You may wonder, what does PDF mean as you have come across it on the Web or in a file you received over e-mail. "PDF" stands for "Portable Document Format" and was first developed by Adobe as a way to distribute documents that retain their formatting and layout across platforms.
The Benefits Of A PDF: When you see a PDF online or in your e-mail, that means the document has specific formatting that the author or designer wants to make sure is preserved when you view or print the document. While Web pages generally look the same when you view them on any computer, they are more dynamic than PDFs and usually are not as useful when you print them out. A PDF, on the other hand, should look almost exactly the same on paper as it does on the screen. For this reason, printing a file to a PDF before printing it on paper is a smart way to foresee any printing problems.
Reading A PDF: PDF readers frequently come pre-installed on many operating systems, and they can also be downloaded for free from the Internet. Adobe's Acrobat Reader is the most popular due to its brand-name recognition, but some people, frustrated with its large size and slow performance, opt for faster, trimmed-down programs like Foxit Reader. These readers "plug in" to your browser so you can view a PDF from a tab right next to all the other Web pages you are viewing. On Linux, lightweight viewers like ePDFView or xpdf make mainstream bloated alternatives seem downright cumbersome. Google also has a convenient online PDF viewer that opens PDFs straight from GMail, so no desktop viewer or browser plug-in is necessary.
PDF Creation: Anyone can make a PDF either with pre-installed software on Mac OS X, with the "Export to PDF" function in OpenOffice or with a print-to-PDF driver that you download and install separately. These tools enable you to convert any document to a PDF so that others can view and print it exactly as you see it on your screen, but usually without the ability to edit it, thus preserving the integrity of your original document.
If you have a nicely formatted or multi-page document that you want other people to view or print, sending it to them as a PDF is a surefire way for them to be able to view it. Not everyone has Microsoft Office or is aware of programs like OpenOffice, which can read and edit Microsoft Office files, but nearly everyone has a PDF reader built right into his computer. Spending a few seconds to convert your file to a PDF will save you the hassle of resending it later on and guarantees that the recipients will see the document exactly the way you want them to see it.