What Is a PDF? A Definitive Guide (With Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 2, 2022

Adobe Systems introduced PDFs to create a file format that made sending and opening files more accessible for businesses. Today, many professionals use PDFs in the workplace to share documents with their clients, colleagues or supervisors. By learning fundamental information about this file type, you can learn how to create, edit and save PDFs effectively. In this article, we discuss what this file type is, explain the benefits of using it, then provide steps for how to create, open, save and edit one.

What is a PDF?

A portable document file, or PDF, is an adaptable document that allows people to save, share, review and edit documents quickly. If you save a text or image file as a PDF, its format typically stays the same on any software program or hardware system. Inside the files, you can also include audio, video, documents, links and buttons, depending on your needs.

PDFs are often popular among professionals as you can view them using most devices, including a tablet, cell phone, laptop or desktop computer. You can open them on both Windows and Mac operating systems and maintain the same formatting elements, such as font size, page layout or margin width. You can also add blank text boxes onto PDFs for other users, meaning they can help you send digital forms or contracts.

Related: How To Reduce a PDF File Size (With 5 File Compression Methods)

Benefits of using a PDF in the workplace

There are many benefits of using PDFs in the workplace, including:

  • Universal formatting: Many individuals find PDFs easier to share, meaning you can send documents to individuals in any location more efficiently. This may be especially helpful for companies with employees in different countries or personnel who often work from home and may have different computer systems.

  • Small file size: PDFs compress large files and make them much smaller, which can save storage space on a computer hard drive. This may be especially beneficial for professionals who distribute PDFs containing several pages, like professors scanning full books or lawyers sharing case briefs.

  • Password protection: Businesses often handle sensitive customer information, and it's important that only the required participants see this data. PDFs allow users to create passwords so that only the necessary stakeholders can view documents.

  • Electronic signatures: PDFs facilitate e-signing, which is as legally binding as a handwritten signature. Electronic signatures can provide a quicker turnaround when businesses require signatures from their customers because they can do it electronically.

  • Editing transparency: PDFs are typically read-only documents, so if someone has a PDF editor and alters a document, they often leave a digital footprint. This enables you to track each change that others have made to a document.

How to create a PDF

Whether you're using a Windows or Mac computer system, you can follow a series of steps to create a PDF successfully. Consider the following steps:

How to create a PDF on a Windows computer

When using a Windows system, here are the steps to create a PDF:

  1. Create and edit a ".docx" document using Microsoft Word.

  2. When you've completed your document, click on the Microsoft Office logo on the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

  3. When the drop-down menu appears, select "Save As."

  4. Find and click the save-as selection that says, "PDF or XPS."

  5. Create a title for your document.

  6. Click "Save" to save the file as a PDF.

How to create a PDF on a Mac computer

If you're using a Mac, you can use the following steps:

  1. Create a document using Microsoft Office for Mac.

  2. After you've finished working on the document, click on the "File" menu at the top left of the screen.

  3. Select "Print" from the menu.

  4. On the bottom left of the pop-up window, select "PDF" as the type of file you'd like to create.

  5. Type in a name for your file.

  6. Click "Save" to save the file.

How to open a PDF

Many users typically download a program to open and view their PDFs, but you can also use an operating system's built-in program. Consider the following steps:

How to open a PDF on a Windows computer

On a Windows computer, here are the steps to open a PDF:

  1. Install a PDF viewer program, such as Adobe Reader, or open Microsoft Edge, which is a pre-installed internet browser that allows you to edit PDFs.

  2. Locate the PDF you're trying to view in your documents folder.

  3. Double-click on the PDF to open its contents on Microsoft Edge or a third-party application.

  4. Type the document's password into the window screen that appears if necessary.

How to open a PDF on a Mac

Here are the directions for opening a PDF on a Mac:

  1. Download a PDF viewer program, such as Adobe Reader.

  2. On the bottom left of your Mac, click the "Finder" icon.

  3. Search for the PDF you want to open.

  4. Right-click on the file. A pop-up menu then appears.

  5. Choose "Open With" using the pop-up menu and select the third-party program you've downloaded.

  6. Type the file's password if necessary.

Related: 11 of the Best Free PDF Readers

How to save a PDF using the "Print" function

You can use the "Print" feature on Microsoft Word or an internet browser to save an older file as a PDF. You can also use this feature to save certain pages as a PDF, omitting the rest. Here are the common steps to save a PDF using the "Print" feature on either a Windows or Mac computer:

  1. Open Microsoft Word or your preferred internet browser application.

  2. Click on the "File" menu in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

  3. From that drop-down menu, click "Print."

  4. When a pop-up window appears, look for the word "Printer."

  5. Click on the drop-down menu and select "Print as a PDF."

  6. Click "Print" and a window opens up, asking you to provide a title for your new file.

  7. Once you type in the name, click "Save" and your file becomes a PDF.

Related: How To Save One Page of a PDF File (With 5 Methods)

How to edit a PDF

If someone sends you an email with a document you're required to edit, there are a few ways you can make those changes. They're the same on both Windows and Mac computers and include:

How to edit a PDF using Microsoft Word

Many professionals use Microsoft Word to change the basic text elements of a PDF. Consider using the following directions:

  1. Open Microsoft Word on your computer.

  2. Click on the "File" menu and select "Open" to find your PDF.

  3. Once the pop-up box appears, locate your PDF file.

  4. Click on the file you want to open.

  5. Select "Ok" on the message that appears informing users of how the program is going to convert the PDF to an editable document.

  6. Edit the information in the Word document as needed.

  7. Save the document as a PDF again by navigating to "File" and "Save," then clicking "PDF" in the dialogue box containing different file formats.

Related: How To Convert a Word Document to PDF With Hyperlinks

How to edit a PDF using Adobe Acrobat DC

Adobe Acrobat DC is typically free software that helps you create, edit and manage PDFs. You can download it to your computer and use the program to edit any incoming or outgoing PDFs. Below are the directions to edit a PDF after you've downloaded the software:

  1. Open Adobe Acrobat DC on your computer system.

  2. Navigate to the "File" menu and select "Open."

  3. Locate the name of the file you need and click "Open" to view the file.

  4. Select "Edit PDF" on the right-hand side of the screen.

  5. Change its elements, such as adding new text, editing existing text, changing the fonts or resizing images.

  6. Go back to the "File" menu when you're done and click "Save" to update the document.

Please note that none of the products mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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