7 reasons why we like PDF’s

Posted on February 4th, 2015 | Tags: Design, PDF, Technical

Everyone has seen Adobe’s PDF’s, the computer files that appear like printed pages on their screens. They hold the manuals for every electronic device, the product catalogues on every company website, or even forms to be filled in on government websites. They are one of the most useful file formats out there and we printers love them. So let me talk about them in more detail and why you should be using them yourself.

The PDF or Portable Document Format was created by Adobe as a way to create a document that has to be consistent in look no matter what application, software, hardware, or operating system is used to show it. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you look at a PDF on a phone, tablet, laptop, or computer; running IOS, Mac OS, Windows, Android, or Linux; as long as you have a PDF reader then it will look same on it as on any other machine it’s viewed on. Adobe is the big name in design software that it was able to make it’s format the common standard over all the other portable document formats out there. It becoming an open standard and being adopted by the ISO has cemented its place as the standard everyone uses by default. So what are my reasons to like PDFs?


As I said in the previous paragraph, the PDF stands for portable. This means you have a document that looks the same no matter what is used to view it. This is a very big deal when you want to present a consistent company image. PDF’s are also great because if you print the document, it will look the same to what is on the screen (within the limitations of your printer.) All of this means that you don’t have to worry about people having the software to read your document because every recently made smart device or computer has support for it, and if they don’t it takes only a couple of minutes to find and install software to allow them to read it.

2.Everything is stored in the file

Most applications when creating documents don’t store everything you see with in the file, just a link pointing to where things are to be found. This is fine when you are looking at the file on your computer, but it will break on someone elses because they don’t have the items that the links are pointing too. This is especially true with fonts as no two computers have the same range of fonts resulting in the type looking weird or not showing up at all. PDF’s stops this from happening because everything need for the document is stored within the document. This means when you bring a PDF in for us to print, it will look the same on our screens and on the printed page.

3.It can be smaller than the source file

Those sames applications may not store everything you need in a document, but they will store everything they need to edit it. Depending on how long and how many people have worked on a document this can sometimes take up more of the file than the actual viewable contents. Saving a file in PDF’s will (generally) get rid of everything but what is needed show the contents, resulting in smaller files. It’s not always the case (I’m looking at you Adobe Creative Suite) but on the whole it does happen. For instance if you compare a Word document to it’s PDF the PDF will generally be smaller in file size.

4.You can create PDFs no matter how your system is setup

When it became an open standard, a lot of applications added the ability to create PDF’s directly from them (usually found on the file or print menu.) You don’t need expensive Desktop Publishing software to create PDFs when you just chose ‘Save as PDF’ in the application you are working in. If you can’t in your application,  you only need to install a PDF Print Driver which creates a fake printer your application can use but results in a PDF file instead of a physical printed page.  We use Cute PDF writer for this (www.cutepdf.com).

5.It’s locked in place but it can be unlocked

PDF’s are considered the final form of a document and are designed not to change. That being said, working as a designer/printer I often get asked to edit finished PDF’s to update their contents; like changing a phone number on a business card. Many applications support opening of PDF’s so you can edit them yourself. We have a range of tools to let us ‘break’ PDF’s allowing us to pull out the different parts to allow us to recreate the file in a format that is easily editable for future changes. Rarely we get files that are encrypted so you can view them but not alter them; sometimes we can ‘pick the lock’ and open the file for editing but not always. In those cases we have several work around you can chose from to suit your needs.

6.Our printers speak PDF

Because PDFs are designed to be as universal as possible, it makes sense that our printing system were built to read them. The adoption of the standard has simplified print production no end, and even allows us to do several nifty tricks that were extremely hard to do in the pre PDF days. It’s not perfect, as it seems no one completely sticks to the ISO standards due to technical or design limitations but we can work around those problems with you, and it’s still a very reliable system for all parts of the document production process.

7.You can do some nifty tricks with it.

Integrated fillable forms, embedded videos and audio, multi language support and even 3D graphics have all found their way in to the PDF standard making it a very flexible system for presenting information. For us as printers, most of those fancy features get in the way of printing documents, but thanks to the way it has been designed, they can be turned off and you will still get the document you need from us. On a more practical level, with the right tools it will allow you to mix together all manor of different document styles and formats into a single integrated whole. A classic example is house specification for city councils. These documents will mix different page sizes, emails, bitmap graphics, drawings, general text and all manor of other stuff into one file. That one file that our system can print mixing page sizes, orientations and formatting, into one consistent document that prints repeatedly to a high standard.

So those are the 7 reasons why Copy Express loves PDFs. Now if you have never used the format or aren’t sure what tools to use to make them, give us a call and we will be happy to help you out.