Back to Index

What is PDF — and why does it matter?

What is PDF—and why does it matter?

In just over a decade, PDFs have become an integral part of our lives. From legal offices to doctor’s surgeries and from university classrooms to small businesses—no matter where you look, the traditional file format is omnipresent! It all began back in 2008 when Adobe revolutionized digital documents by making them freely available for anyone wanting to create or share their work securely.

PDF has been widely used in every industry, from sharing company memos and magazine articles to sales presentations. Most of us know how to use and open it, but we never get the time to discover more about this well-known file format.

The history of PDF

PDF, also known as Portable Document Format, was created by Adobe in 1991. It came to life during “The Camelot Project” (a project started for a paper-to-digital revolution) launched by Dr. John Warnock. Adobe’s primary goal in building this type of format is to capture documents anywhere and then be able to electronically share them; which is already happening today and helping many organizations worldwide.

“PDF allows the user to precisely view a file — down to the pixel, essentially, of what the author had intended,” says Bob Wulff, Adobe’s Senior Vice President of Cloud Technology. That is one of the reasons why people love to use this file format!

As people become adept at using online documents, sending them became more challenging than it was supposed to be. For example, transferring files to another device can be confusing—we often wonder whether the file will open or if it will be the same as we originally designed it. Thankfully, the birth of the portable document format solves these common problems.

The portable document format is very versatile and reliable. Using this, you can quickly share documents across all devices without worrying about their quality or your file’s format being distorted or reformatted. A file in portable document format can contain every essential information you need to share—such as links, images, and texts. It is also accessible on any web browser and smart device.

What makes it more fun to use is that you can create it in any format first and then convert them to PDF right after. You also need to know that PDF is a fixed format and isn’t editable unless you use editing PDF tools.

Pro Tip: Tools like PlatoForms can help you convert your PDF files to online PDF forms where you can add fields, pages, and data to your originally created PDF online.

“Rosenthol sees further possibilities for the future of the format,” says Adobe in their 2015 blog. Today, portable document format has widely penetrated the digital world. It is continually being developed to bring convenience towards Adobe’s goal to promote the paperless revolution.

What are the advantages of using PDF?

PDF is one of the most used and well-known file formats because of its numerous features you cannot find in other file formats—so, what are these unique advantages?


One of the loved pros of using PDFs is being compact. PDFs make file sharing and data management super easy by allowing you to compress loads of information in one file without taking up much space on your device. It’s also easy to share and can be saved online and offline.


Regarding the security and privacy of your files, PDF is one of the top file formats that can compete. Using a PDF format, you can set passwords for your files and share them without the fear of data leakage.


Convenience is one of the known advantages of PDF.

Imagine sending a file with a complete and fully furnished design yet having to redo it because it doesn’t meet your colleague’s device standard. That would be a total time waster and hassle for you, right?

That’s why it’s good to put files in a PDF format. When a file is in a PDF format, you and your colleagues can quickly open it in any browser, smart device, and computer.

Accessible and versatile

Many people love to use PDFs because of their versatility. Not all file formats can have texts, images, links, videos, and other elements in one, and that’s another thing that PDF can do. PDFs are also valuable for sharing forms, presentations, magazines, portfolios, and more.

PDF files are also shareable via a link or download, making them more accessible to many. Not to mention you can open it using your phone’s browser!

Small file size

Most file problems come because of their size. A small file size makes your files easy to upload, download, or share with your audience and coworkers. With a PDF format, you can save multiple file pages with HD graphics while maintaining its small file size.

Continuously improves

You can observe how PDF has continuously improved over the years, from a simple file format to now a file you can edit (of course, with the right tools!). Adobe even states that they can see more potential for this type of file format in the future.

Familiar to many

Another thing you’d love about using PDF file format is that you don’t need to train your team or clients on how to use, share, or open it. PDF format is pretty popular, so most users already know how to use this file type.You can always maximize the use of PDFs for your organization, so don’t limit yourself to these benefits. Great news—you can always explore and enjoy more advantages of PDF!

What are the disadvantages of using PDF?

Since PDF was launched in the early 1990s, it has helped many organizations manage data and go paperless. With its accessibility, versatility, and convenience, the birth of PDFs undoubtedly gives us comfort and ease. However, PDF format isn’t perfect, just like any other software tool and file format. It also has some disadvantages of PDF, which we will tackle in this article.

