Portable Document Format

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What Does Portable Document Format Mean?

Portable Document Format (PDF) is a multi-platform/application file format that captures a document’s electronic image and formatting elements, including all fonts, text and graphics. It is a reliable and trusted file format used in the exchange of electronic data.


Because PDF provides color-accurate information, it allows a user to share and print data as it appears on the computer screen or monitor.

Developed by Adobe Systems, PDF is ensured by the ISO 32000 open standard.

Techopedia Explains Portable Document Format

A PDF may be created with Adobe Acrobat or similar software. To view or print PDF files, Acrobat Reader or another compatible program must be downloaded. With Adobe Acrobat plug-ins, PDF files can be viewed in Web browsers.


The following are PDF features:

  • As a highly compressed file format, it facilitates efficient downloads of complex data.
  • One may zoom in and out of the document.
  • Any font and/or image types may be included.
  • It provides easily searchable information or metadata, including scanned text converted with optical character recognition (OCR) technology.
  • Using extended assistive technologies, PDFs are accessible to people with disabilities like vision impairment.
  • It is capable of including interactive elements like buttons and clickable links.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.