PDF (Portable Document Format) is a technology developed by Adobe for sharing electronic documents. The remarkable thing about PDF files is that they preserve the fonts, colors, formatting, and graphics of the original source document. Ideally, a PDF document looks exactly the way it was designed, regardless of the platform, hardware, and software environment of the end user. It can be viewed on the screen or printed out to a high-quality hard copy.
PDF existed before the Web, but the two make great partners—PDF is the ideal file format for sharing documents, and the Web provides a highly accessible network for distributing them. You can make any document into a PDF file and make it available from a web page. The advantage, of course, is that you have more control over fonts and layout, and the formatting is not limited by HTML.
Forms, documentation, and any other materials that rely on specific formatting are good candidates for PDF files. To use a classic example, the IRS makes tax forms available for download in PDF format so taxpayers can print them out at home without requesting them by mail or making a trip to the post office.
But PDF files are not totally static. They can contain links to online material and other PDF files. Adobe Acrobat 5 can even create interactive PDF forms which can be filled out, automatically updated, and submitted online. PDFs can also be dynamically generated based on user input.
With the control PDF offers over display, ...