In this guide, we explain how to share PDFs online, how to host a PDF online, where to host a PDF online (paid and free), and how to send a link to an online PDF.
You’ve put together your PDF document. Maybe it’s a photo collage, a how-to guide, or a short e-book. Whatever the case may be, now you’re looking to share your PDF with others. How do you share documents online? What are some of the best PDF hosting sites? In this guide, we’ll be going through why you would want to host your PDF online and how to get started doing it.
Why Would You Need to Share a PDF Online?
If you’ve created a piece of content, you probably want to get it out there for others to read. The method that you use to share depends on the nature of the content and how you intend to get it out there.
For example, if you’ve made a Christmas card for your family, you probably want to share your PDF as a link so they can download the card. If you’ve created a short story or e-book, you probably want to host the document somewhere it can be viewed online. Alternatively, you may have created an invoice or project proposal that you just need to live online, so you can download it and attach the file to an email when you need it.
You might be looking to host a PDF online if you’re a …
- Small business that created a brochure and you want to email or share it through social media to generate more leads for your business or welcome new customers.
- Club or organization that creates a how-to or welcome manual for new members.
- Scrapbooker who created a PDF version of your photos and want to share them with friends and family.
- Speaker who wants to share a PDF version of his or her presentation slides from a conference or educational event.
- Nonprofit that wants to share information about your cause, so you create a free ebook to educate potential supporters.
- Student who needs to create a PDF of a school project to send to their teacher.
- Small business that uses PDFs to send invoices and pay vendors, and you need to send large attachments.
- Researcher, journalist or writer who created a white paper, and you want to share it with a limited audience.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons someone might want to share a PDF online!
Each method to share a PDF has its uses, strengths and weaknesses, so identify your specific needs before seeking a method to share your document.
Best Ways to Share a PDF Online
One of the most well-known online document creation and sharing services out there, Google Drive also allows you to host documents on an online cloud so that you can access them from anywhere. With Google Drive, you can:
- Share your PDFs as links
- Alter document permissions to control what someone with a link can do with the document (view, comment, edit)
- Convert your .docx and .xlsx files to PDFs
- Edit the document online
Also, if you’re still editing the document, Google Drive will actively update the file as you make changes, so you won’t be concerned about others seeing an obsolete, older file version. Note that Google Drive does require a Google account for you to use it. It comes with 15 GB of file space for your online documents, which is more than most individual users need. If you meet or exceed this amount, you will need to pay for additional memory, which is incredibly cheap at around $20 for 200 GB a year (for information about small businesses, visit Google for Small Business). Visit drive.google.com/settings/storage to see how much memory you’re using and then click “Get more storage” for pricing.
Good for: Sharing large PDFs that are too big to send as email or text attachments; 15 GB of free file space; both public and private settings for sharing PDFs the way you want
Limitations: Requires a Google account for both the sharer and the recipient
Dropbox is an online document hosting website that offers similar capabilities to Google Drive without requiring a Google account. Dropbox hosts documents, photos, and anything else you need to use online. With Dropbox you can:
- Host documents online
- Share your PDF as a viewable link
- Open and sign the PDF
Dropbox does not offer the same document editing tools as some other options, and is best if you want your document to live somewhere secure. Many cloud hosting services will offer similar features with different names, so the site you use comes down to personal preference. Dropbox, like Google Drive, has a certain amount of file space in the free version but requires a subscription to get more space.
Good for: Sharing large PDF files that are too large to send as attachments to email and text messages; secure file storage; 2 GB of free file space
Limitations: 2 GB goes fast; requires account setup for sharer and recipient, and expect frequent messages with offers for paid accounts
If you want to upload your eBook or essay for public viewing, so people can discover it on their own, Scribd is a great choice for sharing your content. With Scribd, you can:
- Upload PDF, .doc, ppt, and other file types online for viewing
- Embed a link to the document in your website or blog
- Alter the privacy permissions of your document, so other people can find your content on their own
- Search for eBooks, magazines, and essays made by others that are hosted on the website
Scribd is a site geared around organically searching for PDFs while still offering some of the sharing capabilities that other cloud hosting sites have. You can use your Scribd account as an online kindle to read eBooks that others have published. Note that while Scribd is free for 30 days, after the trial period has ended, it’s $11.99 a month.
Good for: Self-publishing, hosting and sharing discoverable e-books to a potentially wider audience
Limitations: Requires paid subscription
What It Means to Host a PDF Online
Hosting a PDF means that the content on the PDF is still yours, it’s just accessible by more people than you. If you’ve written a short story, for example, the file likely lives somewhere on your computer. You want to get that short story out there, so you’ll need to move the file from your computer to somewhere online, so people can view and download the PDF for themselves.
Remember: If you change or edit a PDF that’s saved on your computer, you will have to re-upload the edited version online.
The cloud services that we mentioned in this guide act as intermediaries; your document is hosted on their cloud, which is really just one big computer hard drive that others can access to see your PDF. While the document that you upload onto the cloud service lives on their site, the original version is still yours and likely lives somewhere on your computer. The PDF on the website is just the version that others can access.
Getting a sharable link to your cloud document means that anyone with the link can directly download and view the PDF without having a cloud account. This is best if you’re mass-sharing your document with other people and don’t know who needs to access your link. You can alter the permissions of the original document on the cloud service to make sure no one can edit the document that you’re sharing.
For small businesses, most hosting services accommodate PDF documents for downloads, but the above solutions work as well (Google Drive, Dropbox, and Scribd).
How to share the PDF link
Once your document is uploaded to whatever platform you choose, follow the platform’s steps to Share. Typically, you can either send it directly from the platform or you can get a link, which you can email, text or send via message app.
So … What’s the Best Way to Share a PDF File Online?
The good news is that a lot of the services that offer large file and document hosting and sharing offer free trials or free accounts up to a certain gigabyte of memory. That allows you to test each one and find the solution that best fits your needs. We’ve presented a few platforms that allow you to share large PDF files with any size audience – from one person to a few or the whole world.