PDF Power – part 1

I’ll just come right out and say it- the PDF is one of the most useful yet misunderstood concepts in instructional technology. Well have no fear, because the CTL Blog is here to shed some light on the subject! (Insert nostalgic, superhero theme song here.) To make this as painless as possible, I’ve created the unofficial guide to everything that you need to know about PDFs… For Dummies… Cliff Notes… abridged edition 1.0!

Chapter 1: What is a PDF?

PDF is a file format that was created in 1993 by Adobe Systems. P-D-F stands for “portable document format.” Virtually any type of file can be converted into a PDF, including documents, presentations, spreadsheets, forms, and even multimedia. To view a PDF, Adobe Reader is used, which is a free viewer that can be downloaded from Adobe’s website here: get.adobe.com/reader/. Most computers even come pre-installed with the Reader (though you may be prompted to download an update periodically), which runs as a plug-in within your web browser.

Chapter 2: What does this really mean?

If you convert a file to PDF, you can share it electronically with anyone, anywhere in the world, and they’ll be able to view it exactly as you see it.

Chapter 3: What is the most common PDF misunderstanding?

Many people try to edit PDFs, but the format is NOT editable. In fact, this is one of the main advantages to a PDF, because it prevents viewers from altering the original document without the creator’s permission. When a PDF needs to be changed, you must locate and open the ORIGINAL file and apply the changes, then convert that updated file to a new PDF. Think of a PDF as a photograph of a document, but not the document itself.

Chapter 4: As a college instructor, why should I care?

Using PDFs is the easiest and most fool-proof method for sharing electronic files with your students. All on-campus computers are equipped with the Adobe Reader. If a student is working from home and has trouble viewing a PDF, they would simply need to download/install the latest Reader (which takes about 2 minutes, and may even happen automatically). The format also prevents your students from altering the content, so there can be no confusion!

If you are using ANGEL to facilitate your courses, rest assured that ANGEL plays very nicely with PDFs. In fact, it’s a great idea to convert files to PDF before uploading to ANGEL because of the advantages already mentioned, and also because PDFs are often smaller in size than the original files… especially large PowerPoint files. Our ANGEL server space is limited, so conservation is important!

NOTE: If you’re teaching a course that requires editing of files, though, you cannot use the PDF format.

Tune-in to the next post for the final two exciting chapters, where you will learn how to create PDFs yourself, and more!

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