PDF Files: What They Are and How to Use Them

what is a pdf file

PDF files are pretty handy. These digital files have changed how we share and access documents. They’re easy to use, portable, and work on different platforms. So, what is a PDF file?

A PDF file is a type of digital document. It’s been around for a while and has a pretty interesting history. The great thing about PDF files is that they’re so versatile. They’re great for anything from sharing documents to printing high-quality images. They are also recognized as one of the default media library types in WordPress.

There are a lot of perks to using PDF files. They’re easy to create and edit, and they’re compatible with just about everything. This makes them a top choice for many people when it comes to digital documents.

But, like anything, PDF files can have their issues. Sometimes, they don’t work quite right, or they can be tricky to edit. But don’t worry, we’ll cover some common problems and how to fix them.

If you don’t like PDF’s, there are also other file formats out there. While PDFs are great, they might not always be the best choice. We’ll look at some alternatives and why you might want to use them.

In short, PDF files are a game-changer in the digital world. They’re versatile, easy to use, and work on virtually any platform.

Key Takeaways

  • Creating a PDF is a straightforward process, and editing one is even simpler. One of its major advantages is its safety and security, a critical factor in our current times.
  • PDF files are dependable, secure, and user-friendly. They have endured the passage of time and continue to be a preferred choice for digital documentation. They remain unrivaled in their adaptability and accessibility.
  • PDF files are like our trusty guides in the digital world. Their reliability, safety, and user-friendliness make them an ideal tool for digital documentation.

Definition of a PDF File

A PDF file is simply a type of digital document. It can include text, pictures, and all the details needed to show it correctly. This might be things like the fonts used and the graphics. The great thing about PDF files is that you can share and print them no matter what software, hardware, or operating system you are using. Adobe came up with this handy format back in 1992.

But what makes a PDF file special? Well, it’s more than just text and pictures. It’s a complete package of everything that makes up a document. This includes the layout, the fonts, the graphics, and any images. Plus, you can add interactive elements like notes and form fields, layers, and even rich media content such as videos. You can even include 3D objects! That’s why PDF files are so useful for sharing information, as they work across different platforms.

To sum it up, a PDF file is a versatile, digital document that can include a wide range of elements from text and images, to interactive fields and 3D objects. It’s a format that’s easy to share and print, no matter what system you’re using.

History of PDF Files

The Portable Document Format, better known as PDF, has a fascinating history. It started in the early 1990s when the brains at Adobe Systems had an idea. They wanted a way to easily share and display documents across different computers and operating systems. That’s where the PDF came from. Adobe’s research team, named Camelot and headed by John Warnock, did all the clever work to make this happen.

In a nutshell, Adobe Systems wanted to make sharing documents easier and created the PDF file format to achieve this.

In 1993, PDF was launched on the world. It quickly became a favourite in desktop publishing circles, giving stiff competition to other formats such as DjVu and Common Ground Digital Paper. But Adobe didn’t stop there. They continued to add new features to PDFs over the years. One of these was the ability to display files in web browsers. They also created functionality for forms.

Today, PDFs are everywhere. Why? They’re super easy to use. You can view, print, and comment on documents, and share them with others. All this saves both time and paper.

Since its creation, Adobe has continued to improve the PDF by adding features and capabilities which has led to their widespread use as well as their ease of use and versatility.

Benefits of Using PDFs

PDF files are like a Swiss Army knife in the digital world. They work on all devices and systems, keeping the look and feel of the original document. It’s like sending someone an exact photocopy of your document, no matter what device they’re using.

One of the great things about PDF files is how safe they are. You can lock them with a password and even encrypt them. So, if you’re sending important info, PDFs are the way to go. They’re like a secure digital envelope for your documents.

Have you ever wanted to jot down notes on a document? With PDFs, you can. Programs like Adobe Acrobat Pro let you add your thoughts right onto the PDF. It’s like having a pen in your hand, ready to make notes on a paper document.

Worried about large files clogging up your storage or taking forever to send? PDFs have your back. They’re smaller than a lot of other file types, making them perfect for sharing and storing. It’s like having a compact storage box for your documents.

Have you ever opened a document on a different device and it looked all wonky? With PDFs, the formatting stays consistent. It’s like having a guarantee that your document will look the same, no matter where it’s opened.

