Myths About the PDF, Debunked

Researcher sits at her computer as she prepares to debunk myths about the PDF
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Not everything people say about the PDF format is true. In this article, we debunk 6 myths about PDF files.

Myths about the PDF format, debunked.

“You can’t edit a PDF file.”

Actually, you can. As developers of a PDF editor, we make the seemingly impossible task of editing PDFs possible. The idea that PDFs are uneditable is one of the greatest myths surrounding PDF files.

There are other misconceptions. Let's debunk them.

PDF Myth #1: To edit PDFs, you need Adobe Acrobat

It is true that Adobe Acrobat invented the PDF—that is probably how
the myth originated in the first place. What is not true is that you specifically need Adobe Acrobat to view and edit PDFs. And that’s a good thing, because no single PDF editor can meet everybody’s needs. 

If you are a small business owner using a Mac, you probably don't need Adobe Acrobat’s advanced functionalities for working with 3D images. That means you can save the hefty cost of a yearly subscription to Adobe and purchase more affordable, standalone software.

PDF Myth #2: There is one single “best PDF editor for Mac”

Search What is the best PDF editor for Mac? and you’ll find a hundred million web pages telling you that "x" PDF editor is the very best. The truth is that the best PDF editor for you will depend on your specific PDF editing needs.

Different PDF editors come with different tools and features. Some are desktop apps, some are iOS apps. Some are standalone programs, some are subscription-based. They come at different prices, too. To figure out which one is the best for you, check out our guide.

PDF Myth #3: It’s safe to use an online PDF editor

When you upload a file to an online PDF editor or an online PDF converter, you give the platform temporary access to it. You should probably not do that if your PDF files have sensitive or confidential information.

In terms of risk level, a free online PDF editor is riskier, since free online services may collect your data and even infect your computer with malware. Paid online PDF editors are, in theory, safer, but your privacy and security are never guaranteed. 

If you're a lawyer, an accountant, a doctor, a government employee, or any professional working with sensitive or confidential documents, we strongly recommend using a desktop app. 

PDF Myth #4: You can’t edit a flattened PDF

A common misconception is that once flattened, a PDF can no longer be edited. The truth is that you can still mark up and select objects in a flattened PDF, including bitmap images such as signatures, provided you have a PDF editor such as PDFpen. Thanks to PDFpen’s optical character recognition (OCR), you can transform flattened PDFs into editable documents and even make static forms fillable.

PDF Myth #5: eSignatures in PDFs are not legally binding

eSignatures are more secure than most people think. They usually contain more court-admissible evidence than their wet counterparts. They are also are legally binding in almost every country in the world.  

These days, people and companies everywhere are adding and collecting signatures electronically because it's a faster, cheaper, and more convenient way to do business. Many do so using PDF editors, sometimes in combination with e-signature services like DocuSign.

PDF Myth #6: A password-protected PDF is 100% secure

Password-protecting a PDF document doesn't make it 100% secure. With time and dedication, a hacker can crack PDF encryption. Does that mean setting passwords is useless?

Not at all. As tech writer Michael E. Cohen wrote, “Just because someone can smash in a locked door is no reason to prop the door open.”

Password protection is the PDF security equivalent of locking your front door. It adds one layer of protection to an otherwise unprotected document. There are other layers you can add, including redacting classified information, removing PDF metadata, and applying watermarks.

Help dispel these myths about the PDF format

Did you use to believe any of these myths about the PDF? Your coworkers, friends, and family members might still think they're true. Share this article with them to clear up any confusion.

To learn more about PDFs, check out: