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Issue #429: October 11–17, 2015

Q: I want a class in why/when you have to convert something to a PDF file.

– Spouse Peripheral
Geek House, Florida

A: Yes, Dear. Of course, Dear. Seriously though, the other day I got the above text message from my lovely wife when she was at work. Apparently, when handling customer files at her office, she is often given the option of converting a document into a PDF, and she wanted to know a little about why she would want to do that. Fair enough. On the off chance that there are others of you with the same deep and abiding thirst for this information, I shall be happy to impart my knowledge unto you.

The letters PDF stand for Portable Document Format. PDF is the file extension for electronic documents created in the Adobe Acrobat format. Once upon a time, Acrobat was the only software that could create PDFs, but these days there are many different ways to create them, including via software which is free to download online. This is one reason why they are becoming so common. PDFs can be viewed, printed, and even saved by using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader, which even includes a plug-in that lets you handle PDFs right in your browser.

There are many reasons why one might want to choose PDF over other document formats. One reason is that PDF provides an excellent ability to re-render the original document for viewing or printing. It can include hi-resolution graphics and embedded fonts so that copies of the PDF have the same quality appearance as the original, no matter what computer they are rendered on. They can also include items such as embedded hyperlinks, and text fields for data entry. PDF files can also be protected from alteration. That’s important with business and legal documents so all interested parties know that nobody out there is making any subtle changes to them. PDFs can also be electronically signed, meaning that e-mailed documents such as contracts needn’t be printed, manually signed, and re-scanned before being e-mailed back.

Finally, the PDF format is largely platform independent. To put that less-Geekishly, no matter what device you’re running, whether it be a PC, Mac, iPad, Android, Linux box, or whatever, there is software available to make it possible to view and manipulate PDF files. That makes PDF a sort-of universal format, and that, dear Spouse Peripheral, is why you might want to convert something to a PDF.

• • •

Q: Thank you for that informative article about Windows 10. For the most part I love it, except one minor thing, I have lost the solitaire games from Windows 7 which I loved so much. The Windows 10 games have ads and I have to log into the cloud (I’m a little paranoid about logging into the cloud, even for a silly little game). Plus it takes time to open them up. How can I bring back those simple games I loved so much? I know this is not the high tech program question, but I love the simple things that I have enjoyed for so many years.

– Doug F.
Valparaiso, Florida

A: The games that used to automatically install with Windows – Solitaire, Minesweeper, Hearts, etc. – are still available. Under Win 8/8.1 you must go and install them from the Windows Store. They are free, of course. Under Windows 10, you should see the highly ad-intensive “Microsoft Solitaire Collection” automatically installed.

Genuinely “free” content is very hard to come by these days as companies look for new revenue streams to pad their bottom line. As I’ve said many times before, advertising is one of the prices that we pay for access to otherwise-free content and services. In fact, Microsoft will sell you an ad-free version of their Solitaire for “only” $1.49 per month. There are alternatives available, including 3rd-party versions, and even the Win7 version that has been subtly altered to allow it to run under Windows 10. I do not advocate running any altered software, or even downloading such, as this is a convenient gateway for malware to enter your system. However, if your addition to Solitaire is stronger than you can handle, and you think you have the savvy to avoid the malware, check out this article on HowToGeek: Near the bottom you’ll find some links (and more warnings) related to getting viable, ad-free copies of Solitaire and the lot to run under Win 10.

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