How to Create a PDF

Creating a PDF is a simple process that can be done in a few ways. One of the most common methods is by using Adobe Acrobat. This software easily transforms various file types into PDFs. To do this:

  1. Start by opening Adobe Acrobat
  2. Select ‘Tools’ and click on ‘Create PDF’
  3. Pick the file type you want to convert. This could be a single file, multiple files, a scan, or another option.
  4. Hit ‘Create’ or ‘Next’, based on your chosen file type.

Another practical method to create a PDF is through Microsoft Office applications, like Word or Excel. This can be done by following these steps:

  1. Open the document you wish to convert into a PDF.
  2. Go to the File tab and select Save As.
  3. Decide where you want to save the file and give it a name.
  4. In the Save as Type box, choose PDF (*.pdf).
  5. Click Save.

Online tools also offer PDF conversion services. Websites like PDF24 or DocFly are great places to start. To use these, visit the website and upload the document you want to convert. Follow the on-screen instructions to create your PDF file. Once done, download your converted PDF document. In a nutshell, online tools offer a convenient and accessible way to convert files into PDFs.

Creating a PDF is beneficial as it allows for easy sharing of information. The format remains consistent across various devices and operating systems.

How to Edit a PDF File

Changing a PDF file is pretty simple. You can use different tools or even online services to make changes to the document’s content or layout. A popular way to do this is by using Adobe Acrobat. Here, you can easily change text and pictures in the PDF file and save your changes.

So, how does it work? Well, it’s just like editing a Word document. You open the file, make your changes, and save it. It’s that easy.

But what if you’re more comfortable with Microsoft Word? No problem! You can use Word to change a PDF file too. It transforms the PDF into a Word document that you can edit. Once you’re done, you can save it back as a PDF.

And if you don’t have these software tools? You can use online services like DocFly or desktop image editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Affinity Photo. For DocFly, just upload the PDF file and follow the steps.

It is important to remember that if your file is loaded with images or has complex formatting, the conversion may not work as well or work at all. Some online tools may also limit certain editing features or may not convert the file accurately.

How to Convert a PDF

When you convert a PDF file, there are a few ways to do this, such as using Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Office software, or even online tools like Adobe Acrobat Online or other online tools. Here are some of the more popular online options. Each option has its good and bad points, so pick the one that’s the best fit for you.

Here are some ways to convert a PDF file:

  1. CloudConvert: CloudConvert is a free online file conversion service that can convert PDF files to various formats, including DXF, DOC, DOCX, HTML, RTF, TXT, and more. Simply upload the PDF file to the website, select the desired output format, and click “Convert”.
  2. Adobe Acrobat Online Services: Adobe Acrobat offers online services that allow users to convert files to and from PDF format for free. The PDF converter supports a range of file types, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more.
  3. Built-in Features: Many operating systems and software programs have built-in features that allow users to convert files to PDF format. For example, on Windows, users can open a file and use the Print menu to print the file to PDF. On macOS, users can open a file in Preview and use the file menu to export the file as a PDF.
  4. PDF24: PDF24 is a free online PDF converter that can convert files to and from PDF format. It supports many file formats and is easy to use without installation or registration.
  5. Smallpdf: Smallpdf is a free online PDF converter that can convert files to and from PDF format. It supports many file formats and is easy to use without registration or installation.
  6. FreePDFConvert: FreePDFConvert is a free online PDF converter that can convert files to and from PDF format. It supports many file formats and is easy to use without registration or installation.

Note that the quality of the converted file may vary depending on the tool used and the original file format. It’s recommended to test the output file and make any necessary adjustments before sharing or printing the file.

How to Secure a PDF File

It is possible to make your PDF document safe and secure. One way to do this is by setting a strong password. This way, only people who know the password can open it. Another way is by adding a watermark. This is like a stamp that shows who owns the document. This discourages people from sharing it without your permission.

Here are 4 ways to secure a PDF file:

1. Password Protection

  • Open the PDF file in a PDF editor like Adobe Acrobat or PDFelement.
  • Go to the “Protect” or “Security” tab.
  • Click on the “Password” or “Encrypt with Password” option.
  • Set a strong password for the PDF file.
  • Choose the type of password protection, such as document open or permissions.
  • Save the file to apply the password protection.

