PDF is standard for world distribution

Adobe Portable Document Format (.PDF) has become the standard for electronic document distribution worldwide.

Recently a newsletter was sent to members of the mailing list for the Friday 'Coffee and Computers' meetings. It was sent in Adobe PDF. A surprising number of people said that they could not read this document.

The Portable Document Format was a smart development of the Adobe Corporation, the leading creator of computer graphic imaging programs. The purpose of this format is to convert documents created in any number of computer programs into one standard format that can be read on almost any computer. All the recipient's computer needs is a free copy of an Adobe program called Acrobat Reader.

The advantage of Adobe PDF is that it preserves all the fonts, formatting, graphics and color of any source document regardless of the application program or computer used to create the document.

The 'Coffee and Computers' newsletter was created on a Dell computer using Microsoft Word 2000. It then was converted into Adobe PDF using another computer program called just Adobe Acrobat. The Adobe Acrobat program used to create the PDF newsletter is a $249 program. For the recipient to read the newsletter, Adobe makes available a free computer program called Adobe Acrobat Reader. Adobe claims that over 300 million copies of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader have been downloaded from Adobe's Internet site,

The Adobe PDF has become so commonplace that most Government documents now are available via the Internet in this format. IRS documents, ; FCC,; and most others use PDF. The 'Coffee and Computers' newsletter is distributed in PDF.

While this may seem confusing, for the recipient of a document created in Adobe PDF it means that it doesn't matter who created the document or what program or computer was used. Before PDF, it was typical that you received a document that was produced in, say, Microsoft Word 2000 and your computer only had Microsoft Word 97. You couldn't read the document and had to tell the sender to resend it in the older format. You would have had no problem if the sender had converted the document to Adobe PDF and you had the free Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer.

Most new computers come with Adobe Acrobat Reader already installed. Clicking on a received Adobe PDF document will open it on the screen. Then you can just read it or print a copy.

If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer, simply go to and download the free program. Then you will be ready to read Adobe PDF documents. Only the person creating the PDF documents needs the $249 program.

If you would like to hear more about Adobe Acrobat, or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit. We will meet Friday, December 27 and January 3.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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