Using DISC Documentation in PDF

  1. What is PDF file format?
  2. Where can I download a free PDF viewer?
  3. Why does DISC use PDF for dataset documentation?

What is PDF file format?

Portable Document Format (PDF) was created by Adobe Acrobat to maintain the fidelity of a document to its original while making it accessible on the World Wide Web. One of its great advantages is that documents prepared in nearly any application can easily be converted into PDF, making it an attractive alternative to HTML, which can alter the 'look and feel' of a document. Such files typically have a .pdf filename extension. Although the format is proprietary to Adobe, viewers for PDF files are free to download and available for all computing platforms. Most sites that distribute PDF documents provide links to acquire the reader.

If your computer does not already have a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can download your own copy for free from the Adobe Web Site. The Adobe site will attempt to identify your operating system to offer you the correct version of the Reader to download; if it makes the wrong selection, you can choose a different version. The Adobe site has also been offering include other free software in the download. Be sure to un-check any boxes if you do not wish to download the additional software.

DISC uses Portable Document Format for online distribution of its archival documentation. Original hard copies of documentation are being scanned into TIFF image format for preservation, then converted to PDF for easy viewing. There are many advantages to this choice. PDF files are compressed, using less space for online storage. PDF files are automatically paginated for easy online browsing. Viewing quality is excellent, and images can be easily magnified when the originals are faint or fuzzy. PDF readers are widely and freely available and used on the World Wide Web already. In addition, the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the major supplier of DISC data, provides almost all its documentation in PDF.