PDF, or Portable Document Format, is a file format that has revolutionized the way we exchange and view documents. From its humble beginnings as a simple method of sharing documents electronically, it has grown into a ubiquitous standard, used by businesses, governments, and individuals all over the world.


With its versatility, compatibility, and ease of use, PDFs have made it possible to access important information from anywhere, at any time. In this article, we will explore the basics of PDFs, as well as some of the more advanced features that make them such a powerful tool for sharing and preserving information. Whether you're new to PDFs or just looking to deepen your understanding, this is the guide for you.


What Is A Portable Document Format (PDF) File?

After its creation and initial unveiling at the Windows and OS|2 Conference in January 1993, Adobe Systems' Portable Document Format (PDF) remained a proprietary format until its release as an open standard in 2008. Since then, the ISO Committee, made up of voluntary specialists from the industry, has been in charge of maintaining the standard.

PDF is one universal file format for exchanging documents. It keeps the fonts, images, graphics, and layout of the original document, no matter what program or operating system was used to make them. Since PDF files maintain their formatting when read on different devices and operating systems, they are frequently used for document sharing and exchange.

Almost every program or file type can be converted into a PDF. This includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, and many others. Any PDF reader software, such as Adobe Acrobat or Foxit Reader, can be used to view and print them. PDF files can also be altered using Adobe Acrobat Pro or a comparable program. However, not all PDF files are editable, and some may have editing restrictions.

Contracts, invoices, resumes, forms, e-books, and other documents are commonly stored in PDF files. Many businesses, organizations, and individuals choose them because of their stability and dependability, as well as their capacity to integrate multimedia and interactive aspects.

PDFs are typically organized in a number of distinct classifications. Knowing the PDF version helps immensely when working with PDF files and documents. What more is going on here? Let's keep reading.


How many types of PDF are there?

Like most of us, PDF has undergone some changes, and over the past 30 years, its family of file formats has grown, and new format standards have been added to cater to more businesses and use cases.

Here is a brief overview of each type of PDF and their features and differences:


1. Normal PDF (Portable Document Format):

For general office needs

  • It is the most widely used type of PDF, designed to present and exchange documents in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating system.
  • It preserves the font, images, graphics, and layout of any source document.


Normal PDFs can be viewed and printed using any PDF reader software.


2. Interactive PDF:

  • It contains interactive elements such as buttons, links, form fields, and multimedia.
  • Interactive PDFs are used for forms, quizzes, presentations, and other types of documents that require user interaction.


These PDFs can be edited using Adobe Acrobat Pro or a similar software.


3. PDF/A (Archive PDF):

  • For archives and records management. For example, records managers and archivists.
  • It is used for long-term archiving of electronic documents.
  • PDF/A documents are required to meet specific technical standards for preserving the content and structure of a document over time.


It is designed to ensure that the documents can be opened and read correctly in the future, even if the software and hardware used to create them are no longer available.


4. PDF/E (Engineering PDF):

For engineering

  • It is designed specifically for the engineering industry. The PDF standard is widely adopted by architects, builders, and manufacturers.
  • PDF/E includes support for 3D graphics, technical drawings, and other complex technical documents.


This type of PDF is optimized for engineering workflows and is often used in engineering and manufacturing industries.


5. PDF/X (Exchange PDF):

For printing industry

  • It is perfect for print specialists and graphic designers to ensure reliable and consistent printing results.
  • These documents are required to meet specific technical standards for preparing documents for print production.


PDF/X is designed to ensure that the documents are print-ready, with consistent color management, trapping, and other printing specifications.


6. PDF/VT (Variable Data Printing PDF):

  • It is used to create personalized, high-volume print documents.
  • PDF/VT supports dynamic content and is designed to streamline the process of printing large numbers of documents with variable information, such as customized letters or invoices.


This type of PDF is optimized for high-speed printing workflows and is often used in direct mail and other mass-mailing applications.


7. PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility PDF):

For everyone

  • Its purpose is to make PDF files accessible to those who may have trouble reading them.
  • PDF/UA documents are required to meet specific technical standards for accessibility, including support for screen readers and other assistive technologies.


This type of PDF is optimized for accessibility and is often used in government and other public-sector applications where accessibility is a requirement.


To recap, each sort of PDF serves a particular function and comes with its own set of features and capabilities. Common PDFs are made for file sharing, whereas the more advanced Interactive PDFs can be used for things like quizzes, presentations, and forms. The PDF/A format is used for long-term storage, while PDF/E is more suited to engineering, PDF/X to printing, PDF/VT to high-volume printing, and PDF/UA to accessibility needs.