Printable Document Formats (PDFs) is somewhat of a business standard across multiple industries. You find lawyers, doctors, corporations, e-commerce, retailers, and just about any other professional using them on a day-to-day basis.
Although they're popular in business, this doesn't mean PDFs come without pitfalls.
There are pet peeves, disadvantages, and nuances that come along with them. We're going to take a look at some of them.
And what you can do to make PDFs easier to work with.
Let's take a look.
1. Your Data Goes On "Lock Down"
You spend hours typing up a document for a contract, proposal, or agreement. Once you hit the convert to PDF button, all of your hard work becomes locked.
What was once a dynamic document now becomes a static digital sheet of paper. There's no way to copy and paste data from the PDF to insert to a database.
This means you have to type in the information into your systems manually.
While this keeps data entry clerks employed, it doesn't help much with your bottom line.
2. PDFs Aren’t Aways Great on Mobile Devices
When you open a PDF on your smartphone or tablet, it looks great. But when you try to zoom in, zoom out, or drag to read, things start to get a little funky.
Pinching the tiny screen to perform these maneuvers is annoying. And worse, it can deter folks from completing the document.
This is an issue if you're using a PDF for marketing, onboarding, or other critical campaigns.
3. You Can't Edit the Document
When you convert a document into a PDF (or receive a PDF on your desk) and find errors or missing data, there's no way to change it. The only option now is to rewrite the entire document again.
This is problematic when you're on a tight deadline and have to get the PDF in the hands of C-suite executives.
Fixing that small grammatical error is impossible, and your credibility is on the line -- not good.
4. Recipients Have to Download PDFs
In the digital age, there's always the looming threat of a virus or malware. So people are a bit wary about downloading anything from an email.
If you don't know the recipient, then you can bet they're not going to download your PDF.
Then even if the recipient does know you, the idea of downloading a document to view it is a hassle. Plus, it eats up disk space (especially if they're on a mobile device with limited storage).
5. Version Control is a Nightmare
Since you can't edit a PDF, the only workaround is to create another version of it with the corrections and additions. The problem here is that it's not always easy keeping track of all the versions out there.
And it's not uncommon for accidental deletions to occur. This makes version control an absolute nightmare for teams.
One way to counter this is to make it mandatory for editors to delete old versions before they send out the new text.
But even this doesn't always go over so well.
6. Difficulty Integrating into Websites
You may want to upload PDFs to your website, which is possible. But there's always the chance the user will run into compatibility issues.
Since you view online PDFs directly in your browser, you may need to install a plug-in. Without it, you'll have to download and see the file on another application.
7. Readability Can Be Low
The reason for the creation of PDFs was to make it easier to transform a digital document into a printable document (hence its name).
The standard layout for PDFs is A4 or A3 format. This is exceptional for printing, but not so great for computer screens with a 4:3 to 16:9 aspect ratio.
This is why you'll end up spending a lot of time scrolling through pages when you're viewing PDFs on your desktop. Then if you're on a smaller mobile device, the readability becomes even more problematic.
It gets worse the smaller the screen is. So if you're on a smartphone, then there will be issues with the resolution. You can counter this by creating dynamic PDF documents that adapt to small screens.
Why We Use PDFs
With all the cons associated with PDFs, you wonder why should you use them in the first place. Well, as with any tool businesses use, there are both pros and cons.
Let's quickly review some of the benefits of using PDF files.
Boost Security of Documents
Sharing documents that contain sensitive data is always a critical matter. This is one of the reasons why businesses use PDFs.
A PDF contract isn't something you want recipients to manipulate. Also, you can lock the file, so it requires a password to access.
Compatibility Across Multiple Platforms
While the readability of PDFs is in question on smaller devices, we can't ignore the fact that the accessibility makes it convenient. You can view PDFs on any device with the correct operating system.
The sharability of them makes it the ideal format for all sorts of business documents, including e-books, guides, whitepapers, sales letters, and editorials.
Substantial Compression of Files
The alternative to a PDF file is to keep it a scanned image file. The issue with these is that they're rather large.
An 8.5x11 scanned documents convert into about 1,000 kb, while a PDF crunches the file down to between 28 and 33 kb. Then if you start with a digital document that's 20 kb, converting to a PDF takes it down by 25% to 5 kb.
PDFs Are Forever
Well, at least that's the trend we've seen thus far. Since the creation of the PDF format, it's become the go-to file for all sorts of documents.
Even the U.S. Federal Courts adopted the use of PDFs for storage of legacy files. It doesn't look like this standard is going to change anytime soon and as long as devices and browsers accommodate them, then they'll continue to thrive.
How to Use PDFs Minus the Drawbacks
So what are some of the ways you can counter the drawbacks of using PDF files? Well, one option is to adopt a tool that makes the document process simpler.
For example, eversign allows you to upload PDF files and edit them directly in its platform. This is made possible by inserting text boxes, which you can use to add content to different areas.
Then when you're ready to send the document to the recipient, you can add them to the form. It'll send an email to the other party, allowing them to view the material in the platform -- no need to download a PDF.
Since most business documents require a signature, you'll like that you can use eversign to create digital signatures. This is possible using your finger on a touch screen, mouse pad, or mouse.
Other options include auto-generating a signature or uploading an image of your signature. The platform keeps track of completed documents, creating an audit trail.
Any changes made are done in real-time, no need to worry about version control errors.
Plus, all documents are accessible on any internet-connected device.
The security, accessibility, flexibility, and convenience it offers makes managing PDFs a breeze.
Types of PDF Files
There are three types of PDF files you can create and share. It all comes down to how you create the document and whether the content on it is locked.
Digitally Created PDFs
The first is the "true" PDF file, which you create digitally using software. Another option is to create a PDF using the print function in a software application.
This translates the contents of the document to an electronic character designation. It then creates a digital image of the text.
Scanned PDFs (Image Files)
If you take a snapshot of a document or scan it onto your computer, you can convert it into a PDF. The difference here is that it will turn into an image-only file.
There's no text layer so you can't modify the text or search through it.
Another option is to apply Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to add a text layer under the page image. Once you apply OCR to a PDF, it becomes searchable.
It's then able to recognize the structure and characters in the document, allowing it to read the text. As the user, you can search through PDF files, as well as select, copy, and markup the text.
Resolving Your PDF File Woes
Don't give up on PDF files just yet. With the right tools, you can make PDF creation and management easier.
You can make your files searchable, editable, and even apply electronic signatures at the click of a button.
If you regularly use PDFs for business, then sign up to eversign for free to see how easy it is to edit and sign documents!