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A PDF Refresher


With the launch of the new WorldStart book, Internet Security Survival Guide [1] in .PDF, we’ve received a number of questions about the .PDF format. Consequently, we’ve decided to offer some information that may help answer some of these questions.

What is .PDF?

Adobe introduced the .PDF (Portable Document Format) in 1990, and this format has since become the most commonly used format for document distribution on the web. .PDF provides a method to view and print documents in the same fashion, regardless of the operating system, device, or web browser used. However, some type of .PDF reader is required. Many are available but, by far the most common is the Adobe Reader [2].

Creating .PDFs used to be done only by people or companies with relatively deep pockets. Now, there are several methods of .PDF creation that can be accomplished either for free, or by using software preinstalled in many computers. Several of these methods have been covered in previous WorldStart tips. For example, you can save OpenOffice [3] documents in .PDF format, using a procedure found here [4]. And Sun Microsystems, who acquired OpenOffice in 1999, offers the Sun PDF Import Extension [5], with which you can create editable .PDFs. Microsoft Office also offers an option to save documents in the .PDF format, using a procedure found here [6]. And there are several websites that offer conversions. For example, you can convert documents from Word to .PDF or vice versa at the website described in this WorldStart tip [7].

You may find that creating .PDFs, before sending documents to others will prevent some headaches, since occasionally, even documents created by different versions of the same software will be incompatible. I discovered this after sending documents created in newer versions of Word to someone who was using an older version, and they couldn’t open the file. Word offers an option to save as a document compatible with the earlier versions, but why not just go with .PDF?

Opening and Saving a .PDF

When you open a .PDF, this is what you’ll see.


If you decide that the document you’ve downloaded is one you want to keep, go to File, then Save As, and PDF…


Navigating the .PDF

The navigation tools are found at the top, and to the left, of the document. I prefer to use the navigation tools at the top of the page, but you may choose to use the Page Thumbnails view to the left, by clicking on the button near the top.


Then, you can either choose pages by clicking on the page image, or by using the page navigation controls at the top of the document.


Whether you choose to leave the Page Thumbnails open or not (I generally choose not to, due to the amount of computer screen real estate they require), you can navigate through the pages, either by entering a page number in the box to the right of the up and down arrows, or you can use the arrows themselves to go from page to page.


Many .PDFs include links, either to elements within the document itself, or to an external source. If you click a link to a location within the document, you will be taken directly to that location. For example, many long documents (eBooks for example) include a Table of Contents, with links to each chapter.

However, when clicking on a link to an external source, you will be asked if you want to allow or block that link.


If you click Allow, you’ll be taken to the site. If you’d like to permanently allow or deny access to the link, check Remember this action for this site for all PDF documents and then click Allow or Block.

Searching the document can be accomplished by going to Edit, then Find, or by using the Ctrl+F keyboard shortcut. Either will open the search box in the upper right corner, as seen below.


If you go to the Edit menu and select Advanced Search, you can search outside the document, or narrow your document search criteria.

I hope this helps to clear up some of the questions about .PDF.