Using a PDF to Print
When you need to print a document, you might be faced with a decision regarding which version of the document you should print from – a Word file, or a Portable Document Format, better known as a PDF. The answer will almost always be a PDF. This is especially true when you are passing the print job off to someone else or outsourcing it.
This is because PDF files typically contain all of the printing information in a single file, so there are no questions regarding your formatting and design preferences.
Everything you need to print
PDF files were invented so that a single file would contain all the elements needed to print a document. All of the fonts, the color information, and many other settings are stored in the file itself. This means when you hand it off to whomever is doing the printing, they now have all that information, too.
When passing a Word document or graphics file from one computer to another, the most common issues that arise are font issues: corrupted fonts, incompatible versions, and especially missing fonts.
When you are using a program like Word, or Adobe InDesign or Illustrator, the file you create includes a reference to the fonts, but does not actually store them in the file. The software knows where the font is on your computer and grabs the information it needs. But when you hand that file off to someone else, often times the software on their computer won’t know where to look for the font. That’s assuming they even have the exact same font on their computer. If they don’t, or if it’s not named the same way, then their computer has to find some alternative. Often it will replace the font with one that will totally change your design and layout.
PDFs, however, include a copy of each necessary font in the PDF file itself, through a process known as embedding. When the other user opens your PDF, all the fonts are there and formatted correctly. Therefore, they do should never have to guess at your design intentions.
PDFs are editable
The main advantage of a PDF is its stability. Regardless of which computer or device it’s viewed on, it will look the same as when it left your hands. PDFs can be secured in a way that makes it hard (if not impossible) for someone else to edit.
At the same time, though, PDFs are also still editable. This often comes in handy when you or anybody else needs to make on-the-fly changes, adjustments to match equipment settings, or adjust the print resolution settings. Programs like Adobe Acrobat or any of the Adobe graphics programs are able to edit PDFs that have not had their editing restricted.
PDFs are an industry standard and are very familiar to any graphic designer and any print provider. While there may always be some exceptions to the rule, in most every case a PDF is the perfect printing format.