May 21, 2024

Portable Document Format (PDF) files are incredibly versatile and useful. We all know that PDFs allow you to share documents so that they appear exactly the same, regardless of what device or operating system someone is viewing them on. But did you know there’s so much more you can do with PDF files beyond basic sharing and printing? Here are five surprising things you didn’t know you could do with PDFs.

What is PDF?

The PDF format has been around since the early 1990s and has become the standard file format for sharing digital documents. We take for granted that we can pass PDFs around and know that they’ll look the same to anyone we send them to. Read on to uncover some clever tricks you can leverage using your PDF documents.

1. Turn PDFs into Editable Microsoft Word Documents

One incredibly useful PDF capability is converting them into Word documents. While PDFs display content accurately across devices, they are inherently non-editable documents. To repurpose and revise content from a PDF file, you need to convert it to an editable format like Word. Converting PDF to Word used to be tedious and inaccurate. But nowadays there are excellent PDF to Microsoft Word conversion tools that use OCR (optical character recognition) to scan PDF pages and pull out text, images, tables, columns and other elements. The result is a Word doc with the same formatting that you can then edit however you wish.

The ability to convert PDF files into fully editable Word documents unlocks all kinds of helpful use cases. For example, you can take a PDF contract, report, brochure, or any other document and turn it into an editable Word file. From there, you can modify, update, or repurpose the content as needed. Say you have a PDF of an old marketing flyer – you can OCR convert it to Word and then edit it with new pricing, graphics etc. Voila! You just saved hours of work recreating a similar flyer from scratch.

2. Reduce PDF File Sizes for Easy Sharing

Another great PDF trick is decreasing file sizes, especially if you need to email documents or host them in cloud storage with limited capacity. PDF compression tools analyse your file for excess metadata, images and inefficient objects that can be optimised without impacting quality. By cleaning up and compressing these items, you can shrink PDF sizes by as much as 80% without losing anything important. Compressing oversized PDFs makes them easier to share and store – it’s an easy win.

Slimming down bloated PDF files before sending them to partners, posting them online or adding them to shared drives makes the process far smoother. Perhaps you have a photography portfolio PDF that’s 300 megabytes – attempting to email that monster file may get bounce backs or repeatedly fail. But if you run it through a PDF compressor first, you can easily shrink it below email size limits. This allows easy, reliable sharing of the portfolio without quality deterioration in the smallest file size possible.

3. Protect Sensitive PDFs with Encryption

Encryption is another powerful capability that lets you take control of sensitive PDF access. By encrypting PDF files, you can set a password that specific people need to input before they can open and view content. The people you share your encrypted PDF with will be unable to bypass the password prompt when trying to access the document. This prevents unauthorised access from people you don’t want seeing confidential information or intellectual property contained in your PDFs.

Shielding critical PDF documents behind encryption layers gives you granular access control. Whether it’s executive meeting minutes, proprietary source code, secret product specs or confidential customer data, you can lock it down with strong passwords. Attempts to open the file will be met with password challenge screens.

This selective access prevention thwarts spies, hackers and anyone without authorisation from peeking at sensitive material. Encryption acts like virtual sealed envelopes around your vital PDF files. Those without the passwords have zero visibility into the hidden contents.

4. Sign PDFs to Approve Content

Often with contracts, agreements, and other paperwork, people need to physically sign documents to formalise approvals or cement deals. Rather than printing, signing, scanning and sending paper contracts back and forth, you can handle signatures digitally with PDFs. Using e-signature apps or features in Adobe Acrobat, you can implement official electronic signatures that lock into your PDF files. This creates binding legal documents complete with signatures directly inside the PDF format – no printing necessary!

Inking e-signatures into pivotal PDF documents like contractual agreements injects them with immediate legal legitimacy. Courtesy of modern e-sign legislation, these electronically signed PDF records now carry the same weight and enforceability as wet ink signatures on paper contracts.

For important approvals and sign-offs, whipping out digital signatures eliminates the manual printed, signed, scanned routine. Signing parties can simply e-sign the native PDF file itself to instantly manifest binding sign-offs, no matter where signers are physically located. This facilitates faster, location-agnostic completion of key PDF documents requiring authorisation and approval before they become active.

5. Automate PDF Workflows with Actions

For those who work heavily with PDFs day in and day out, you can build automated workflows using Actions in Acrobat to speed up repetitive tasks. Acrobat Actions are like macros that let you record a sequence of edits, tweaks or modifications applied to PDFs that you do often. By saving these step-by-step tasks as Actions, you can then play them back on any PDF with a single click. This saves you from manually repeating the same PDF edits over and over again.

Building automated Actions removes the manual grind of performing frequently repeated PDF editing procedures. Any series of menu clicks, keyboard shortcuts, adjustments, file exports or saves gets recorded once then applied hands-free moving forward. This streamlines document handling, letting you scale PDF processes rapidly without proportional human effort.

As you can see, PDFs support far more functionality than basic document sharing and printing. Converting to Word, compressing sizes, encrypting, e-signing and workflow automation reveal deeper capabilities you didn’t know you had access to. Uncover all the surprising things you can achieve right within your PDF toolbox. Once you master these clever tips and tricks, you’ll get even more value out of your indispensable PDF documents every single day.