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What Are PDFs Used For?

The PDF is an incredibly popular — and practical — document format for sending information across the web. We won’t be covering the details about what a PDF is here or how to make PDFs — check out our separate articles on those topics. But, after learning a bit more about PDFs, you may be wondering how people use them?

So how do people use PDFs? How do you use a PDF? What can PDFs be used for? 

This article will be answering the top six ways that people use PDFs on the web.

6 Ways People Use PDFs 

Sharing documents 

The PDF is still one of the best ways to share documents online — but why? 

When sending documents over the web, many people are tempted to send documents in their original form, like .doc or .docx files they created in Microsoft Word. These are the file formats that are directly editable with document editing software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. But, because they’re editable, there is no guarantee that the recipient will be using the same software or the same version of the software as you. 

Why does this matter? Your document editor may not have the same formatting settings as someone else’s editor. This will result in a confusing, unformatted document that will appear far different than you intended. In short: If you simply want to share information, and the files aren’t compatible, it’s a pain in the neck.  

PDFs preserve formatting settings across any device — any person who opens a PDF will always see the same thing. This also means that PDFs aren’t as easy to edit as documents, but a dedicated web-based PDF editor can help with this. 

Creating Forms

Filling out documents online can often be annoying if using a traditional file format like .doc or .docx. The person filling out the document may struggle to get the font size correct or alter the questions as they fill it out. 

For this reason, PDFs are by far the most popular (and best!) option for creating fillable forms on the web. A PDF fillable form lets the author designate which areas they want the recipient to be able to “fill out”.  To learn more about creating a fillable PDF form, check out our article on how you can use PDF.Live’s tools to create a fillable form

Securing Documents

Not all documents should be accessible by anyone who comes across it. Important medical forms, tax documents, and other sensitive information are often in PDF format but may be completely unsecured. Fortunately, there is a way to secure PDF documents! 

PDFs can be password protected so that only someone with a password can open and view the document. When a PDF is password protected, it’s typically encrypted so that all the information within is inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t have the password for your PDF. Make sure that you remember what the password is, though!

Preserving and Storing Documents

PDFs generally have smaller file sizes and won’t take up a lot of room on your computer if they’re compressed and stored. Additionally, if you decide to switch document editors later on, all of your old documents will still be viewable by you. If you have some old documents, such as tax documents, stored on your computer, consider converting them to PDFs for easier storage. 

PDFs can also be merged and compressed to make them easier to store on your computer. With how flexible PDFs are, you can convert many different file types to PDFs to store all of your information more efficiently. 

Collaborating On Documents

Creating a document with a team? Need to send something to an editor? PDFs let you comment and annotate documents so that you and other people can collaborate on documents. You can also add shapes, lines, and text boxes to PDFs depending on how you like to edit them. 

This can be especially useful for asynchronous editing, where you want to send someone a larger document over email and receive feedback from them later on. 

Creating Resumes

One of the most popular uses for PDFs is resumes for job applications. When creating a resume, it’s incredibly important that you present yourself professionally. This means that a hiring manager can clearly find all of your experience, skills, and awards on your resume. 

Resumes should be created with document editors like Microsoft Word, but should not be shared in a .doc or .docx file (unless specified otherwise by the employer). When applying for a job, most job-search platforms will require you to upload your resume as a PDF so that the formatting settings are preserved for potential employers. Additionally, many industries use applicant tracking systems to scan resumes and sort hundreds of applicants at a time. Uploading your resume as a PDF ensures that these systems can scan and collect information for hiring managers to review.


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