The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Portable Document Format files are amongst the best things available in your computer. The biggest advantage of the Portable Document Format is that it can be used across all devices. You can read PDF files on an iPhone, an iPad, Android devices, Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Chromebooks, and probably some other operating systems you never heard of. Indeed, it is a PORTABLE Document Format, usually referred to as a “PDF file.” The word “portable” is appropriate because PDF files may easily be moved from one operating system to another, such as from Windows to Macintosh or Android.
PDF files are very popular with genealogists. There is a host of ways that they find these capabilities useful. Here are just a few that come to mind:
- Convert files to share with family members who may not have the programs you use
- Make PDF files found online searchable to find information on ancestors
- Convert PDF files found online to a format that lets you extract facts about an ancestor to paste into your genealogy program
- Convert PDF files found online to a format that lets you extract images of ancestral people and places
- Convert PDF files of genealogy books into other formats, such as Word files or ebook reader formats
PDF was invented by Adobe, and for years it was considered to be a proprietary format. To read PDF files, you needed to obtain the free Adobe Reader. To create PDF files, you had to purchase a rather expensive copy of Adobe Acrobat. The big problem was that if you didn’t have access to the paid version of Adobe Acrobat, you could not create new PDF files or manipulate existing PDFs.
Luckily, the world moved forward. Adobe eventually lost its claim of being the exclusive provider of PDF software tools, and now a plethora of PDF products are available from dozens of software vendors. Best of all, many of them are available free of charge. You can find FREE products that will:
- Create PDF files
- Display and print existing PDF files
- Convert PDF files to a variety of other formats
- Encrypt PDF files so that no one else can view them without the encryption key you create
- Decrypt an encrypted PDF file (assuming you know the encryption key) so that you can read them
- Convert PDF files to Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files
- Convert PDF files to Apple’s Pages, Keynote, or Numbers files
- Convert PDF files to EPUB files for use in many ebook readers
Not only can the free programs convert PDF files into other formats, they can also do file conversion in the opposite direction: convert other formats to PDF files:
- Convert Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files to PDF format
- Convert Apple’s Pages, Keynote, and Numbers files to PDF files (This capability is already built into the Apple macOS operating system.)
- Convert JPG, TIFF, GIF, and other graphics images into PDF files
Numerous other free utilities are also available, including:
- Convert multiple PDF files into one larger file
- Split a large PDF files into smaller files
- Add watermarks to PDF files
- Rotate PDF files 90 or 180 degrees
- Add page numbers, headers, and footers to existing PDF files
- Compress PDF files to make them smaller and yet still be readable with any standard PDF viewer
- Fill out and sign PDF files
- Another product that will be useful to many people is a program that will apply OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to convert a non-searchable PDF file into a searchable one. There is at least one free product available that will do that, but it is a bit simplistic. It converts simple files successfully; but PDF files that use columns, various fonts, and other features may confuse it. Luckily, there is a heavy-duty OCR conversion tool available for PDF files; however, it isn’t cloud-based and it isn’t free. Still, for a few people, it could be a valuable tool.
The Easy Methods of Manipulating PDF Files
In fact, there are multiple methods of manipulating PDF files at no charge and without installing any more software in your computer.
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