What is PDF? Wikipedia refers to PDF as: “The Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format used to present documents in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems. Each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout flat document, including the text, fonts, graphics, and other information needed to display it.” Simply speaking PDF is an electronic “hard copy” document.

Born 23 years ago before the Internet era PDF is still a king of electronic document formats; a universal choice for the fixed-layout, self-contained documents so vital to businesses across the globe.

Popularity of PDF

Duff Johnson, an Executive Director at PDF Association, has done a lot of research in the field of popular document formats and we are happy to share one of his finding below:

What is PDF - PDF popularity chart

Image source: http://duff-johnson.com/2014/02/17/the-8-most-popular-document-formats-on-the-web/


Note: HTML and HTM files are not included in the survey because they are mainly web content pages. HTML can contain some text but may not be a document. Only “popular” document types that can be downloaded from the hosting website without changes in appearance and functionality were considered for this survey.

Johnson also points out that many websites include far more content in PDF pages than in HTML. “If your website is a .gov, .org or .edu, the chances are good that >80% of your actual text is in PDF files. Of course, the vast majority of .com sites include far more HTML than PDF… but where documents are a meaningful part of the content they often represent a high proportion of volume in both text and traffic.”

PDF support and continuity

As it was mentioned before, PDF is 23 years old. It is an open standard since July 1 2008 and published by the International Organization for Standardization as ISO 32000-1:2008, at which time control of the specification passed to an ISO Committee of volunteer industry experts. According to PDF Association, PDF 2.0 is feature-complete and it will replace current PDF 1.7 version this year.

Some of the new key features introduced in PDF 2.0:

  • Unencrypted wrapper document
  • Numerous enhancements for print and rendering-related features
  • New annotation types to support projections, rich media, 3D annotations
  • Geospatial features
  • Navigators, to support graphical representation of embedded files
  • Major enhancements to digital signature technology
  • Associated files (introduced with PDF/A-3)
  • Enhanced encryption
  • Pronunciation hints
  • Tagged PDF has several new standard structure elements and attributes

This proves that PDF is still relevant as ever and you will most likely be getting PDF forms from government websites or reading user-guides for your new gadgets in PDF format in years to come.

Why PDF is the best format for forms?

  • Archiving: When compressed PDF files can be very compact, so it is ideal for storage. File layout is kept unchanged and can be viewed on all platforms. Additionally, PDF files are searchable, making archived documents and items much easier to find, categorize, and organize.
  • Business and Legal Documents: PDF’s are essential for business and legal documents and forms that must retain their exact appearance. These important documents must retain their integrity and security. With the PDF format, you can secure your documents so that no one can change the wording of an application or the terms of an agreement.
  • Accessibility. PDF forms guarantee compliance with the Federal Section 508 regulations.
  • Offline functionality. Unlike webforms, PDF forms do not always require internet connection to work.
  • Workflow flexibility. PDF functionality allows the form to be both the capture tool and the resulting record.
  • Printing. While printing a fillable PDF form may sound like a step backwards, it is still a very common case. Surprisingly, not a lot of form solutions on the market are printer-friendly.
  • Digital signatures. PDF forms provide users with powerful tools to identify forms authors or users and protect forms from tampering. Following certain guidelines make PDF forms legally-binding.