What's a PDF File and How Do You Open One? (2023)

What to Know

  • A PDF file is a Portable Document Format file.
  • Open one with Adobe Reader, SumatraPDF, a browser, or another PDF reader.
  • Convert to DOCX, XLSX, JPG, PNG, etc. with EasyPDF.com or a document converter.

This article explains what PDFs are, how to open one, all the different ways you can convert one to a different format like an image or an editable file you can use in Word or Excel, and how to password protect one or remove the password.

What Is a PDF File?

Developed by Adobe, a file with the .PDF file extension is a Portable Document Format file.

PDF files can contain not only images and text, but also interactive buttons, hyperlinks, embedded fonts, video, and more.

You'll often see product manuals, eBooks, flyers, job applications, scanned documents, brochures, and all sorts of other documents available in the PDF format. Web pages can even be saved to PDFs, in their full formatting, for later reference.

Because PDFs don't rely on the software that created them, nor on any particular operating system or hardware, they look the same no matter what device they're opened on.

What's a PDF File and How Do You Open One? (1)

How to Open a PDF File

Most people head right to Adobe Acrobat Reader when they need to open a PDF. Adobe created the PDF standard and its program is certainly the most popular free PDF reader out there. It's completely fine to use, but we find it to be a somewhat bloated program with lots of features that you may never need or want to use.

Most web browsers, like both Chrome and Firefox, can open PDFs themselves. You may or may not need an add-on or extension to do it, but it's pretty handy to have one open automatically when you click a PDF link online. Another way to get it to open in a browser is with a dedicated web-based opener like this one at FreePDFOnline.com.

We highly recommend SumatraPDF, Slim PDF Reader, or MuPDF if you're after something with a bit more features; all three are free. See our list of the best free PDF readers for more options.

How to Edit a PDF File

Adobe Acrobat is the most popular PDF editor, but Microsoft Word will do it, too. Other PDF editors also exist, like Foxit PDF Editor and Nitro PDF Pro, among others.

PDFescape, Canva, DocHub, and PDF Buddy are a few free-to-use online PDF editors that make it really easy to fill out forms, like ones you sometimes see on a job application or a tax form. Just upload your PDF to the website to do things like insert images, text, signatures, links, and more, and then download it back to your computer as a PDF.

A similar online PDF editor called Fill is great if you just need to add a signature to the PDF. It also supports including checkboxes, dates, and regular text, but you can't edit existing text with it or easily fill out forms.

See our Best Free PDF Editors list for a regularly updated collection of PDF editors if you're after something more than just form filling, like adding or removing text or images from your PDF.

What's a PDF File and How Do You Open One? (2)

If you want to extract part of a PDF file as it's own, or split a PDF into several different individual documents, there are several ways to pull that off. See our for all the help you need to get that done.

How to Convert a PDF File

Most people wanting to convert a PDF file to some other format are interested in doing that so they can edit the contents of the PDF. Converting a PDF means that it will no longer be a .PDF, and instead will open in a program other than a PDF reader.

For example, converting a PDF to a Microsoft Word file (DOC and DOCX) lets you open the file not only in Word but also in other document editing programs like OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Using these types of programs to edit a converted PDF is probably a much more comfortable thing to do compared to an unfamiliar PDF editor.

If you instead want a non-PDF file to be a .PDF file, you can use a PDF creator. These types of tools can take things like images, eBooks, and Microsoft Word documents, and export them as PDF, which enables them to be opened in a PDF or eBook reader.

Saving or exporting from some format to PDF can be accomplished using a free PDF creator. Some even serve as a PDF printer, allowing you to virtually "print" pretty much any file to a .PDF file. In reality, it's just a simple way to convert pretty much anything to PDF. See How to Print to PDF for a full look at those options.

What's a PDF File and How Do You Open One? (3)

Some of the programs from the links above can be used in both ways, meaning you can use them to convert PDFs to different formats and to create PDFs. Calibre is another example of a free program that supports converting to and from an eBook format.

