Adobe's Portable Document Format

PDF stands for Portable Document Format. It was developed by Adobe, the same company that provides Photoshop and other high end software.

In the early days of the PC, printer output was confusing because of the many Word Processing software packages available at that time. They all handled printer output differently. If you wanted to send out a document, your recipient needed the same word processor on their system to print your document.

It was cheaper and more reliable to print the document and mail it than sending it electronically.

When Hewlett-Packard introduced the LasteJet printer in the 1980's all the software companies wanted to support it because of the high print quality. Remember the standard PC printer, at that time was a dot matrix printer.

The same was true in the corporate world. One company could not send a document to another company without first checking to determine that the receiver had the same word processor. One of the reasons Fax machines were so popular.

A standardized printing solution was provided by Adobe in 1993 with the introduction of Adobe Acrobat. With Acrobat, printer companies had a document standard encompassing the highest possible quality for writing drivers depending on the hardware capability.

This new standard was called the Portable Document Format or PDF for short. Adobe also offered a free product called the Acrobat reader. All the receiver of a document needed was the free Acrobat Reader to print that document.


Today nearly every company uses PDF files. For example, if you go to the IRS web site you can download every tax form or manual as a PDF file.

Most banks, brokerage companies, credit card companies and utilities offer monthly statements as a PDF file delivered by email or download.

The Government Printing Office offers many publications as PDF files.



Just look for the PDF symbol shown here.


When you have the Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer, you can download and print PDF documents flawlessly. The reader is started automatically whenever you receive a PDF file.


If you want to send documents as a PDF file, you can download a free PDF Creator program from Sourceforge. The PDF Creator adds a new printer to whatever word processor you happen to use. This new printer will create a PDF file instead of printing your document when you select it as a printer.

The free PDF programs will create a PDF file but cannot handle form input. For that you need Adobe's Acrobat Professional - a $700 product.


Most new computers have the Acrobat Reader installed when you get them. If you have an older computer or need a new version of the reader, you can download it free here.