PDFs are not originally editable
Files in PDF formats are fixed; you cannot edit them even after opening them, which is the top disadvantage of PDF. You have to use or pay for a PDF editor tool to edit a file saved in a PDF format.

Another tough challenge while editing a PDF file is that not all PDF editor tools are user-friendly. Some tools will require your time to learn how the tool will work smoothly for your convenience.

Pro Tip: If you’re dealing with PDF forms, you can convert them to online fillable forms using a tool like PlatoForms. PlatoForms allows you to turn PDFs into online forms where you can add data or answer the blank spaces on your form. PlatoForms has a user-friendly interface making it easier for you to use.

PDFs editors and converters can be costly

As mentioned above, PDFs are not editable, so you need to look for a tool that can help you edit a PDF file, and sometimes it will require tons of buckets. Looking for software that can help you edit and convert PDFs is easy, but finding an affordable one can be challenging.

Not compatible with Linux and UNIX systems

PDFs only work with Mac and Windows operating systems, so if you’re a Linux or UNIX user, you might need a tool to help you open, create, and read a PDF file. Here’s a list of PDF tools for Linux system users that you can check and try.

  • Okular
  • Foxit Reader
  • XPDF
  • GNU GV
  • Mupdf

Navigation Problems

PDFs created with small fonts often need help to navigate. You’ll have to zoom in and out of the file to read it or to search for specific data (especially when you’re on the phone). In some cases, if you’re using a device with a smaller screen, you won’t be able to view the whole page of your file.

There might be some disadvantages of PDFs that you encounter. However, it still needs to change the fact that this format is still one of computer users’ most used and favorite formats today. Whether to use or not this type of file format is still in your hands.

Should your business/organization use PDF?

Alright, we get it – PDF isn’t for everyone. Exactly. Especially for people with visual impairments—PDF is not the best document format to show them. It can be tricky to edit and change its format and color schemes. But what if your form is in PDF format?

Forms in PDF format aren’t new. It’s been happening forever, and you’ve probably encountered one (or hundreds) when you applied for that new job, submitted bank details, or answered a survey. Companies use PDF forms because it’s the standard document format for business, and of course—it provides more security than other formats. People can’t just easily edit a PDF form anytime like a Google Doc, so businesses needing to gather confidential information stick to PDF for forms.

But like me, you might get tired of those clunky PDF form designs, too. Or it just looks really intimidating because of the compact design or vivid colors. Or maybe, you’re just wishing to have a pen in your hand that you can use to write on it instead of filling it out on a computer. Or lastly, you wouldn’t just want to deal with any complexities—given that filling a PDF form out involves complicated steps like coding or buying expensive software such as Adobe Acrobat.

Look, it’s not your cup of tea—and it’s okay. Maybe you had a life and you didn’t learn coding. Or maybe you’re not a software-installing kind of type. The great news is this, you don’t have to go through the complex stuff just to fill out a PDF form—you can turn them into online PDF forms instead.

How can you maximize the use of PDFs for your business?

We live in a world where almost everything is digitalized—even contracts and documents. Thanks to portable document format, also known as PDF, for making it easier and more convenient for us. Talking about convenience, did you know that PDFs can now do more than make file sharing easy for us? Yes, that’s right. Today, PDF is more than just a file format because you can do many things and accomplish many goals with it. With the help of the right PDF tool, you can maximize PDF usage and make the most out of it.

We provide a list of ways to maximize PDF usage in this article so you can take advantage of them.

Convert PDFs to web forms

Most companies use PDFs for their forms. Though PDFs are compact and compatible with any browser and device, filling them out remains challenging for many. If you’re one of those companies that use PDFs for organization forms, you can level up your PDF forms by converting them to web forms.

A web form is an online page where people can enter information. It works efficiently and is very accessible for people who fill out forms. With the help of web forms, you can let your users fill out different forms like registration forms, complaint forms, and other forms online, making things more convenient for them. All it takes is one great PDF-to-web form converter, and you’re good to go.

