What Is a PDF Reader?

by Ann Johnson

PDF is an acronym for portable document format. A PDF is a file format that is used to make the exchange of online documents easier. PDFs can be used as printable attachments on web pages, sent easily via email or used when formatting a book for digital download. A PDF reader is needed to view a PDF document.


The software used to open and read a PDF is called a PDF reader.


Adobe Systems created the first PDF reader in 1993. Today other companies make software that can read PDF files.


Adobe and other software companies distribute PDF readers for free online. Users can upload the program, which allows them to view PDF files.

Companies That Offer PDF Readers

Aside from Adobe, free PDF readers are available through Foxit Software, Sumatra and Visagesoft.

Extra Features of PDF Readers

Some readers provide additional features, such as the ability to fill in forms, increased resolution options and speed, and some will allow you to edit the document.

About the Author

Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.

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