What Does Actually PDF Stand For? We Use it More Than We Realize

What Does PDF Stand For
If you are wondering what the acronym - 'PDF' stands for in computer terms, this article will dispel your ignorance about it. Going further, I will also talk about what a 'PDF Reader' is and what functionality this special file format offers.
Techspirited Staff
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
You may have probably come across the acronym 'PDF' when browsing the Internet or while downloading documents which are in 'PDF' format. It is but natural to wonder what that acronym means. Personally, I am curious about every acronym that I come across in this age of increasing 'Jargonization'. Acronyms are good, as they save a lot of our time, that would be spent in pronouncing that whole phrase, but they also obscure the underlying concept or meaning.

What Does PDF Mean in Computer Terms?

Let us explore what PDF stands for and how it came in to existence. Okay let me break the suspense. The acronym PDF stands for 'Portable Document Format'. This long form of the acronym still doesn't tell you a lot, but it can give you a rough idea of what we are talking about. One thing that you can grasp easily is that it's a 'Document Format'. In computer terminology, a document is any type of file that contains data in textual and graphic form.

So, PDF stands for a type of document, which is portable. They are stored with the extension '.PDF', just as Microsoft word documents are stored with the extension '.doc'. The PDF file format was created by Adobe systems in 1993. Introduced first as a proprietary format, it was made an open standard in 2008. OpenXPS is a document file format, similar to PDF in functionality, developed by Microsoft. DjVu is fast replacing PDF as a scanned document format, as it compresses files to a greater degree, while offering high quality content. A free open source software, which can be used to edit PDF documents is PDFedit.

About Portability of PDF Documents

Next question, that may come to your mind is what do we mean by a 'portable' document. The portability concept encapsulates the reason why PDF documents came into existence and also explains their peculiar built in characteristics. In the age before the arrival of PDF documents, there were many types of document formats that could be read only with their specific reader software programs. One could not read a document sent by somebody, unless one had the proper proprietary software. The abundance of various document editing software programs, made it even more irksome.

Slowly, the need for a document format, that was independent of the hardware, software and operating system requirements, was felt. The people at Adobe systems had the foresight to see this emerging need for such a portable format and created the 'Portable Document Format (PDF)' and released it along with 'Adobe Reader' (as a proprietary software initially), which enabled the reading of these documents. With Adobe making the adobe reader or PDF reader and its subsequent improved versions freely available online, it became truly a portable format.

What Does PDF Stand For In Terms of Functionality?

Now that we have gotten over the suspense of what PDF means in computer terms, let us see what it stands for in terms of functionality and how did it achieve the goal of being a platform independent format. In short, what are the characteristics of the PDF document that make it portable and so popular among users. Here is a list of the prime functionality features of a PDF documents
  • All PDF documents are snapshots of the actual documents. There are PDF converters, which can transform documents into PDF format.
  • They may contain images, hyperlinks (in page and out of page) and even 3D objects in latest versions
  • They are read only files, but there are ways in which they can be edited
  • These files can be encrypted and protected by passwords
  • The printed quality of PDF files is excellent.
  • The standard fonts used in PDF files are variants of Courier, Helvetica, Times, Symbol and Zapf Dingbats
Hope this article has not only made clear, what PDF stands for, but also what necessitated the creation of these kinds of files. The PDF file format took time to get recognition, but now it is the acclaimed standard online for publishing e books, research papers and all kinds of diverse data.