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Help with PDF files

Information on PDF files, what they are, how to open them and how to create them

What is a PDF?

PDF stands for Portable Document Format and is a common internet file format. It's used for electronic distribution because it keeps the look and feel of the original document, including the fonts, colours, images, and layout.

It also can be used across many different types of computers and browsers and is commonly used for government publications, leaflets and forms.

Opening PDF files

You can download a program called Acrobat Reader and install it onto your computer. The program is available free of charge from the Adobe Acrobat site. Because the download is large - typically between 8MB and 16MB - you may find it easier to find a copy of the program on one of the CDs distributed by computer magazines.

Downloading PDF files to e-readers

If you are downloading a PDF file to an e-reader such as a Kindle or iPad it may have a built in PDF reader. If this is the case you will not need to download Adobe reader. Consult your device manual for more details.

PDF files and browsers

You can configure your web browser to open PDF files either within the browser window or in a separate Adobe Acrobat window. There are detailed instructions on the Acrobat website on how to do so for different browsers.

Are PDF files accessible?

PDF file standards have improved over the years. They are more accessible due to technologies like screen readers, navigation through the keyboard and enhanced screen viewing.

The Adobe site provides information on how best to use these features. You may come across earlier versions of PDF files which are not so accessible.

How do I search a PDF file?

When you open a PDF file an Acrobat toolbar will appear, featuring a number of tools to help you view and search the document. Running your mouse over the icons, without clicking, will tell you what each of them does. The Search tool will search the document for a word or phrase.

Alternatives to Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe Acrobat Reader is by far the most popular PDF viewer but there are others available for download that will allow you to view and print PDF documents on a variety of platforms and systems. The following site may help: