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Digital Documents

article by: David Zikakis

In today's wired world it is far easier and cheaper to attach a document to an email than it is to print and post-mail it. However, this seemingly simple method can often lead to problems, and big headaches. The major problem occurs when the recipients don't have the software in which the document was created, or they have an earlier version, incompatible with yours. At this point you usually get the email response: "I can't open your attachment", what a pain. Similar to the software problem, the recipient may have a different operating system, different setup or even different fonts installed. Each of these situations can cause your document to become distorted, unformatted, or even unreadable.

Fortunately there is a solution, the Adobe Acrobat PDF. The PDF format is a descendant of the earlier PostScript language, which is used to precisely describe how a document should look. The main purpose of PostScript was to provide a convenient language in which to describe images in a device independent manner. This device independence simply means that the same described document could be printed by any postscript printer, regardless of resolution, paper size, etc. PDF however took this idea a few steps further and added more functionality. The PDF format was designed to describe documents, not only for printers, but for computer screens without the need of an interpreter, like the ones built into PostScript printers. Additionally, a PDF file can contain fonts, images, printing instructions, keywords for searching and indexing, interactive hyperlinks, movies, and so on. When creating a PDF file (which is as simple as printing a document) you can specify several security options, such as passwords, export protection, print blocking, write-protection, and the list goes on. Essentially you can have full control of what the end user or recipient can do with the document, an important feature when the contents are sensitive. This security also protects against accidental changes being made to your documents, ensuring that no matter how many times the document is passed on, it always looks exactly as intended.

Your protected, well-formatted document is easily viewable by anyone on any system, so long as they download the free viewer available on the Adobe site. Are your attachments as versatile as a PDF?

How do you create a PDF? You need to have Adobe Acrobat, or use the online service at Adobe, Adobe is currently offering a 5 document conversion trial online.

Dave is a senior web developer with Inter Kingston Web Design