Acrobat is a helper program that allows you to view PDF or "portable
document files". PDFs have become very prevalent on the Internet today
since their inception in 1993. So much so that major search engines
are able to index (read and catalogue) these files. The PDF file
format is a "read only" file format. This means that the file can be
opened, but not altered. This makes it suitable for many situations where document authenticity is important e.g. a legal contract or an invoice. There are also PDFs that are interactive forms, that is, the reader can complete information, save the file and return it to the sender.
As you browse the web you will discover many web sites and search engine results reference PDF files. If you do not have the reader you will not be able to read these documents. The Acrobat Reader is free (the Acrobat Writer is not). Many systems will come with Acrobat preinstalled. The current version is version 8.
What are the Advantages of using the PDF format?
PDFs have many uses:
PDFs print better than web pages. Anyone who has printed a web page (in IE6 and below, but not IE7) will know web pages do not print well. This is because the web was not conceived as a print medium. So if you need a web page or information on a web site to print consistently every time you will need to bundle it up in a PDF.
PDFs can be made small, making them usable in low bandwidth environments.
PDFs can have hypertext links, meaning they can link to other resources on the Internet.
PDFs can bundle fonts when they are saved. This makes them useful for delivering digital artwork, say for business livery, to printers.
PDF files can be created for disabled people with meta information saved into the document.
PDFs may be encrypted so that a password is needed to view or edit the contents.
The Abode Systems Incorporated company gives the Adobe Reader away free. It is available for download here: Acrobat Reader.
Note this is only the reader, NOT the writer. You have to pay for that. The writer is available here: Acrobat Writer.
What say I want to Make My Own PDFs?
And so you can. You will need a program to help you do this (see below). Fortunately, anyone can create a program that reads and writes PDF files without paying royalties to Adobe Systems Incorporated, as although Adobe holds patents to PDF, it licenses them royalty-free for software developers complying with their PDF specification.
The writer is often installed as a printer driver. This means it will appear as a printer in your printer folder. To create the PDF you simply go to print your document as per usual, but choose the PDF writer program as the printer. Instead of printing a paper document you will be asked for a "Save as" location.
The writer software is generally configurable so you can control the degree of compression of images, whether fonts are bundled, what the resolution is (e.g. screen at 72 dpi and print at 300 dpi) and other parameters such as password protection.
Like many email attachments PDFs can contain viruses, so you should save a PDF to disk, then scan the file for viruses before opening it. As always, keeping your computer's virus checker up to date is an essential computer housekeeping task.
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