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Adobe Acrobat (PDF) for web documents

There is increasing use of Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF or Acrobat) for making documents available in easily readable and printable form via web pages. Such things as printable application forms, brochures and other items that need to have a specific layout and appearance on paper are often better represented in this way than by ordinary web pages where it is difficult (and indeed unnecessary or even undesirable) to control the exact appearance.

Why you should consider using Acrobat

The conversion of Word documents (for instance) to PDF produces files that do not require the end-user to have Word installed on their computers. Using MS Word to convert Word files to HTML for display on web pages produces very complex and messy HTML in an attempt to present the same appearance as a printed page, whereas PDF is designed to preserve the page appearance, both on screen and when printed. In addition, when you convert Word documents to PDF, elements such as equations are preserved in a more readable form than when you convert the Word document to HTML.

PDF can also have the advantage of being more compact than PostScript, so that it is easier to send print-quality documents across a network; it provides the facility to choose a balance between display quality (for print or screen) and file size.

Other facilities are available within Acrobat, such as password protection and internal hyperlinks, and solutions to accessibility issues.

Reading PDF files

Acrobat consists of a suite of programs for creating displaying and printing documents in PDF. These are not HTML files and so cannot be read directly by Web browsers such as Netscape. However PDF is now such a widespread file format that most browsers can launch the Acrobat Reader as a 'helper' application. This is what happens on the classroom PCs, where the Acrobat Reader has been installed and the web browser has been configured to launch it to read PDF files.

The latest version of the Acrobat Reader for MS Windows or MacOS (or other systems) is available free of charge from the Adobe web site:

Creating PDF files

You can create PDF files directly from PostScript files, or by converting Word, PowerPoint or Excel files. When you install the full Acrobat package, the conversion software is automatically added to your Microsoft Office installation and becomes available as a convenient 'plug-in'.

The full Acrobat package costs £30 for a licence and CD containing the software or £20 if you download the software from the local Web server. Remember that the Acrobat reader is free, so people reading your pages do not need to buy the full package.

The University is able to make available copies of Acrobat 6.0 for producing PDF files. See the link from the IT Services Licensed software web page to:

Accessibility issues

There are extensions to the Acrobat format for helping with accessibility:

See also the Adobe web pages about accessibility aids:

Further information

For further information on ordering the full package contact the Helpdesk (e-mail helpdesk or phone 3333).

Further details about downloads available locally are given on the IT Services web pages, or you can go direct to the Adobe web site. Note that the downloads are over 150MB for the version 6.0 Acrobat writer (so you may wish to ask us for a CD copy). The free Acrobat reader is less than 9MB.