I believe if not for the sweeping wave of HTML in the mid 90’s, the document management world today will only be of Adobe Acrobat (PDF). PDF supports lots of interesting features, but not limited to Cross-Platform, wide availability, Ability to Embed Fonts (People who view the document need not have the fonts on their machines), Hyperlink, Form Input, Accurate Layout/Alignment (Unlike HTML), Zooming, Index, Search, OCR and more.
There are scores of components (ActiveX, Java) from 3rd parties that allow you to create PDF files from your applications natively. Most popular are ActivePDF, though I feel their pricing is high for independent developers and Small & Medium ISVs. I am searching for a good free/affordable component that supports the creation, of PDF files. Let me come back and post here, once I find one. Till then happy PDFing.PDF viewers (Software like your browser that is needed to open PDF files) is available on all major Operating Systems and Platforms. This includes official Acrobat Reader from Adobe for free in Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Solaris, HP Unix, IBM AIX & OS/2 (do you remember this). Adobe also has free pocket viewers for Pocket PC, Palm & now Symbian OS (your right, it is the OS that powers you new Nokia phones like 3650, 7650s and Sony Ericsson Phones like P800/900). Of course, there are tons of open source/third party viewers as well.
PDF Creators (Software like your MS Word to create the PDF files in the first place). Officially (i.e. Adobe) Adobe Acrobat is the way to create PDF files. This is a commercial software that allows you create intelligent PDF files that have content stored in their native formats of text, images, tables, etc. This allows you to search the document, index them and zoom to near infinite levels. MS Office is yet to support export/save as to PDF (as of version 2003). Though the latest versions of Star Office 7.0 and the Open Office 1.1 support export to PDF.
3rd Party PDF Creators, if you just want to create PDF files on the fly for simple sharing with friends and colleagues, then you can turn to the scores of free PDF creators. Most of them install a printer driver in Windows. Then from any Windows Application that supports printing (are there any app that doesn’t?), you can print into this driver. This driver captures the input binary print stream and saves it as a PDF file. My favourite out of these free PDF creators is PDF 995 from www.pdf995.com.