF file online is identical to a printout of the original document. Thus, PDF is most suitable for published works. That is, PDF is useful for documents that would otherwise normally be printed. If a document can be printed or generated in PostScript format, it can be converted to PDF. (In fact, PDF is one way to help validate PostScript content.)

Like PostScript, PDF files are not easily edited except for minor textual changes on a page. However, PDF files are better structured to allow entire pages to be independently inserted and deleted.

By compressing the graphics in a document, PDF files are typically much smaller than PostScript files. In comparison to HyperText Markup Language (HTML), PDF is particularly useful for stabilized web content where small size, quality layout, and excellent typography are needed.

Producing PDF

The most reliable and flexible way of producing a PDF file is to generate a PostScript file from the original document and convert the PostScript file to PDF with Adobe Acrobat Distiller. For word processors on Windows and Macintosh platforms, another way is to use the Adobe PDF Writer printer driver to "print" a document to PDF. Both Acrobat Distiller and PDF Writer are part of the Adobe Acrobat product.

If the original document contains Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) figures, use the Distiller method.

See also the service Create Adobe PDF Online. This service offers a limited free trial of up to three document conversions from a variety of input formats. At present, the unlimited paid subscription service is offered only to the US and Canada at USD$9.99 per month.

PDF Guidelines

Following are some guidelines to help avoid problems with PDF. The main goal is to make sure that the resulting PDF files are self-contained.

Generating Proper PostScript

Producing Proper PDF