Originally developed by Adobe back in the 1990s, PDF or “Portable Document Files” are now the go-to format for digital documents. Why? They’re secure, easy to use, and don’t take up too much space on your hard disk. What’s more, PDFs look exactly the same everywhere, regardless of the device or operating system you’re using.
If you’re a regular PDF user, you’ll probably already know that there are some disadvantages when using PDFs compared with other file types. You often need to pay for a PDF editor to make any changes to the file, and it can be hard to extract images or text.
In this article, we’ll walk through the key pros and cons you need to be aware of when using PDFs. Let’s kick off by looking at the positive features!
Advantages of PDF files
A big advantage of PDFs is that they are read-only files. This makes them a secure option for sharing important content such as manuals, certificates, or application forms. When you convert a document to PDF the original file is preserved in the same format. When a viewer opens the PDF file it will look exactly the same as the original file. This is why PDFs are often a better option than Word documents and other file types which can be easily edited.
Unlike other file types, PDFs can also be password-protected. This is great if you want to share sensitive information such as medical records or billing details.
#2: Consistent Display Across All Devices
As well as looking the same as the original, PDFs also display the same across all your devices. If you view a PDF on your phone it will look exactly the same as if you view it on your desktop computer.
#3: Compressed File Format
PDFs don’t take up much space on your hard drive. They can easily be compressed to reduce the file size without compromising on image quality.
#4: Convenient & Easy To Use
PDF files are easy to use and can be accessed by virtually everyone. They can be read by the main types of computer operating systems including Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh OS. All you need is a PDF reader like the free Adobe Acrobat Reader or even Google Drive.
This makes PDFs a convenient format for transferring content from one device to another. They’re also a great option for sharing information online and it is relatively straightforward to convert a PDF to another file type such as a JPEG image file.
Another big pro of PDF files is that you can easily integrate various types of content such as videos, images, audio clips, and links to web pages.
Disadvantages of PDF files
#1: Cost of Editing
Editing PDFs can be a difficult process for users who are not very tech savvy. Usually you will need to pay for a PDF editor if you want to convert the PDF to another file type or make changes to the content. There are some free PDF editors out there, but they tend to be limited in what they can do.
If you just want to add a signature to a PDF, this probably won’t be a big concern. But if you need to make significant changes to your PDF, you’ll need to factor in the cost of a good PDF editor.
#2: Difficult To Read On Screens
Since PDF files are usually in A4 format and portrait orientation, it can be difficult to read them on standard computer screens. The aspect ratio of a typical computer or laptop screen is 16:9. This means you usually need to zoom in to be able to read any text and you’ll spend a lot of time scrolling through the PDF. This is also why PDFs can also be hard to read on mobile phone screens.
#3: No Synchronous Working
Unlike other file types, PDFs don’t support synchronous working. For example, with Google Docs it is possible for multiple users to work on one document at the same time. Their edits are updated in real time so everyone can view the current version. There is no equivalent for PDFs which can make it harder to collaborate with team members.
#4: Hard To Extract Content
A PDF is essentially an image of your original document. This means it can be difficult to extract particular images or text from the file. If your PDF is simply a scan of your original document, it can also be difficult to convert it back to a document which can be edited.
#5: Not an ideal format for SEO purposes
One final drawback of PDFs is that they aren’t an ideal format for SEO purposes. As with Word or Excel documents, PDFs often lack the data needed to be useful SEO assets. For example, if there is no title tag on the document, Google will use the actual file name. This means that Google search results will just display the file name. If the file name is not very descriptive, this could put people off clicking through to view your PDF.
To sum up, PDFs can be great if you’re looking for an easy, convenient and secure format for your important documents. But it pays to be aware of the main disadvantages, especially when compared to other file types.