Master the PDF: 7 Tips for Working With the PDF File Format


In 1993, the Adobe company introduced the PDF file format to the world.

The PDF, or Portable Document Format, is a way to present documents in their original form over various types of computer hardware and operating systems.

Since their beginning, pdf documents are a standard format that allows everyone to share information in a printable, professional-looking way.

The universally-accessible format of a pdf and it’s ease of use guarantee that you will encounter these files throughout your professional life. So, knowing how to work with pdf’s is a must.

Here are 7 great tips to know about managing pdf documents.

  1. Opening and Creating PDF Documents

Today, almost all computers are pre-loaded with a pdf reader, usually an Adobe product. Reader software will automatically open pdf’s for you with a click and is usually available as a free download if not already installed on your computer.

You can also open a pdf in the window of most browsers, such as Safari, Chrome, and Firefox, to name a few.

Creating a pdf is easy with the latest version of Windows. Take any word document, text file, image, or web page and print it as you normally do, but choose the PDF option to print instead of your usual printer.

Readers allow you to open and read a document, but you’ll likely want to do more. You may need to look through a large pdf for a specific bit of information, and a pdf search program can help you check that information with ease.

  1. Editing a PDF Document

PDF files were created to be read, not changed. But if you want to change a pdf file in any way, you need to have some kind of editing software. Adobe’s offering here is called Acrobat, but there are many others.

Converting a pdf to a Microsoft Word document will allow you to edit right in Word and save your finished product back to a pdf. The same procedure can be done in Google DOCS too.

You can then use standard editing tools at this point, such as highlighting, strikethrough, and leaving notes.

Use caution when converting pdfs, as sometimes the formatting may get altered when going back and forth between programs.

  1. Working With PDF Forms

You can use a “Fill and Sign” feature to fill out pdf forms that do not contain automatic fields for inserting text.

If the pdf form is interactive, it actually contains spaces or fields you can fill out. That is easily done using the hand tool icon to assist you in placing text in the fields. Then, the completed form can be sent directly to a server or sent via email.

If you want to go a step further, purchasing Acrobat’s Pro version will allow you to convert the “fill and sign” forms (known as “flat forms”) to interactive ones.

  1. Signing a PDF Document

Signing a pdf document is common when working with contracts or proposals. This can be done electronically, via an image of your signature that can be placed in a pdf document.

Using a document reader and the “fill and sign” command, you can add your signature by either typing it in, using the mouse to draw it, or uploading a scanned image of your actual signature that can be saved for the future.

You can also sign a pdf digitally, but that does require security keys or certificates as an added layer of protection. This is a better option if you need the highest level of security.

  1. Turning a PDF into a JPEG

A JPEG file is to images and pictures as PDF is to text. JPEG files are easy to open and save on computers, but more importantly, on mobile or tablet devices. Image files like jpegs are much easier to deal with when working on digital projects that pdfs.

With conversion programs such as Acrobat, you can convert pdf files to jpegs for use on websites and PowerPoint presentations. The resolution on these conversions might not be as high, but for basic business purposes, they are clear and help create multiple ways of presenting the information.

  1. Merging PDF Files

You can take a variety of pdf files from different sources or a combination of pdf’s jpeg’s, and other types of files and merge them into one impressive and smooth document. The Preview function on a mac computer allows for easy merging, but if you aren’t a mac owner, then again, Adobe’s paid programs offer great ways to do this.

But there are also free merging programs to explore as well. Use caution with free software, however, as they may not have the excellent security protocols for your documents that a paid service does.

  1. Protecting Your PDF Documents

You can protect your sensitive pdf documents with what is known as password protection. Most pdf managing software includes password protection options, but you can also do this from Microsoft Word before their conversion to pdf format.

To do this, make sure you first save your Word document with the “Save As” button and then click the pdf option. Under the “more options” box, select “options” and then “encrypt document with a password.” Then you choose a password and save.

On a Mac, you can use the Preview function to encrypt a strong password to protect your pdf. (Preview is a Mac-friendly pdf manager as well.)


Think about what you do with pdf documents at work. Do you need security around your files? Is your team editing projects?

If you are a designer, invest in a high-quality converter. If you are in the legal or medical profession, get good password protection software. If you are a small business owner, explore free pdf programs to see if they meet your needs.

Now that you know how to work with pdf documents, you can equip yourself with all the tools you need to succeed.

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