PDF files are underrated. They are commonly shared as forms or presentations, and often serve as the final destination in the creative process – after a document is typed, the last step is to convert it to a PDF for sending.  However, in some cases the finality of PDF files can frustrate recipients who may need to take the extra step of printing the document to sign and rescan, or manually retyping the content in a word processing program to create an editable version.

This is why PDFs are prone to the reputation of being inflexible and impractical. Some expect the presence of the file type to throw a wrench in document workflows – causing delays, productivity decreases and frustration. However, the reality is that PDF files can be highly versatile and better leveraged to streamline document-based processes.

Offices in a variety of industries can increase their productivity through software unleashing the power of PDF files. This enables workers to complete tasks more efficiently and at a higher quality while improving the performance of the whole organization. The following features are examples of how workers can use PDFs to complete tasks more quickly and easily.

Editable Text. As noted, PDF files are often expected to be the final version of documents, but in fact they can be highly editable. Some PDF solutions feature a document editing process quite similar to that of word processing applications. Text-recognition technologies have also improved – making it possible to identify text wraps or formatting — columns, rows or tables. This eliminates inconveniences like having to manually retype content into a word processing program.

Form Creation and eSignatures. Another time-consuming step in document-based workflows is having to print out PDF forms, fill them out by hand and then rescan them to create a new PDF file. This is not only a headache for internal workers, but can cause even more delays if the forms need to be filled out by third parties. To make this process simpler, PDF software gives users the ability to embed editable fields into the PDF. Recipients then have the ability to fill out PDF forms electronically. Users can also sign forms and contracts if offices pair their PDFs with electronic signature applications, allowing users to sign documents with the click of a mouse.

Team Collaboration. With many businesses working under tight deadlines, multiple team members often need to work on documents at the same time. This is even more imperative with businesses transitioning their file storage to a shared cloud.  PDF software with multi-user network collaboration capabilities gives teams the ability to work together while creating presentations or documents. This real-time collaboration reduces inefficient back-and-forth processes such as email, while also eliminating version control conflicts.

Conversion Capabilities. PDF files are often perceived as inflexible. However, advances in document conversion make things easier by ensuring transitions between different file types will be typo free. PDF software also gives users the ability to combine, split and rearrange pages of PDF files. All these capabilities enable workers to focus on their jobs rather than fighting with rigid files.

Increased Security. Working with sensitive information can put companies and clients at risk. Some office word processing software enables users to password protect documents. However, to ensure that information is 100 percent protected, companies should consider housing data on PDF files. Then, users who have access to software can add watermarks and use redaction tools to hide personal information such as social security or account numbers. These capabilities, only available in PDF software, ensure sensitive data is protected.

Many workers are hesitant to embrace PDFs, holding a preconceived notion that PDFs make their jobs harder. The reality is PDF files can be used to create, edit, sign and share documents with ease, thus making internal workflows more efficient. Companies should embrace the power of the PDF, and provide their employees with a secure, user-friendly tool that reduces their hesitancy and makes them never think twice again about working with PDFs.   

Tracey Mustacchio
Tracey Mustacchio

is senior vice president of product & marketing, Nuance Document Imaging.