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Printing Lingo: What is a PDF file?

PDF stands for Portable Document Format. It is a file format developed by Adobe Systems in 1993 to standardize and simplify the sharing of electronic documents.

Prior to the PDF, document files could only be exchanged between computers that used the same software. Naturally, this was quite a hindrance because not everyone used the same software type, version or operating system.

Sometimes the recipient of the file would try using a conversion program to change the file from one software type to another, but this practice often resulted in unexpected changes or shifts in the document layout.

Thankfully, the use of PDF files is now widespread. Documents can be easily exchanged between computers without the need to match or convert the file receiver's software to align with that of the file sender.

An Example of How PDF Files Simplify the Exchange of Documents

Let's say a graphic designer creates a layout for a brochure using software "A". Since not everybody uses this same software, the designer converts the software "A" document to a PDF document. The PDF document captures the text, graphics and other layout information needed to display it properly.

The designer can now forward the PDF file to a customer for approval without having to worry about whether or not the customer also has software "A". Once approved, the designer can then forward the PDF to a commercial printer for output, again not needing to be concerned as to whether the printer uses software "A" or something else. Because the document layout has been captured as a PDF, the printed output matches what the designer and customer ordered.

Commercial Printers Love PDF Files!!

Commercial printers love to work with artwork and layout files in the PDF format. One reason is that PDFs can be made as high resolution files for crisp printed output.

Also, a PDF captures and "sets" the original document layout, capturing all the fonts, images and other design elements in place, which allows for the accurate reproduction of the document.

Another reason printers love PDFs is because they are generally easy to email to clients. For many print projects, PDF files are used as an electronic proof. This greatly speeds up the approval process and allows the customer's order to proceed faster.

But probably the biggest reason printers love PDF files is because not every person that submits documents to be printed is a trained graphic designer or uses professional design software. Without PDFs, a commercial printer would receive so many different types of files - with many set up incorrectly - that it would be difficult to maintain all the software necessary to open and work with every type of file.

Basically, PDF files are widely used in the world of printing because they streamline the process of document sharing. Layout files can be exchanged more easily, quickly and cheaply. The chance of an error is also greatly minimized, which increases customer satisfaction and saves the time and expense of a reprint.

If you have any print projects you would like Formax to assist with, just give us a call. We specialize in multi-page documents - such as books, brochures and booklets - and in full-color printing. We do prefer PDF files, but whether your layout is saved as a PDF or not, we're always happy to help.

Take care! Keith

About the Author

Keith Beaty is the owner of Formax Printing Solutions in St. Louis, MO. Formax provides a complete array of offset and digital printing services. Specialty areas include book printing, full-color printing, laminated printing, map printing, plus mailing services. If you ever have a printing question or project you would like to discuss, Keith is always happy to help. He can be reached at 866-367-6221. Keith and Formax have been providing worry-free printing and related services since 1985.

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