Why do scanners use PDF as the default file format? [Tip]

PrinterIn the field of information technology, all data that is saved and stored onto storage media is always in the default file format for the relevant type of data you process.

This is true of every application that you use to create new documents as when you save a document for the first time the software application will assign its default file format to the newly created file.

The Default File Format: Different Types

Various applications process data with functions like creating new files, modifying existing files, and saving these files in the default file format relevant to that specific application.

Here is a list of the more common applications and the default file format they use to store their data or files.

Application Name and File Format

MS Excel = .XLS

Notepad = .TXT

MS Works Word Processor = .WPS

Comma Separate Values File = .CVS

PowerPoint Presentation = .PPT

MPED-4 Video File = .MP4

Portable Document Format File = .PDF

Microsoft Access Database = .MDB

Active Sever Page File = .ASP

DOS Based Executable File = .EXE

Compressed Zip Archive = .ZIP

The Default File Format of Scanned Documents 

This table is by no means exhaustive as there are many more application software packages out there, with their own default file format, when creating new documents. These are the most widely used however.

There are many advantages that PDF files have over other graphic formats like TIF, PNG, GIF, or JPG formats.

Dedicated scanners are like digital cameras, in the sense that both these tools deal with pixels and pictures.

The default file format for scanned documents is PDF for the following reasons:

  • Most scanners automatically retain the original bitmap for searchable text. You can “optical character read” your documents so that they are self-contained.
  • You do not have to rely on operating system features or use any additional tools to secure your scanned data as scanners by default, secure the documents at the file level.
  • You cannot alter your scanned documents for fraudulent use as this can be traced back to you digitally.
  • You can scan multiple pages.
  • You can also compress scanned data, easily controlling both compression level and type, to your scanned files.

Many scanners today offer creation of new scanned files in multiple file formats. Though the default file format is still PDF with these scanners, they give you the option of selecting a different file format before you start your scan.


When you use a scanner to scan your documents, the documents are stored as PDF files by default in the scanner memory. They can be emailed to you so you can then process them to suit whatever purpose you scanned them for.

You may need to modify the document using MS Word or MS Excel or some other word processing or spread sheet software. To achieve this, you can change the default file format of the PDF file by opening it using an application different from Acrobat Reader and saving it in the format required.

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