Also, many of the programs mentioned can also merge multiple PDFs into one, extract out specific PDF pages, and save just the images from the PDF. PDF Merge Free, TinyWow, and FreePDFOnline.com are online methods for quickly merging multiple PDFs into one; the latter two support over a dozen other PDF-related functions.

EasePDF is one example of an online PDF to Word converter that can save the file to DOCX.

See How to Convert PDF Files to JPG if you'd like your PDF file simply as an image, which can be handy if you're not sure if the person you're sending the PDF to has, or wants to install, a PDF reader.

EasyPDF.com is another online PDF converter that supports saving the PDF to a variety of formats so that it's compatible with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or AutoCAD. You can also convert the PDF pages to GIFs or a single text file. PDFs can be loaded from Dropbox, Google Drive, or your computer. CleverPDF is a similar alternative.

Another conversion you can make is PDF to PPTX. If you use PDFConverter.com to convert the document, each page of the PDF will be split into separate slides that you can use in PowerPoint or any other presentation software that supports PPTX files.

See these Free File Conversion Programs and Online Services for other ways to convert a PDF file to some other file format, including image formats, HTML, SWF, MOBI, PDB, EPUB, TXT, and others.

How to Secure a PDF

Securing a PDF may include requiring a password to open it, as well as preventing someone from printing the PDF, copying its text, adding comments, inserting pages, and other things.

Some of the PDF creators and converters linked to from above, and others like PDFMate PDF Converter Free, PrimoPDF, FreePDF Creator, Soda PDF,and FoxyUtils, are some free applications out of many that can change these types of security options.

How to Password Protect a PDF


  • How do I make a PDF file smaller?

    Adobe Acrobat offers an online PDF compressor that automatically reduces the file size after you upload it. If you're a Microsoft Word user converting a Word file to PDF, select Save as > PDF > Minimize Size (publishing online). In macOS, use the Preview app to make a PDF file smaller; open the PDF > choose File > Export > in the Quartz Filter drop-down menu, select Reduce file size.

  • How do I make a PDF file from pictures?

    You can convert pictures to PDF files in most programs and operating systems by exporting or printing files as PDFs. In Windows, open an image > press Ctrl+P > and select Microsoft Print to PDF. Use the Print > Save as PDF option on Android smartphones, and on macOS and iOS, select File > Print > Save as PDF.

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How do I open a PDF file? ›

Find the PDF you want to open in your Files and double click to open. Select Adobe Acrobat (or whichever reader you downloaded) from the list of available options. If no list appears or the page opens in another application, you can right-click the file and select Open With to choose your PDF reader. Click Open.

What is PDF file used for? ›

PDF is an abbreviation that stands for Portable Document Format. It's a versatile file format created by Adobe that gives people an easy, reliable way to present and exchange documents - regardless of the software, hardware, or operating systems being used by anyone who views the document.

How do I open a PDF file on my phone? ›

Acrobat Reader is simple to install. But, if you don't want to download the app, there are other options available to you. Google PDF Viewer will appear as an option on your Android device when you try to open a PDF, or you can select Files by Google. Both these options offer viewing only.

Where is my PDF files on my phone? ›

On Androids, all document files — including PDFs, text files, CSVs, and more — are stored in the Documents folder.
  1. Open your Android app drawer by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. ...
  2. Select My Files (or File Manager). ...
  3. Once you're in the My Files app, select Documents.

Can I open a PDF for free? ›

Adobe's free PDF reader, Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, connects to the Adobe Document cloud and other cloud storage systems like Box, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive, letting you open, view, share, and comment on PDFs from anywhere and on any device you want.

Why can't I open PDF documents? ›

Your PDF reader or preferred program is out of date and needs an update. Your PDF application is potentially damaged or needs to be rebooted. The PDF is potentially damaged or tampered with. A potential virus or malicious attack is embedded into a PDF file.

Do I need to download for PDF file? ›

In order to download and view a PDF document onto your computer, you need to download a PDF reader. Most readers, such as the Adobe Reader, are available for download, free of charge.

