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Help with PDF files

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

The PDF file format is a common internet file format (PDF stands for Portable Document Format).

It's used for electronic distribution because it faithfully preserves the look and feel of the original document complete with fonts, colours, images, and layout. It also can be used across many different types of computers and browsers. It is commonly used for government publications, leaflets and forms.

Opening PDF files

To open a PDF file you have two options. 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.

 The second option is to use an online PDF conversion tool. You can visit the Adobe Acrobat website, type in the address of a PDF file and get it to translate the file into a more readable format while you wait. Or you can email the address of the file (or the file itself) to Adobe, and they will email a translation back. These translations of the files may not be as clearly formatted as the original PDF file.

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 and have become more accessible through 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 several other viewers available for download that will allow you to view and print PDF documents on a variety of platforms and systems. The following sites may help:

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