Pro Tip: PlatoForms is an online PDF tool that has a PDF-to-web form converter. Using PlatoForms, you can simply upload your PDF file and convert it to a web form.

Create multiple PDFs as master form

Why waste time filling out multiple PDF forms with the same information if you can create a master form for all your PDFs?

A master form is a central document that can hold all your PDF files and allow you to fill in similar information once. This feature is best for documents like contracts and agreements where you need to sign multiple pages. Creating a master form for your PDFs allows you to organize data online as well.

Fill out a PDF in multiple steps (workflow)

Sending and approving files is one of many organizations’ challenges. Still, with the help of PDFs, combined with a powerful tool, you can now create a quick process for this. PDF workflow automation enables you to work with your team online, even during the approval process of documents.

Creating a workflow for your PDFs makes way for you and your team to fill out the documents in multiple steps providing you with a more efficient process. It eliminates time-consuming tasks such as printing papers, going to each other’s desks, and face-to-face follow-ups.

If you’re looking for ways to save more time, workflows will help.

Create pre-filled invitation PDF forms

Admit it. Filling out forms can be boring sometimes, so you need to optimize your PDF forms to encourage users to finish them.

How do you do it?

You can improve your PDF forms and increase their completion rate by enabling their pre-filled function. This form functionality will help your users save time by instantly having their data on the form. In some cases, all they have to do is click the “submit” button.

Just imagine how quick the filling out process would be if your users could do that.

While PDFs don’t originally have this setting, PDF tools are here to help you out. First, you have to make your PDF forms fillable online; from there, you can set this function up. Make sure to find a tool that has a Pre-filling feature.

Connect online PDF forms to applications

With the help of integration software, you can now connect your PDF forms to your work tools. One example is receiving notifications to your Slack once a user submits a form. The good news is it’s possible with any other applications like Google Drive, Stripe, Dropbox, and more.

This hack will not only help you save time. It’ll also help you establish a more organized and standardized process for your organization.

Fill in online PDF forms with Rest API

The world is becoming increasingly digital today, so it’s time to level up your forms too!

Use Rest API to create efficient and interactive PDF forms. Rest API is also called representational state transfer. It allows the use of already established protocols. It can meet any program need resulting in developers having the power to create software tools without experiencing compatibility issues.

If your PDF tool has this feature, you can freely create forms that are highly accessible; forms that can be opened in any browser, forms that are personalized, and forms that can be automated.

Create an email template for your online PDF forms

Suppose you want to send a customized email inviting your users to fill out your form. That said, you want to add specific greetings, fields, and other messages to help you connect with your audience.

Sounds great, right?

But what if you have to create this email every time you want to invite someone to fill out your form? Now, it sounds like a hassle. Good thing there are PDF form creators that allow you to set up an email template for your online PDF forms once.

With PDF forms and email invite templates, you can automatically send an email every time you have a new lead—no need to set up new ones.

Automatically save your forms

Have you ever experienced designing your forms and your computer suddenly crashed? To make it even worse, you also forgot to save your online form. Meaning you have to restart building your PDF forms from scratch. What a waste of time, isn’t it?

Thankfully, you can now create and design online PDF forms without worrying if you saved them or not. Innovation brought us form creators that don’t need you to click the save button. They automatically save every change you make, so you can convert your forms to online PDFs or create your PDF forms without fear of losing what you started.

Set the availability and expiration of your forms

If you use forms for events or special dates only, you can set their availability and expiration date. Through this, you can control the number of people who can access them and the dates when your PDF forms are usable.

Let’s say that you created a form for a seven-day giveaway campaign. With that said, you have to close the form after seven days to prevent people from joining when the campaign period is over. You can do this automatically by setting an expiration of this online form dated after seven days.

Pro Tip: If you want to get started with maximizing PDF use, you can start using PlatoForms to make and convert PDF form to fillable forms online. PlatoForms also allows you to create PDF master data forms, PDF workflow designs, and more.

PDFs are truly innovative and efficient. You don’t have to ask the question, “Do I need Adobe to edit PDFs?” anymore because now, you can do more than that. Whether you want to convert them into editable PDFs, set PDF form notifications, or automating your form-filling process, these are all made possible.

All you have to do is to take advantage of each PDF usage and improve your organization’s process and productivity.

Back to Index