When should you not use a PDF? ›

Herein, however, lies one of the PDF's greatest downsides.
  1. Problem 1: PDFs are not mobile-friendly. ...
  2. Problem 2: They require multiple steps to access. ...
  3. Problem 3: You can't track reader engagement in a PDF. ...
  4. Problem 4: PDFs are static, boring, and don't let you embed multimedia. ...
  5. Problem 5: PDFs are difficult to share.

What is the difference between a PDF and Word document? ›

Using Word and the DOC format, it is easy to edit large areas of text, change the flow between pages, and change font sizes and styles, among other things. With a PDF file you can only a few words at a time and have very limited editing options.

Why can't I open PDF files on my phone? ›

Three reasons that stand out are either your Adobe PDF viewer needs to be repaired or the pdf file got damaged while downloading or the PDF file is not in the supported file type depending on the Adobe PDF viewer version you are using.

Why can't I open PDF on my iPhone? ›

PDF files in the Room use Adobe's Digital Rights Management to keep documents secure. If you're trying to open a PDF on an iPad or iPhone and it appears blank, you need to set Adobe Reader as your default for opening PDF files on your device.

What app should I use to open PDF files? ›

Get the Adobe Acrobat Reader mobile app, the world's most trusted PDF viewer with more than 635 million installs. Store your files online and read documents anywhere. You can also view, share, annotate, and add signatures or comments to documents—all in one app without any ads.

How do I open PDF files on my iPhone? ›

Read any PDF file on an iPhone.
  1. Install the Acrobat Reader app from the App Store. Launch the app.
  2. On the bottom menu bar, select Files.
  3. Locate the file on your iPhone and select it.
  4. You can now scroll through and read your PDF.

When I download a PDF on my iPhone where does it go? ›

Your PDF will be available in the Books app on any iPhone, iPad, or Mac, as long as you're signed in to the same Apple ID and have iCloud Drive turned on for Books.

How do I open My Files on iPhone? ›

Find files on your iPhone or iPad in the Files app
  1. On your iPhone or iPad, open the Files app. Don't see the blue Files app icon on your Home Screen? Just swipe down, then search for the Files app.
  2. In the Files app, search or browse for the file that you want.
Feb 17, 2023

How do I open a PDF file in Word? ›

Go to File > Open. Find the PDF and open it (you might have to select Browse and find the PDF in a folder). Word tells you that it's going to make a copy of the PDF and convert its contents into a format that Word can display.

Can anyone read a PDF? ›

Once a PDF file is created, it can be easily shared with anyone and the fonts, images, tables and formatting contained in it will be moved with it.

How to convert a PDF to Word? ›

How to convert PDF files into Word documents:
  1. Open a PDF file in Acrobat.
  2. Click on the “Export PDF” tool in the right pane.
  3. Choose Microsoft Word as your export format, and then choose “Word Document.”
  4. Click “Export.” ...
  5. Save your new Word file:

How do I open a PDF file in an email? ›

To open PDF attached in emails:
  1. Long press the PDF attachment.
  2. In the 'Open with' dialog that appears, select Adobe Acrobat.
  3. Tap Always or Just once. The PDF opens in Acrobat.
Dec 5, 2022

How to convert PDF to JPG? ›

Convert PDF to JPG using Acrobat
  1. Open the PDF in Acrobat.
  2. Click the Export PDF tool in the right pane.
  3. Choose Image as your export format, and then choose JPEG.
  4. Click Export. The Save As dialog box is displayed.
  5. Select a location where you want to save the file, and then click Save.
Feb 7, 2023

Why can't I download a PDF? ›

Typically, this occurs for one of the following reasons: Your computer is not connected to the Internet, or there is a problem with your Internet settings. Your antivirus software needs to be updated.

Is it always safe to open a PDF file? ›

Yes, they can. Because PDFs are one of the most universally used file types, hackers and bad actors can find ways to use these normally harmless files — just like dot-com files, JPGs, Gmail, and Bitcoin — to create security threats via malicious code.

