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Celebrating 25 years of the PDF – Portable Document Format

15th June 1993 was a special date in technology history as it was when Adobe released the first version of their Acrobat software, launching the now world-famous PDF file format.

It’s amazing how fast 25 years have passed, we discuss various aspects of the PDF in this article and illustrate this visually in the below infographic. Join with us and celebrate the PDF’s silver jubilee!


Our handy infographic on 25 years of the PDF

25 Years of the PDF



What is a PDF?

The Collins English Dictionary nicely summarises exactly what a PDF is:

PDF files are computer documents which look exactly like the original documents, regardless of which software or operating system was used to create them. PDF is an abbreviation for 'Portable Document Format'.


Why was the PDF created?

There were many reasons the PDF was created back in 1993. A list of just some of the reasons is provided below:

  • Paperless office – Adobe had a dream of the paperless office
  • Device and platform independent document viewing – The recipient views exactly the same document irrespective of their technology frameset:
    • Create – The document had to be creatable from any technology system
    • Send – The document needed to be able to be sent by email & other communication methods
    • Open – The document must be able to be opened by the recipient
    • View – The document must be completely viewable and be identical to how it was sent


Paperless Office

An original part of the vision for the PDF was the paperless office


Leonard Rosenthol, a PDF Architect at Adobe said the PDF project team set out to fix:

the inability to exchange information between machines, between systems, between users in a way that ensured that the file would look the same everywhere it went.


25 years of the PDF - milestones

Listed below are some important milestones relating to the PDF over the past 25 years:

  • 15th June 1993 – Adobe Acrobat 1.0 launched to the technology market by Adobe
  • September 1994 – The first MacOS compliant version of PDF is launched
  • November 1994 – Adobe Acrobat 2.0 launched, this fully supports PDF v1.1
  • November 1994With V2.0 Adobe Reader becomes free, creating mass downloads
  • November 1996 – Adobe Acrobat 3.0 launched, this offers significant improvements for the pre-print industry
  • 2nd July 2008PDF becomes ISO standard ISO 32000-1
  • 26th October 2014 - PDF Pro (online PDF editing software) is launched!


The benefits of converting to a PDF format:

There are many benefits of using the PDF format, we have listed these below. These are also backed up by our unique poll results in the statistics section:

  • Password protection – files can be protected by passwords
  • Industry standard – PDF is here to stay and is an industry standard worldwide
  • Small file size – the high compression of PDF files allows them to be saved with much smaller file sizes
  • Format consistency – unlike other tools (e.g. Word), the format of a PDF remains the same across viewers
  • Operating system independence – PDFs are cross-platform and can be viewed on PCs/Macs as well as iOS and Android, etc.
  • Multi-dimensional - PDFs allow various types of content, e.g. as well as text – 3D models, animations, audio files, buttons, hyperlinks, images, interactive fields, vector graphics, videos, etc.


PDF vs Microsoft Word

PDF from Adobe and Word from Microsoft are two of the most popular file formats in use around the world. Here are some comparisons between the two formats:

  • File extension – PDF’s have a .pdf extension, where Word files have a .docx extension
  • File size – PDFs are larger than Word documents, PDFs carry more information, compression is possible
  • Free viewing – Send PDFs to any client, without them needing to have Microsoft Word installed
  • Open format – PDF is an open format, whereas .docx requires Microsoft Word, editors such as PDF Pro are available to edit PDFs at lower prices than Adobe Acrobat
  • Security – PDFs leave an electronic trail when edited, Word documents don’t – this means PDF’s are admissible in law courts for example
  • Universal view – PDFs look the same on any device, Word documents may look different when viewed on Windows/Mac devices or in different versions of Word, etc.


PDF statistics

Here are some useful statistics to backup why the PDF is such a popular format around the world:

  • Number of opened PDFs in 2017 – 200 billion +
  • Number of electronic & digital signatures using PDF in 2017 – 8 billion +
  • Users love converting popular formats to PDF. Over a 7-day period the most popular formats converted to PDF, using PDF Pro, were:
    • JPG – 33%
    • Word – 29%
    • Tiff – 21%
    • PNG – 16%
    • Excel – 1%
  • In a PDF Pro poll, we asked “What are some of the main reasons you prefer to use the PDF format? (Check all that apply)”, the results were:
    • Format remains the same across viewers – 30%
    • Industry standard worldwide – 18%
    • Small file size compared to other formats – 16%
    • Cross-platform / Operating system independence – 11%
    • Multi-dimensional content e.g. buttons, hyperlinks, images etc. – 11%
    • Password protection possible – 7%
    • Other reasons – 7%


The benefits of using PDF Pro

Now that we have discussed the PDF at length, here are some great reasons to use PDF Pro, our product which enhances the benefits and usability of PDFs even further!

  • 100% online – works on any browser, no downloads needed, access PDF Pro anywhere
  • Create & convert PDFsconvert multiple formats from a PDF and also to a PDF
  • Easy to use – no training is required; PDF Pro is simple to use and highly intuitive
  • Edit & view PDFs – add/erase/highlight text, add images/signatures, manipulate PDFs
  • Flexible payment options – choose either monthly or annual payment options
  • Free trial – try our product for free, without needing to register, 3 x free downloads per month
  • Save & secure PDFs – full password management for your PDFs
  • Support – product support is available during our opening hours



Use PDF Pro for all your PDF management requirements


If you’d like to read some independent reviews of PDF Pro, visit


Contacting PDF Pro

We really hope you have enjoyed reading this infographic and celebrating 25 years of the PDF with us. PDF Pro wouldn’t have been created if the PDF was never invented! If you’d like to contact us regarding any aspect of this infographic or to explore working with PDF Pro, then complete our contact form at


Image Credits: Mastermaq