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What is a PDF file? [+ How to Open and Use]

ByAdamonFebruary 23, 2024

What is a PDF file?

A PDF file is a Portable Document Format, it's a file format used for storing documents in a way that can be viewed on all kinds of software, hardware, and operating systems. This makes it an excellent format for sharing and archiving data. It is widely used in offices, universities, and other institutions for paperless work or study.

What are PDF files for?

This file format is for storing documents. A PDF can be anything from an entire book to a monthly statement from your bank, or a brochure. Some PDFs even have interactive elements such as forms you can fill out, buttons that trigger various actions, different types of links, multimedia, and scripts.

For instance, the IRS provides tax forms which you can find here, can be filled out directly on your computer because it is an interactive PDF. This feature greatly reduces paper waste and expedites the process of filling out forms.

How to Open PDF files?

PDF files can be opened and read with any PDF reader, such as Adobe Reader or Google Docs. PDF files can also be viewed in many web browsers, like Chrome and Firefox, by dragging the file into the browser.

For editing such files you might need an upgraded version like Adobe Acrobat which is a premium version. This software allows you to edit the contents of a PDF, including text, images and even the order of pages.

What other file types are related to PDF files?

Several other file types are related to PDF. Here are a few:

These types are different in their purpose and functionality but can be converted to and from PDF file which again broadens the usage of PDF file format.

How to Edit a PDF File on A Mac

You are using a Mac and stumbled upon a PDF that requires editing. This process is straightforward and doesn't require advanced computer skills or programs. Mac's built-in Preview application is more than adequate for modifying PDF files.

To begin, locate the PDF file in Finder and open it with Preview. Once opened, one can perform edits such as adding text, highlighting sections, or drawing shapes and lines. With the pen tool, you can sign documents without needing to print.

How to Decrease a PDF File's Size

PDF files may contain high-resolution images or extensive data, causing them to take up substantial space. Thankfully, you can reduce their file size. Adobe Acrobat provides this feature, but there's also some free solutions.

First, you can always zip a PDF file to reduce its size. To Zip a file, just right click on the file in a file explorer (or finder on macOS), and select "Compress". This will create a zip archive containing the PDF file. That ZIP file should be much smaller than the original PDF, and you're free to send it via all the normal routes (email, instant messages, etc...).

Another option is to decrease PDF file size in Preview on Mac. Open the PDF file, then click on Export from the File menu. A dialogue box will appear where one can select "Reduce File Size" in the drop-down menu. It's worth noting this process might lead to a loss in image quality, but the text will remain intact.

Is a PDF a Vector File?

PDFs can contain both vector and bitmap data.

When a graphic designer saves an art file to PDF, it'll retain its vector properties, unlike JPEG or PNG files. Vector-based PDFs are ideal for printing since they offer flexibility without compromising quality.

Vector files are well known among graphic designers. They maintain their quality, regardless of the size. Contrarily, bitmap images can become pixelated when enlarged.

How to Print a PDF File Double-Sided

If you want to print a PDF double-sided, you'll need to select the Double-sided printing option within your printer settings. Unfortunately, not all printers have this function. If your printer doesn't support it, you'll need to manually print the odd-numbered pages first. Once done, reinsert the printed pages into your printer’s paper tray and print the even-numbered pages.

Double-sided printing is an excellent method to economize paper. Usually, printer settings allow double-sided print; however, sometimes a PDF file might cause issues.

How to Resolve a "Invalid File Format PDF" Error

If you're running into an "Invalid File Format PDF" error, odds are you're trying to use a PDF when some other file type is expected.

For example, if you're uploading a PDF to a website, it might say "invalid file format PDF" you attempted to upload a PDF document as your profile picture for an account.

To resolve this issue, you should double check what file type is expected, and make sure you selected the right file.

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