An electronic document is any electronic media content
(other than computer program
s or system files) that is intended to be used in either an electronic form
or as printed output. Originally, any
In computer science, data (treated as singular, plural, or as a mass noun) is any sequence of one or more symbols; datum is a single symbol of data. Data requires interpretation to become information. Digital data is data that is represented u ...
were considered as something internal — the final data output was always on paper. However, the development of
A computer network is a set of computers sharing resources located on or provided by network nodes. The computers use common communication protocols over digital interconnections to communicate with each other. These interconnections are ...
s has made it so that in most cases it is much more convenient to distribute electronic documents than printed ones. The improvements in
electronic visual display
An electronic visual display, informally a screen, is a display device for presentation of images, text, or video transmitted electronically, without producing a permanent record. Electronic visual displays include television sets, computer moni ...
technologies made it possible to view documents on screen instead of printing them (thus saving paper and the space required to store the printed copies).
However, using electronic documents for final presentation instead of paper has created the problem of multiple incompatible
A file format is a standard way that information is encoded for storage in a computer file. It specifies how bits are used to encode information in a digital storage medium. File formats may be either proprietary or free.
Some file form ...
In computing, plain text is a loose term for data (e.g. file contents) that represent only characters of readable material but not its graphical representation nor other objects ( floating-point numbers, images, etc.). It may also include a li ...
computer files are not free from this problem — e.g. under
MS-DOS ( ; acronym for Microsoft Disk Operating System, also known as Microsoft DOS) is an operating system for x86-based personal computers mostly developed by Microsoft. Collectively, MS-DOS, its rebranding as IBM PC DOS, and a few op ...
, most programs could not work correctly with UNIX
-style text files (see
Newline (frequently called line ending, end of line (EOL), next line (NEL) or line break) is a control character or sequence of control characters in character encoding specifications such as ASCII, EBCDIC, Unicode, etc. This character, or a ...
), and for non-English speakers, the different code page
s always have been a source of trouble.
Even more problems are connected with complex file formats of various
A word processor (WP) is a device or computer program that provides for input, editing, formatting, and output of text, often with some additional features.
Early word processors were stand-alone devices dedicated to the function, but current ...
A spreadsheet is a computer application for computation, organization, analysis and storage of data in tabular form. Spreadsheets were developed as computerized analogs of paper accounting worksheets. The program operates on data entered in ce ...
In computer graphics, graphics software refers to a program or collection of programs that enable a person to manipulate images or models visually on a computer.
Computer graphics can be classified into two distinct categories: raster graphic ...
. To alleviate the problem, many software companies distribute free file viewer
s for their proprietary file formats (one example is
Adobe ( ; ) is a building material made from earth and organic materials. is Spanish for '' mudbrick''. In some English-speaking regions of Spanish heritage, such as the Southwestern United States, the term is used to refer to any kind of ...
Adobe Acrobat is a family of application software and Web services developed by Adobe Inc. to view, create, manipulate, print and manage Portable Document Format (PDF) files.
The family comprises Acrobat Reader (formerly Reader), Acrobat (forme ...
). The other solution is the development of standardized non-