2. Watermarks

  • Open the PDF file in a PDF editor.
  • Go to the “Edit” or “Watermark” tab.
  • Select the option to add a watermark.
  • Customize the watermark text, font, size, and position.
  • Save the file to apply the watermark.

3. Editing and Printing Permissions:

  • Open the PDF file in a PDF editor.
  • Go to the “Protect” or “Security” tab.
  • Choose the option to set editing or printing permissions.
  • Specify the restrictions you want to apply, such as disallowing copying or modifying the document.
  • Save the file to apply the permissions.

4. Offline Encryption:

  • Use a PDF encryption tool on your local computer.
  • Open the tool and select the PDF file you want to encrypt.
  • Follow the instructions provided by the tool to set a password or apply other security measures.
  • Save the encrypted PDF file.

It’s important to note that the level of security provided by these methods may vary, and it’s recommended to use strong passwords and follow best practices for securing sensitive information.

Common Uses for PDF Files

PDF files are popular and for good reason. They’re versatile and play nice with different operating systems and devices. Here are some of the most common uses for PDF files include:

  1. Document Sharing: PDF files are widely used for sharing documents, such as reports, contracts, resumes, and forms, as they preserve the original formatting and can be viewed on any device or operating system.
  2. Archiving and Long-Term Storage: PDF files are commonly used for archiving important documents due to their ability to maintain the original layout, fonts, and graphics. They are less likely to become corrupted over time, making them a reliable format for long-term storage.
  3. Printing: PDF files are often used for printing purposes as they ensure that the document will appear the same way on paper as it does on the screen. This is particularly useful for documents with complex layouts, such as brochures, flyers, and magazines.
  4. Forms and Contracts: PDF files can be used to create interactive forms with fields that can be filled out electronically. This makes them ideal for applications, registration forms, surveys, and contracts that require signatures.
  5. Ebooks and Digital Publications: PDF files are commonly used for creating ebooks and digital publications. They allow for easy navigation, bookmarking, and searching within the document, providing a user-friendly reading experience.
  6. Presentations: PDF files can be used for creating presentations, especially when the content needs to be shared with others who may not have the same presentation software. PDF presentations can be viewed on any device without the need for specific software.
  7. Brochures and Marketing Materials: PDF files are often used for creating brochures, catalogs, and other marketing materials. They allow for high-quality graphics, embedded fonts, and interactive elements, making them visually appealing and professional-looking.
  8. Accessibility: PDF files can be made accessible by adding tags and alternative text to images, making them more accessible to individuals with disabilities. This is particularly important for documents that need to comply with accessibility standards.

Overall, PDF files offer versatility, compatibility, and the ability to preserve document formatting, making them a popular choice for various purposes across different industries.

Troubleshooting PDF Files

Despite its ease of use and flexibility, sometimes you do run into trouble with PDF files. Here are some common issues and potential solutions:

  1. PDF Viewer Compatibility:
    • If you are unable to open a PDF file, try downloading it to your hard disk and opening it with a PDF viewer like Adobe Acrobat Reader.
    • Consider disabling your browser’s Adobe PDF Reader add-on and open the PDF file using only Adobe Acrobat Reader.
    • Ensure that you have the latest version of Adobe Reader or Acrobat installed, as updates often include fixes for common problems.
  2. File Corruption or Errors:
    • If a PDF file is displaying blank pages, a red X icon, or broken-link indicators, try updating your PDF viewer or repairing/reinstalling it.
    • Use Adobe Acrobat Professional to fix common issues with PDF files, such as low-resolution images, incorrect color spaces, missing bleed, or font problems.
  3. Browser Settings:
    • Adjust your browser settings to ensure that it is configured to display PDF files correctly. Clearing the browser cache or disabling browser extensions/add-ons related to PDF viewing may help.
  4. PDF Editing Restrictions:
    • If you encounter issues with editing or filling out a PDF form, ensure that the file does not have editing restrictions applied. If necessary, contact the document owner for the password or permissions to make changes.
  5. PDF File Format:
    • Verify that the PDF file you are trying to open is in a valid PDF format and not corrupted. If possible, try opening the file on a different device or using a different PDF viewer.

It’s important to note that troubleshooting steps may vary depending on the specific issue and the software or tools being used. If the problem persists, it may be helpful to consult official documentation or seek support from the software provider or relevant online communities.