What happens when you save as PDF? ›

PDF stands for "portable document format". Essentially, the format is used when you need to save files that cannot be modified but still need to be easily shared and printed. Today most devices have a version of Adobe Reader or can open a PDF in an Internet Browser.

Do people still use PDF? ›

Create and universally share documents and forms

Today, of course, digital documents are essential to the way we communicate and do business. Businesses and government agencies around the world use PDF to distribute information in documents and collect information through forms.

Why does everyone use PDFs? ›

PDFs offer many benefits, including the ability to embed multimedia content, security features, and cross-platform compatibility. Plus, they can be viewed on various devices, making them perfect for sharing and distribution. So if you're looking for a file type that is versatile and easy to use, PDF is the way to go!

What is a disadvantage of a PDF file? ›

Disadvantages. There are also a few disadvantages to using PDFs: The files can be difficult to edit. They are typically letter sized, which can make it difficult to see a full page at a time and can require more scrolling and zooming. PDFs tend to be less engaging than other web content.

Is Microsoft Word is PDF? ›

Microsoft Word documents are one of the most common types of files to be saved as a PDF. PDF files consist of text and sometimes pictures, which is content created using Microsoft Word.

Does Microsoft Word come with PDF? ›

You may not know it, but Microsoft Word which is included in Office 365 is a fully functional PDF file editor.

Is there PDF in Microsoft Word? ›

Although Word cannot open a PDF as a PDF, it can now execute a basic type of file conversion. Simply launch Word and use the "Open File" dialog to find and open the PDF. This process creates a copy of the PDF's contents as a Word document while keeping the original PDF intact.

Does Apple have a PDF reader? ›

Safari has a built-in PDF reader that automatically displays PDF documents right in the browser window. You don't have to download and install a separate PDF reader app.

What is the best free PDF app for iPhone? ›

Here we would recommend 4 free PDF viewers for iPhone with excellent capabilities in reading PDFs that are enjoying wide popularity.
  • Adobe Reader. As a trusted leader in PDF industry, Adobe Reader has made its way over to iOS. ...
  • iBooks. ...
  • Foxit Mobile PDF. ...
  • FileApp (Documents & Files Reader)

How can I open PDF on iPhone without Adobe? ›

Send the PDF to iBooks.

Tap the "Open in iBooks" button that appears. If you have another PDF reader, tap the "Open in..." button instead then select the app. View your PDF in iBooks or your PDF reader. If you opened it in iBooks, it will be stored in the app and in your iCloud storage so that you can always access it.

How do I open a PDF file without an app? ›

Double-click the PDF.

All Windows computers have a browser that can act as a PDF reader, like Microsoft Edge or Chrome, so you don't have to download anything if you don't want to do more than read or view the PDF. If you want to open a PDF to fill out or sign a form, you can install Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Is there a PDF app for iPhone? ›

PDF Reader is a powerful PDF solution for your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Any PDF expert or manager can use PDF Reader to annotate, edit, combine, convert, encrypt, scan, and sign PDF documents, wherever you are at school, work, home, or on the go.

How do I open a PDF in Gmail on my iPhone? ›

Make sure you've downloaded the Gmail app. On your iPhone or iPad, open the Gmail app . Open the email message. Tap the attachment to open it.

Where do I find my Downloads? ›

How to access your internal storage to find your downloads
  1. Open the Files app, then scroll down on the Browse tab to the bottom of the screen.
  2. Under the Storage devices section, tap Internal storage.
  3. Locate, then tap the Download folder.
Dec 8, 2022

Where do I find a PDF file on my Samsung phone? ›

Documents, such as PDF's or Word documents, may be found in your office default apps – the office apps on your device depend on which device you have and your current software version. All of your downloaded files can be found in your Download file in My files.

How do I download a PDF from Safari to my iPhone? ›

How to save a webpage as a PDF in Safari:
  1. Get PDF Expert for free. ...
  2. Open Safari and jump to the website you'd like to save.
  3. Tap the Share button at the bottom.
  4. At the top of the Share Sheet, tap Options > and choose PDF instead of Automatic, then tap Done.
  5. Select Copy to PDF Expert to save the entire webpage as a PDF.

