Stands for "Portable Document Format." PDF is a multi-platform file format developed by Adobe Systems. A PDF file captures document text, fonts, images, and even formatting of documents from a variety of applications. You can e-mail a PDF document to your friend and it will look the same way on his screen as it looks on yours, even if he has a Mac and you have a PC. Since PDFs contain colour-accurate information, they should also print the same way they look on your screen.


In 1991, Adobe co-founder John Warnock launched the paper-to-digital revolution with an idea he called The Camelot Project. Camelot’s goal was to give organizations the tools needed to “capture documents from any application, send electronic versions of these documents anywhere, and view and print these documents on any machines.”

By the end of 1992, Camelot had developed into PDF. And more than 20 years later, it is the format trusted by businesses around the world because PDF files:

  • Look just the way you intend them to across platforms and devices
  • Meet ISO 32000 standards for electronic document exchange, including special-purpose PDF standards
  • Can be electronically signed by anyone using free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC software or the Acrobat DC mobile app
  • Can be password-protected to prevent copying and editing
  • Can be redacted to permanently delete sensitive information
  • Preserve all source file information, even when text, graphics, audio, 3D maps, and more are combined in a single file
  • Are easy to search, including scanned text that was converted using optical character recognition (OCR) technology
  • Work with assistive technologies, making PDF files more accessible to people with disabilities such as low vision or blindness.

To view a PDF file, you need Adobe Reader, a free application program distributed by Adobe Systems. Adobe also makes an Acrobat Plug-in for Web browsers that enable PDF files to be viewed inside a browser window.

File extension: .PDF

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