Alternatives to PDF Files

Looking for options besides PDF files? You’re in luck. There are quite a few to consider, each with its own special features. Notably, we have EPUB, XPS, Microsoft Word, HTML, and OpenXML.

Here are the several alternatives to PDF files:

  1. EPUB: EPUB (Electronic Publication) is an open standard format for e-books and digital publications. It is designed for reflowable content and can be viewed on various devices with compatible software.
  2. XPS: XPS (XML Paper Specification) is a file format developed by Microsoft that is similar to PDF. It is designed to preserve the visual appearance and layout of a document and can be viewed on any device with a compatible viewer.
  3. HTML: HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is a markup language used to create web pages. It allows for the creation of interactive content, multimedia, and animations, and can be viewed on any device with a web browser.
  4. Microsoft Word: Microsoft Word is a word processing software that allows users to create, edit, and save documents in various file formats, including PDF. It offers features such as spell-check, grammar-check, and formatting options.
  5. OpenXML: OpenXML is an open format introduced by Microsoft that is designed to store documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. It is compatible with various software and can be viewed on any device with a compatible viewer

Overall, the choice of file format will depend on the specific needs and requirements of the user. To summarize, EPUB is ideal for digital publications, XPS for maintaining visual consistency, Microsoft Word for a variety of document tasks, HTML for interactive web pages, and OpenXML for compatibility across software applications and operating systems.

How to Delete PDF files in bulk in WordPress

The following steps explain how to delete PDF files in bulk in WordPress, as well as an alternative method using a plugin. These instructions will help you efficiently manage and remove unwanted media files from your WordPress website.

To delete PDF files in bulk in WordPress, you can follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your WordPress dashboard and go to the Media Library.
  2. Click on the “Bulk Select” button at the top of the page.
  3. Select all the PDF files you want to delete by clicking on the checkboxes next to each file.
  4. Click on the “Delete Selected” button.
  5. A popup will appear asking you to confirm the deletion. Click “OK” to permanently delete the selected PDF files.

Alternatively, you can use a plugin like Media Hygiene to identify and delete unused media files in bulk or individually. Media Hygiene can also help you review the total weight of your media files and identify media added through any major page builder plugin. Note that deleting files in bulk can be risky, so it’s important to make sure you are only deleting files that are no longer needed. It’s also recommended to back up your website before making any major changes.


PDF files are not only versatile and easy to use, but they also offer a wide range of additional benefits. With PDF files, you can preserve the formatting and layout of your documents, ensuring that they appear exactly as intended regardless of the device or operating system being used. Furthermore, PDF files can be easily compressed, making them ideal for sharing and distributing large files without sacrificing quality. Additionally, PDF files can be password protected and encrypted, providing an extra layer of security for sensitive information. Overall, PDF files are an indispensable tool for anyone in need of a reliable and efficient way to share, print, and store high-quality documents.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a PDF File Contain Interactive Elements Like Hyperlinks and Form Fields?

Yes and Yes. Hyperlinks in a PDF can guide you straight to the right spot, or whisk you away to a different site altogether. It’s as easy as clicking a button. This makes your experience with the document smoother and more enjoyable. You can leap from one part of the PDF to another, or even jump to a whole new webpage, all with a simple click.

Form fields are another interactive feature you can find in a PDF. These are areas where you can type in your information. It’s like filling out a form online, but it’s in your PDF. This allows you to provide info without stepping away from the document. You can give your details, share your thoughts, or answer questions, right there in the PDF.

Is It Possible to Password-Protect a PDF File?

Yes, you can absolutely put a password on a PDF file. This handy feature helps keep your document safe from prying eyes. It’s a step you can take to make sure your important information stays private.

Can PDF Files Be Compressed to Reduce Their File Size?

Absolutely! You can definitely make PDF files smaller by compressing them. It’s a simple process, you just have to use a tool that takes out any extra stuff in the file that we don’t need. This makes the file neater and quicker to use.

Are PDF Files Compatible With All Devices and Operating Systems?

PDF files? They work well with almost all devices and operating systems. Why? That’s because they follow a standard format. This means you can easily share and look at documents across various platforms. It’s a boon for users as it makes things simpler and more convenient.

Can Images and Graphics Be Easily Inserted Into a PDF File?

Yes, you can absolutely put pictures and visuals into a PDF file. This is a fantastic feature that really boosts the look and feel of your document. It’s a great way to share info with your readers in a visual way.