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What is a File with PDF Extension? explained

PDF (Portable Document Format), the file format created by Adobe for electronic document exchange.

Files with the PDF extension are one of the most widely used formats today, due to their great advantages. Due to its wide use, most current browsers have PDF readers included. Today at windowscult, we are going to discuss the topic What is a file with a PDF extension? with the aim of providing its main characteristics, how to open a file with .PDF extension in Windows and Mac OS, among other elements.

What is a file with a PDF extension?

Files with a PDF extension, together with the applications that could create and view this type of document, began to be developed in 1991 by Adobe. At the beginning, the application software was distributed with a proprietary license, and in addition, the viewer of this type of document was free (freeware) but not free.

PDF is the acronym for Portable Document Format and is used to present documents electronically regardless of the software, hardware, or operating system where they are viewed

Main characteristics of a file with a PDF extension

Among the main characteristics of documents with a PDF extension, they are shown below:

  • It is cross-platform, in other words, it can be used in the most used operating systems (Windows, Unix, Mac OS, GNU/Linux ), without modifying them.
  • They can have not only images and text but also interactive buttons, hyperlinks, embedded fonts, and videos, among others.
  • It is one of the many formats that are most used on the Internet for the exchange of documents, as a consequence companies, governments and educational institutions use it.
  • They can be encrypted to protect your content and even digitally signed.
  • It uses the ISO standard (ISO 19005-1:2005) for electronic document container files for the purpose of long-term preservation.
  • A file with a PDF extension can be created from multiple applications just by exporting the document.
  • Files with a PDF extension do not lose their formatting when sent to other people, unlike text documents that do (pages get out of order, paragraphs are disorganized, among others).

How to open a file with a PDF extension?

One of the easiest ways to open and view a file with a PDF extension is by using a web browser that supports this functionality because doing so requires following the same steps on both Windows and Mac OS.

To do so, just press the right mouse button on the file you want to open, so that the secondary menu of the operating system you are using appears, then press Open with, and select the browser that is normally used. (for example,  Google Chrome, but Firefox can also be used).

Open PDF file

At any time, in order to have more control and compatibility, it is best to opt for a desktop reader. One of the most used, and recommended at the same time, is  Acrobat Reader, implemented by Adobe itself, a free tool, being the official tool to read these files. After installing Acrobat Reader, it is only a matter of double-clicking on any PDF you wish to open, and you can even select this application as the default program to open these types of files.

How to edit a file with a PDF extension?

Before starting, it must be said that files with a PDF extension are not intended to be edited, but rather to be viewed and shared without being modified. However, there is software that allows you to edit these types of documents; Normally, most of these programs are paid, but there are also free programs for this function. We recommend the following article Best Free PDF Editors.

The editors listed below allow you to edit the files with the PDF extension, for example, delete a certain text and change it to a new text, with the same font, size and color as the original text, in other words, it will not be possible to edit characteristics of said writing. In addition, these free PDF editors allow you to make annotations, add or delete pages, you can also add notes, and highlight a part of a certain text, among other functions.

Here is a list of tools to edit these types of documents :

  • Adobe Acrobat
  • able word
  • Foxit Reader
  • PDF-Xchange Viewer
  • Libre Office
  • FormSwift PDF Editor
  • PDF to Word
  • PhantomPDF

How to convert a file with a PDF extension?

The vast majority of users who want to convert a file with a PDF extension to another format in order to edit this document; converting a PDF to another format is that the file will no longer be a .pdf, and yet it will open in software that is not a PDF reader.

One of the ways to convert a file with a PDF extension is through Microsoft Word (.doc and .docx), which allows you to open the document not only in Word but also in other document editing software, such as OpenOffice and LibreOffice.

Also, if you want to convert a non-PDF file to a document with that extension, you can use a PDF creator, tools that can take images, e-books, and Microsoft Word documents, and convert them to PDF, allowing you to open them in an e-book or PDF reader.

Other tools that can be used to convert a file with a PDF extension to other formats:

How to protect a file with a PDF extension?

You may want to share a PDF file or sets of files over the Internet, but you need to make sure these documents are safe from being accessed and copied by someone else without your permission, and you need to protect them. Below we will show you how to protect a PDF file and the main tools used for this purpose.

Add a password to a PDF

One of the many ways to protect a PDF file is adding a password to it, this alternative is not perfect and it is also the basic level of protection, but it is an option to protect your documents. We present you the different ways to password protect your PDF files.


Many PDF documents start out as Word documents and can be encrypted using this program. Follow the steps below on a computer :

Password protect PDF file on word

  • Open the Word document that you want to store as a PDF. Go to File > Save As > Select the option to save as PDF.
  • Select the “More Options” link below the file format box, then select the “Options” button in the box that appears.
  • Select the “Encrypt document with password” option, then enter a password (twice) when prompted. Press “Save”. Now every time this file is opened in Office or any other program, it will prompt users for the password.

on a mac

You can protect a PDF file on a Mac by typing a certain password through the native Mac OS Preview program. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Double-click a PDF document to open in the Preview app.
  • Click File > Save.
  • Check the encrypt box > enter your password > click save.

Tools to protect files with PDF extension

There are also PDF tools that can help add security measures to PDF files, here are some of them:

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