4 Ways You’re Not Using PDFs to Their Full Potential

In the 1990s, Adobe developed the Portable Document Format (PDF) file format to present and exchange documents. A PDF file includes images and text that display independently of operating systems, hardware, and applications. 

PDFs represent a widely-used but widely-misunderstood technology both at home and in the office. Here are some of the ways you’re probably not using PDFs to their full potential.

1. Inappropriate Use or No Use for Must-Use-PDF Documents

HyperText Markup Language or HTML is a computer programming language used to create a web page. Web pages developed with HTML are viewed in web browsers and include links, pictures, writing, audio, and video. Since not all types of documents can be rendered in web browsers, a PDF can bridge the gap.

You’ve probably noticed that there is an abundance of PDF content on the web. However, for some individuals and workplaces, PDFs are perceived as an annoyance because they cannot be edited outright with a basic viewer. Did you know that you have an alternate PDF option that can take you beyond the limited capabilities of the original PDF viewer from Adobe? Now, it is possible to view and print PDFs from your smartphone plus instantly turn digital documents and papers into editable, searchable, and shareable files. 

Use PDFs to their full potential if your documents has the following features.

  • Documents that need footnotes, endnotes, or comments: In HTML, there’s no way to markup these structures. 
  • Interactive forms: PDF interactivity can do more than HTML. Use PDF if HTML can’tperform what you want for your document.
  • Multimedia presentation: PDF multimedia includes captions and audio descriptions. Later PDF versions allows embedded multimedia. Make your PDFs interactive with text links or linked images to make your multimedia presentation captivating.

2. Keeping Inaccessible Document Versions in Cabinet Files

Don’t keep documents you want to preserve as inaccessible in your cabinet file. Use PDF to preserve the look of your files and other essential documents. PDF is beneficial if you want to keep a record of a document in an inaccessible current state. It generates a useful preservation format that is also applicable for HTML format web pages.

Here are some other examples of documents for which you can use PDF:

  • Inaccessible Versions: Some documents have accessible and inaccessible parts that you may want to preserve together. One example is a scan of a historical document that includes live text. Another example is sign-language translation alongside or inside an audio recording or written text.
  • Custom-Crafted Files for Printing: Service-bureau files are usually poorly designed and better kept in PDF format. These documents are often printed out because onscreen reading quickly becomes tedious.

3. Keeping Records in Restricted Formats in HTML

Legally restricted format documents include US tax forms. Digital rights management documents have accessibility barriers. Instead of taking photographs or scanning these documents in HTML, choose PDF.

Using PDF with 128-bit encryption is compatible with most screen readers. That’s why alternate PDF options such as Kofax Power PDF helps adhere to the requirements of restricted format documents and prioritize confidentiality. These helpful options provides cost-effective options to common workplace apps and software options. Keep important documents digitally preserved with PDF.

Here are examples of documents that are poorly rendered in web browsers:

  • Documents designed for round-trip travel and annotation. If you want to elicit comments, PDF often offers the best format.
  • Documents with images that don’t render in a browser. Examples include Photoshop or Illustrator documents and CAD drawings in which JPEG and GIF don’t have ample resolution.
  • Documents with language script not supported in web browsers. There are a lot of “minority” languages or scripts that cannot be rendered in web browsers. In these cases, you can use PDF for documentation or illustration of the writing system used by a language.
  • Mathematical documents. MathML is unable to render certain mathematical notations.

4. Saving Paper Using Multi-Columnar Documents in HTML Format

Multi-columnar documents include both illustrations and figures. Most workplaces want to save on paper costs, so they choose HTML to present multi-columnar documents as a single column. However, multi-column web layouts produce print layouts unreliably in HTML format, so putting these documents in PDF may be your best option.

While you can save paper when printing HTML multi-columnar documents, these docs are not as presentable as PDF files. By using alternate PDF options, you save money and increase your PDF capabilities. These PDF options are less known but far more robust than Adobe’s original PDF reader. 


You may not realize it, but PDF is an exceptionally robust file format option when used properly. You’ll find alternate options for outdated PDF formats with automation features and do more, easily, such as viewing and printing PDFs using your smartphone. Use PDF to its full potential for greater functionality and convenience for your personal or professional needs. 

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.