Portable Document Format

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The Portable Document Format, or PDF, is a file format created and maintained by Adobe Systems.

The PDF format is meant to completely contain and encode all the information necessary to reproduce (display and/or print) a document exactly, with complete visual fidelity. Each PDF file contains a complete description of the document including the text, fonts, images, and 2D vector graphics that compose the document. PDF files do not include software, hardware or operating specific information. This ensures that a valid PDF should be rendered the same regardless of its origin or destination.

The PDF format is based largely on the Adobe PostScript page description and programming language. The main difference being that PDF is a file format instead of a programming language. PDFs are often created by using PostScript files as an interim format in the PDF workflow. For example, the "Adobe PDF" printer that is created when Acrobat is installed, works by first generating PostScript out of the source application, and then interpreting the PostScript using Acrobat Distiller to create the final PDF.


The PDF format was released in the early 1990's and the tools to create and view PDF files were not free. Adobe eventually started distributing the Acrobat Reader (now ["Adobe Reader']) program at no cost, and continued to support PDF throughout it's applications.

Early versions of PDFs did not include external hyperlink support, reducing there ability to interact with websites.

With the release of Mac OS X PDF became the native metafile format replacing the PICT format of earlier version of Mac OS. This allows any Mac OS X application to create PDF files.


Adobe Systems makes a variety of PDF-related products, most notable is Adobe Acrobat the first software to support Portable Document Format. Adobe Systems has also published the specification for the format to allow other companies to create PDF-related products, and has opened some of it's [WWW]PDF patents for royalty-free use.

Applications to create and view PDFs abound. Most [Desktop Publishing] software now creates PDF files without the use of Adobe Distiller. Modern operating systems allow you to save or print documents as PDFs and view them using their own PDF viewers. Application such as [WWW]CutePDF now allow all Windows applications to print to PDF just like Mac OS X.

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