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The Portable Document Format, or PDF, was developed my Adobe in the early 90s and is a way to share documents with anyone, anywhere. The PDF format is a simplified version of Adobe PostScript, a programming language commonly used to describe the graphical data of a document for printing. Oftentimes a PDF is actually created by converting or distilling a PostScript file of the original document. Once all of the page information, such as fonts, images, and layout are distilled, the resulting file is then compressed and you end up with a PDF.
Now this sounds really complicated, but it all happens at the click of a button. The PDF is very widespread as a publishing format. In fact, if you've used a computer within the last decade, you are sure to have encountered a PDF or two. How would you know if you're viewing a PDF? Well, let's take a look at some of PDF's more memorable features. First, PDFs are OS independent. That means that the same PDF can be viewed on a Mac, a PC, or mobile device. PDFs also have a fixed layout, meaning that the design is exactly the same on any sized screen. Any fonts and images that are used within the original document or embedded inside the PDF.
PDFs also can contain interactive content such as hyperlinks, fillable forms, bookmarks, and rich media, such as movie, audio, and animations. Annotations, such as highlighting and commenting on the content of the PDF, are also possible. PDFs also can contain security features such as password encryption or digital rights management. The PDF format is so widespread that most publishing software has a direct export to PDF feature.
Perhaps the best feature of the PDF is the fact that it's free to produce and share. So as you can see, the PDF has a lot to offer the digital publisher. Its flexibility, portability, and ease of use, has made it one of the most commonly used file types across all markets. Developed during a time of great confusion in the publishing realm, the PDF single-handedly reinvented publishing as we know it today. The great news is that Adobe has not finished with the PDF yet. They continue to add features to this wonderfully universal format to keep it competitive with other digital publishing formats.
It is safe to say that the PDF will be a viable publishing option for many years to come.
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