Eli5: How do pdfs perfectly replicate a document but conversions between different processing softwares jumble up documents?

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Eli5: How do pdfs perfectly replicate a document but conversions between different processing softwares jumble up documents?

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The programs speak different languages. I like to imagine Word and other files as as one setting up a printing press and chosing where everything goes, while still allowing for major editing and reworking.

Then imagine a PDF as printing that set up typeset onto a piece of paper with ink. With word, you have access to the tools and parts you need to create and manipulate the document, but once you “print press” the document, you can’t go back and rework it. PDFs take all the editable functions of another document language and turn it in to “in this document, there is ink here and there isn’t ink here” and sort of “strips off” all of the code that allows for editing or changing it. So if you try to convert a pdf into a word document word goes “wait…where are all my text boxes, where is the stuff that tells me how to format everything? This isn’t speaking my language.”

***TL;DR*** Simply put, it’s like taking a paper and ink document and turning it back into a printing press. It can’t be done.

This is also why PDFs are preferred or even required for many official functions: you’ve sent them a final copy that can’t easily be changed/forged or manipulated.