How do I open files on my phone? ›

Find & open files
  1. Open your phone's Files app . Learn where to find your apps.
  2. Your downloaded files will show. To find other files, tap Menu . To sort by name, date, type, or size, tap More. Sort by. If you don't see "Sort by," tap Modified or Sort .
  3. To open a file, tap it.

Where do my Downloads go on my iPhone? ›

Select “Browse” at the bottom-right corner, and then tap “On My iPhone”. 3. Tap the “Downloads” folder. You'll see a list of all the files you've downloaded.

Why can't I access my files on iPhone? ›

Fix for Files App Isn't Present

If you don't see the Files app on your Home screen or dock, then you may have deleted it accidentally. To re-install the Files app, just search for Files via the App Store and tap the cloud-shaped icon to get it installed. Afterward, you should find it on the Home screen instantly.

How do I turn a PDF into a Word document? ›

How to convert PDF files into Word documents:
  1. Open a PDF file in Acrobat.
  2. Click on the “Export PDF” tool in the right pane.
  3. Choose Microsoft Word as your export format, and then choose “Word Document.”
  4. Click “Export.” ...
  5. Save your new Word file:

Can I change a PDF to Word for free? ›

It's quick and easy to convert from PDF to a Word document with the Adobe Acrobat online tool. Drag and drop your PDF, then download the converted Word file.

How do I convert a PDF to Word without Acrobat? ›

Right-click the PDF file and, in the pop-up menu, click Open with.
  1. Right click and choose to open the PDF with Microsoft Word. ...
  2. Click OK to allow Word to convert the selected PDF. ...
  3. Use the file picker icon to select your PDF. ...
  4. Once you open the PDF in Google Drive, choose to open it in Google Docs.
Jul 20, 2022

How do I convert a PDF to Word without software? ›

How to Convert PDF to Word Without Installing Software and Internet?
  1. Choose the PDF document that you need to convert, right-click the file. ...
  2. Select “open with”, you'll find another menu.
  3. Click “Microsoft Word”, this will open Word.
  4. Click “OK” to start the converting process.
Mar 23, 2022

How do I open a PDF in Google? ›

How to Open a PDF File in Google Chrome
  1. Right click on your PDF document.
  2. Click on 'Open with'.
  3. Select Chrome or your browser of choice. You can also open PDFs in any other browser you use regularly.
Dec 28, 2021

How do I download and read a PDF? ›

In order to view PDF files, or save them for later use, please follow these simple steps:
  1. Click on the PDF file link - your browser will automatically launch the Adobe Acrobat reader.
  2. Click the download icon - usually located in the top left or right corner of the screen dependent on which version you have installed.
Feb 24, 2023

How do I view images from a PDF? ›

To save an image from a PDF, simply open the document and click on the image you want to extract. Once highlighted, right-click on the image and select Copy. Then, open your favorite document or image processor, and paste the copied image into it.

How do I save a PDF as a picture on my iPhone? ›

Convert PDF to JPG on an iPhone.
  1. Open a PDF in the Acrobat Reader app.
  2. Tap the three-dot menu and choose the Export PDF icon.
  3. At the top of the Export PDF page, tap Image.
  4. Tap JPEG and then select the pages that you want to convert.

How to edit a PDF? ›

How to edit PDF files:
  1. Open a file in Acrobat.
  2. Click on the “Edit PDF” tool in the right pane.
  3. Use Acrobat editing tools: Add new text, edit text, or update fonts using selections from the Format list. ...
  4. Save your edited PDF: Name your file and click the “Save” button.

Are JPEG and JPG the same? ›

JPGs and JPEGs are the same file format. JPG and JPEG both stand for Joint Photographic Experts Group and are both raster image file types. The only reason JPG is three characters long as opposed to four is that early versions of Windows required a three-letter extension for file names.


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