Working with PDF files – An Ultimate Guide [2021]

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Working with PDF files – An Ultimate Guide by Copyleaks, AI-powered plagiarism detection platform

You’ve probably heard of them before. You’ve probably used them before. But are you aware of just how important PDFs are in the digital age? More and more people and companies are saving their documents as PDFs before sharing them with other users. Why is that?

PDF File
PDF files

In this ultimate PDF guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this file format—what it is; its significance in the modern world; and how to use, modify, and optimize PDFs. Whether you’re a student, an employee, or a business owner, this guide will provide you with the information you need to convert your ideologies from DOC to PDF.

What Is a PDF?

To kick things off, let’s go over the definition of PDFs. For those who don’t know, PDF stands for Portable Document Format. It was “invented” by Adobe back in the 1990s as a reliable format to quickly access its contents across different computer builds. There have been multiple versions of PDFs, which we won’t get into, but the recent PDF version (2nd edition of PDF 2.0) covers everything you’d want from a file format that was designed with easy shareability in mind.

Who Uses PDFs and Why?

Everybody uses PDFs, from students who rent or purchase e-books to large corporations who need to send and digitally sign contracts. You’ve most likely encountered PDFs when scanning documents. Your scanner takes a high-definition picture of a document and saves it as an image or a PDF.

But why do people use PDFs? Here’s a list of general reasons why PDFs are the go-to file format for sharing information.

  • Identical content layout across devices
  • Can integrate numerous content types into a single PDF (video, text, images, animations, audio, etc.)
  • Easy to create, convert, and access
  • Password protection and encryption
  • Compressed size, easy to download, store, and share

Disadvantages of PDFs

While PDFs are undoubtedly a reliable file format for saving files and sharing them, they do have a set of disadvantages that users might not be aware of.

  • Hard to edit
  • Scanned PDFs are not searchable

These disadvantages seem significant at first, but there are several ways you can work around them. So, at the end of the day, one could say that PDFs have no permanent drawbacks.

What Files Can You Save as PDFs?

Any file format you can think of can be converted into a PDF, including but not limited to images (PNG, JPG, TIFF, BMP) and document files (DOC, ODT, XML, TXT, EPUB, XLS, PPT). All you need is a subscription to Adobe Acrobat Pro or an internet connection to open any of the countless online PDF editor platforms.

The Ultimate PDF Guide: The How to’s of PDFs

Now that we’ve got the basics of PDFs covered, let’s go over the various ways of saving, modifying, and optimizing PDFs.

How to Save Files as PDFs

You can create a PDF file by saving a document as a PDF. The process of doing so varies between word processors. The process of saving files as PDFs is similar across most office suites. If you use one of the more popular suites like Google Drive, Microsoft Office, or LibreOffice, simply click File Export. There, you’ll find a selection of different file formats to choose from. Click Export, wait for the file to process, and that’s it.

When scanning documents, you can select which type of format to save them as. Most scanners save files as PDFs by default. However, scanned documents are not searchable, meaning you cannot extract information by highlighting text and pasting it somewhere else. However, this is possible, as you’ll see in the How to Make PDFs Searchable section.

How to Convert Files to and from PDF

The most reliable desktop-based app for converting files to and from PDF is Adobe Acrobat Pro. To do this, open the app, click FileCreatePDF from File. A new window will open, prompting you to select the file or files you wish to convert to PDF. After opening the document(s), click FileSave, and choose the location to save the PDF.

To convert PDFs to other file formats, open the PDF file with Adobe Acrobat Pro, then click Export PDF and choose any of the file formats available in the right pane. Now, click Export, choose a location to save the file, and click Save.

How to Modify PDFs

PDFs weren’t made to be edited like word documents or spreadsheet files. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t add and remove text, rotate pages, leave annotations, or even add digital signatures.

All of these PDF tools are available in Adobe Acrobat Pro, but if your new business doesn’t have the means to pay the monthly subscription fee, you can use one of the numerous free online PDF editor platforms. Below, we’ll list a few of the most noteworthy browser-based PDF editors and converters, as well as their most prominent features.

  • Sejda → Marge, split, edit, sign, convert, crop, deskew, deletes files after 2 hours
  • Smallpdf → Convert, split, lock, unlock, add page numbers, compress
  • PDFChef → Merge, split, rearrange, convert, unlimited daily conversions/editing
  • PDFEscape → Create, hyperlink, annotate, crop

All of the online PDF editor platforms listed above have desktop-based apps and/or premium plans for offline use. With that being said, the average user can get by with the free features each platform has to offer, provided they can live with the daily usage limits (doesn’t apply to PDFChef).

How to Add Videos, Audio, and Animations in PDFs

One of the more interesting features of PDF files is that you can embed videos, audio, and interactive animations directly into the file. Again, we’d like to direct you to Adobe Acrobat Pro to do this. Just note that adding various media formats into a PDF will increase the file size exponentially. This is why most PDF users rely on hyperlinks to redirect readers to a YouTube video or other streaming site. But if you really want to impress the reader, open Adobe Acrobat Pro and follow the steps here.

How to Compare PDFs to Check for Plagiarism

There are a lot of premium plagiarism checkers that are excellent for weeding out plagiarism from website content and modifiable document files, but they aren’t compatible with PDFs. For that, you’ll need to use a top-notch PDF content checker tool. The Copyleaks compare PDF files feature works quicker than other PDF plagiarism tools, provides detailed results, is compatible with all kinds of document file formats, and can be done directly in your browser. One can also utilize the Copyleaks duplicate file finder tool to easily find duplicates within PDF files.

How to Make PDFs SEO-Friendly?

Before publishing a PDF on your website, you’ll want to do more than just its contents for plagiarism. Checking duplicate content for SEO is extremely important for anything you wish to publish on your website. Whether the content is in a PDF format or otherwise, if it is indexable by a search-bot like the Google bot then without a question it needs to be original content. You can implement the following tips to make your PDFs more easily searchable online:

  • Include SEO keywords in the PDF’s title
  • Close spaces in the PDF file name with dashes or underscores (be consistent)
  • Focus on text, not media-based content (charts, videos, images)
  • Incorporate Alternative Text into images in the PDF file
  • Include links in the PDF to your website and vice versa

How to Safely Share PDFs

Try to imagine what could happen to your business if sensitive information leaks out. You, your clients, or suppliers could get in a lot of trouble if private information finds its way into the hands of the public. So, how do you share PDFs safely? Here are a few tips:

  • Add a watermark to let users know that the PDF is confidential or a draft.
  • Add a password to view the PDF. Also, request from the recipient not to share the file and password with unauthorized users. Make sure you choose a strong combination which is not easily guessable.
  • Blur/redact confidential information using Adobe Acrobat Pro. Simply blacking-out text might prove insufficient.
  • Edit or remove metadata prior to sharing the PDF file.


After going through this article, you should have a good understanding of what PDFs are and their significance in the digital age.  You can refer to this guide to know how to save, convert, modify, and optimize your PDFs. We’ve also included a list of PDF editor platforms with various tools to perform any task you need. While we’ve put a heavy emphasis on Adobe Acrobat Pro since, after all, it’s the most comprehensive PDF editing tool available, there are numerous free PDF editor tools online to help your business access and share PDFs. 

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