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Portable Document Format (PDF), standardized as ISO 32000, is a
file format A file format is a standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requirement * Standard (metrology), an object that bears ...
developed by
Adobe Adobe (; ) is a building material Building material is material used for construction Construction is a general term meaning the art and science to form Physical object, objects, systems, or organizations,"Construction" def. 1.a. ...
in 1992 to present
document A document is a writing, written, drawing, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought, often the manifestation of nonfiction, non-fictional, as well as fictional, content. The word originates from the Latin ''Documentum'', whic ...

document
s, including text formatting and images, in a manner independent of
application software Application software (app for short) is computing software designed to carry out a specific task other than one relating to the operation of the computer itself, typically to be used by end-users. Examples of an application Application may refer ...
,
hardware Hardware may refer to: Technology Computing and electronics * Computer hardware, physical parts of a computer * Digital electronics, electronics that operate on digital signals * Electronic component, device in an electronic system used to affect e ...

hardware
, and
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software System software is software designed to provide a platform for other software. Examples of system software include operating systems (OS) like macOS, Linux, Android (operating system), Android and Mi ...

operating system
s.Adobe Systems Incorporated
PDF Reference, Sixth edition, version 1.23 (53 MB)
Nov 2006, p. 33.
Based on the
PostScript PostScript (PS) is a page description language In digital printing, a page description language (PDL) is a computer language that describes the appearance of a printed page in a higher level than an actual output bitmap (or generally raster gra ...

PostScript
language, each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout flat document, including the text,
font In metal A metal (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxim ...

font
s,
vector graphics Vector graphics, as a form of computer graphics, is the set of mechanisms for creating visual images directly from Geometric primitive , geometric shapes defined on a Cartesian coordinate system, Cartesian plane, such as Point (geometry), po ...
,
raster images file:Rgb-raster-image.svg, upright=1, The Smiley, smiley face in the top left corner is a raster image. When enlarged, individual pixels appear as squares. Enlarging further, each pixel can be analyzed, with their colors constructed through comb ...
and other information needed to display it. PDF has its roots in "The Camelot Project" initiated by Adobe co-founder
John Warnock John Edward Warnock (born October 6, 1940) is an American computer scientist and businessman best known for co-founding Adobe Systems Inc., the graphics and publishing software company, with Charles Geschke. Warnock was President of Adobe fo ...
in 1991. PDF was standardized as ISO 32000 in 2008. The last edition as ISO 32000-2:2020 was published in December 2020. PDF files may contain a variety of content besides flat text and graphics including logical structuring elements, interactive elements such as annotations and form-fields, layers,
rich media Interactive media normally refers to products and services on digital computer-based systems which respond to the user's actions by presenting content such as text Text may refer to: Written word * Text (literary theory), any object that can ...
(including video content), three-dimensional objects using
U3D Universal 3D (U3D) is a compressed file format standard for 3D computer graphics 3D computer graphics, sometimes called CGI, 3DCG or three-dimensional computer graphics (in contrast to 2D computer graphics 2D computer graphics is the Compute ...
or
PRC China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, East ...
, and various other data formats. The PDF specification also provides for encryption and
digital signatures A digital signature is a mathematical scheme for verifying the authenticity of digital messages or documents. A valid digital signature, where the prerequisites are satisfied, gives a recipient very strong reason to believe that the message was ...
, file attachments, and
metadata Metadata is "data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often numeric. In a more technical sense, data are a set of values of qualitative property, qualitative or quantity, quantitative variable (research), v ...

metadata
to enable workflows requiring these features.


History

Adobe Systems Adobe Inc. ( ) is an American multinational computer software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions that tell a computer how to work. This is in contrast to Computer hardware, hardware, from which the sy ...
made the PDF specification available free of charge in 1993. In the early years PDF was popular mainly in
desktop publishing Desktop publishing (DTP) is the creation of documents using page layout software on a personal ("desktop") personal computer, computer. It was first used almost exclusively for print publications, but now it also assists in the creation of variou ...
workflow A workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of activity, enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes that transform materials, provide services, or process information. It can be depicted as a sequence of ...

workflow
s, and competed with a variety of formats such as
DjVu DjVu ( , like French "déjà vu ''Déjà vu'' ( ; ) is the feeling that one has lived through the present situation before.Schnider, Armin. (2008). ''The Confabulating Mind: How the Brain Creates Reality''. Oxford University Press. pp. 167–16 ...
, Envoy, Common Ground Digital Paper, Farallon Replica and even Adobe's own
PostScript PostScript (PS) is a page description language In digital printing, a page description language (PDL) is a computer language that describes the appearance of a printed page in a higher level than an actual output bitmap (or generally raster gra ...

PostScript
format. PDF was a
proprietary format A proprietary format is a file format A file format is a standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requirement * Stand ...
controlled by Adobe until it was released as an
open standard An open standard is a standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requirement * Standard (metrology), an object that bears a de ...
on July 1, 2008, and published by the
International Organization for Standardization The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm Norm, the Norm or NORM may refer to: In academic discipline ...
as ISO 32000-1:2008, at which time control of the specification passed to an ISO Committee of volunteer industry experts. In 2008, Adobe published a Public Patent License to ISO 32000-1 granting
royalty-free Royalty-free (RF) material subject to copyright Copyright is a type of intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and ...
rights for all patents owned by Adobe that are necessary to make, use, sell, and distribute PDF-compliant implementations. PDF 1.7, the sixth edition of the PDF specification that became ISO 32000-1, includes some proprietary technologies defined only by Adobe, such as
Adobe XML Forms Architecture XFA (also known as XFA forms) stands for XML Forms Architecture, a family of proprietary {{Short pages monitor
PDF Association
– The PDF Association is the industry association for software developers producing or processing PDF files.


Adobe: PostScript vs. PDF
– Official introductory comparison of PS, EPS vs. PDF. * – Information about PDF/E and PDF/UA specification for accessible documents file format (archived by Wayback Machine, The Wayback Machine)
PDF/A-1 ISO standard
published by the
International Organization for Standardization The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm Norm, the Norm or NORM may refer to: In academic discipline ...
(with corrigenda)
PDF Reference and Adobe Extensions to the PDF Specification

Portable Document Format: An Introduction for Programmers
– Introduction to PDF vs. PostScript and PDF internals (up to v1.3)
The Camelot Paper
– the paper in which John Warnock outlined the project that created PDF
Everything you wanted to know about PDF but was afraid to ask

recording of a talk by Leonard Rosenthol
(45 mins) (
Adobe Systems Adobe Inc. ( ) is an American multinational computer software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions that tell a computer how to work. This is in contrast to Computer hardware, hardware, from which the sy ...
) at TUG 2007 {{Authority control Computer-related introductions in 1993 Adobe Inc. Digital press Electronic documents Graphics file formats ISO standards Office document file formats Open formats Page description languages Vector graphics PDF software,