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How the PDF Changed the World

There’s one piece of technology that doesn’t get as much love as it deserves. Most of us use it everyday to transfer information, build agreements, collect signatures, or even host our product (we’re thinking of you financial services and employee benefits sectors!).

Have you guessed it yet? It’s PDFs or Portable Document Format.

Women working at computer on documents, pdf

It was built by John Warnock, one of Adobe’s co-founders, with a R&D team called Camelot. The goal was to build a technology for sharing documents, including text formatting and inline images, among computer users on different platforms. Although PDF is the dominant format for trading documents across devices today, during it’s creation it was one of five different formats competing for mainstream adoption.

It wasn’t until internet speeds increased and Adobe distributed its Adobe Reader (now Acrobat Reader) that the PDF started to pick up traction. As of 2016, 2.2 billion PDFs were available on Google Search. Dropbox on its own held 20 billion PDF files the same year.

Move forward to today and we still use PDF everyday. Whether it’s sharing a start up deck or sending an contract to a customer, PDF is the format of choice and for several good reasons.

  • Universal Platform Adoption - PDF viewers are now considered open source tools embedded in all operating systems from phones to desktops making it easy to distribute documents between devices. Also, PDF is an accepted format by all major document management systems ensuring an easy path for users to save documents on any device.

  • Document Preservation - PDFs offer a reliable method for preserving the original document’s formatting, something especially crucial for legal documents or contracts. This includes any graphs, charts, or images included in the document.

  • Paperless Workflows - PDFs have enabled many of the functions we use documents for to move to a digital format. Actions like collecting signature or filling our forms have become core functions of PDFs so organizations can remove the need for paper from from their processes.

Although PDFs have widely adopted by all types of users, digitization still remains a major challenge for most corporations. Especially the groups we work with in the insurance and benefits sectors. The main hurdle we see at Aerogami is the gap between the tools currently being used by organizations to the expectations of modern consumers.

Of course the easy answer is to recreate the wheel from the ground up but the reality is most organizations cannot easily because of legacy systems and processes. Also, who’s to say expectations or capabilities don’t change in the middle of the build and everything needs to be adjusted again.

This is why we believe the best option is to build a bridge between what is currently being used and enhance it to meet the expectations of modern customers. We already have the perfect anchor for that bridge, and yes you guessed it, it’s the PDF.

Imagine a world where any organization can take the PDFs it’s already building, upload it to a platform, and distribute a link or QR code to it’s intended audience where they could save, interact, and submit all the information like the current applications (mobile or desktop) they use everyday.

That’s what we’re building at Aerogami, a bridge between what’s been used historically and what users expect from digital experiences today. All rooted in one of the few universally adopted formats used every single day.

Follow along to see how we’re doing or if you have a PDF you want to test, reach out to us at


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