What’s in a PDF?

The PDF has revolutionized the way we do business. Not just in the graphics and marketing world, but in all business communications. The PDF, or Portable Document Format, was developed by Adobe as a way to reliably exchange documents regardless of operating system.

But wait. You say you have received a PDF that not only looks bad but your attempts to edit it only frustrate you?

The reality is that there are 2 types of PDFs.

The Native PDF File is originally generated from a computer by Word, Excel, InDesign, Illustrator, or any of a number of softwares that generate reports, spreadsheets, layouts. They are built of code that allows them to be viewed and read exactly as they were originally created. These are vector-based files that can be edited.

The SCANNED PDF File contains no electronic code to maintain its integrity. While it may have started out as an electronic file, somewhere along the way it was placed on a scanner and scanned, losing its digital formatting. Thus it has become no more than an image. These are raster-based files that are difficult to edit, and the results will be marginal at best.

If you are unclear which type of PDF you have, give it the eyeball test. Open the file in Acrobat and zoom in to 400% or more to examine it. If the text and curved lines remain smooth it is a native PDF. If the lines are jagged, it is probably a scanned PDF.

Adobe Acrobat Pro allows you to edit even scanned PDFs to some degree. But to save time and trouble, check with the person who created the file to see if they can provide you with the original.