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What is a PDF?

PDF is an acronym for Portable Document Format. Adobe® Portable Document Format (PDF) is a nearly-universal standard for electronic document distribution worldwide. Adobe PDF preserves  fonts, formatting, graphics, and color of any source document, regardless of the application and platform used to create it. Adobe PDF files are compact and can be shared, viewed, navigated, and printed exactly as intended by anyone with free Adobe Acrobat® Reader® software or with a browser that has a PDF viewer. Most modern web browsers have a PDF viewer that launches automatically when a PDF needs to be rendered. Learn more about creating at editing pdf files in this document PDF Format: Some Basics.  

How can I edit a file that is in pdf format?

Not all pdf files are editable – your ability to edit a pdf file depends on how the file was created. Here are a few things to try:

  • Use Microsoft Word. Open a copy of Microsoft Word (newer versions can edit some PDF files). From within Word, try to open the pdf file you want to edit. If Word begins to convert the file, you will likely be able to edit it. Note that formatting may not convert with 100% accuracy. If the document converts as large images, your ability to edit will be limited.
  • Use Adobe Acrobat Pro. The EWFM Library has Acrobat Pro on several PCs that you can use to do limited editing of a pdf file.
  • Google Drive. Upload the pdf in Google Drive. View the document in Drive and select Open With..." Google Docs. Check the resulting document to see if it is editable. If the document has editable text, you can edit it; if it consists of large images rather than text, you will not be able to edit it. 
  • Use Scannx scanners in the library. As a last resort, you can try scanning a printout using the OCR (optical character recognition) feature.  The resulting file may permit editing, but formatting of complex documents may not render nicely.

I can't print a pdf. Why?

Some pdf files are designed to prevent printing (the author elected to enable printing protection). Sometimes problems with the pdf prevent printing using normal methods, or documents only partially print. Try these steps:

  1.  Open the File Menu
  2. Select “Print”
  3. The Printing window will appear
  4. Click “Advanced”
  5. Put a check in the box next to “Print as Image”
  6. Click OK to close the “Advanced” window
  7. Click OK to print

 What is the difference between Adobe Acrobat Pro and Adobe Reader?

The main difference between Acrobat Pro and Acrobat Reader is in the functions you can perform.

  • Acrobat Pro enables you to create and modify PDF documents and control what people can do with them, whereas Acrobat Reader only allows you to view and print PDF documents.
  • Acrobat Pro lets you review and markup a PDF document and insert comments, while Acrobat Reader can only view markup and comments others have made.
  • Acrobat Pro can create forms documents, so that others can fill out—but not change—the form; Acrobat Reader only allows you to fill out a form that was previously created.
  • Acrobat Pro also makes it possible to specify restrictions on a document, such as encryption and password protection. With Pro you can limit the ability to copy or print the document.
  • Acrobat Reader is free; Acrobat Pro is not. Lehigh provides Acrobat Pro on specific computers in a limited number of locations.

Do I need Acrobat Pro? 

You do not need Acrobat Pro to view or print PDF files, or to create simple pdf documents. Microsoft Office applications can be used to edit, save or export the documents as PDF. Free applications such as PDF995, and web applications such as, offer creation and conversion of PDF documents. PDF995 displays a popup ad during the creation/conversion process.

Adobe Acrobat Professional can be used to do the following:

  • Directly edit any PDF file
  • Restrict the ability to print or copy
  • Create or edit fill-in forms
  • Use redaction tools (Redaction is the process of permanently removing visible text and graphics from a document. You use the Redact tools to remove content.)
  • Acrobat Pro can be purchased through JourneyEd or any academic software retailer.

How do I convert an Office Document to PDF?

Microsoft Office documents can be exported in PDF format. See this Microsoft Support document "Save or Convert to PDF."
With recent versions of Word, you can also convert a PDF into an editable Word document. See this Microsoft Support document "Edit PDF content in Word."

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