Adobe Portable Document Format .PDF File Description

Portable Document Format, .PDF, is a file format used for document exchange. PDF is typically used for representing two-dimensional documents. Surfer can also export contours to 3D PDF documents. PDF was created by Adobe Systems.

File Structure

A .PDF file consists primarily of eight object types.

  • Boolean values, representing true or false
  • Numbers
  • Strings
  • Names
  • Arrays, ordered collections of objects
  • Dictionaries, collections of objects indexed by Names
  • Streams, usually containing large amounts of data
  • The Null object


Click the Home | New Map | Base command to create a base map from a PDF file. Click the Home | Insert | Graphic command to import the PDF file as a group of objects or images. See PDF Import Options Dialog


Click the File | Export command to export as a PDF (Raster) (*.PDF) file or a PDF (Vector) (*.PDF) file. Alternately, you can use the File | Print command to print to a PDF driver if you have one installed.


When a map with a defined coordinate system is exported to a Vector PDF file format, a GeoPDF file is created automatically. The scaling source for the GeoPDF is changed on the Scaling page in the Export Options dialog. When a map with a defined coordinate system is exported to a Raster PDF file format, the georeference options for the GeoPDF are changed on the Scaling and Spatial References pages in the Export Options dialog. The Internal file format option must be checked on the Spatial References page to create the GeoPDF.

An add-on, such as TerraGo toolbar, may be needed to view the GeoPDF options in Adobe's Acrobat or PDF Reader programs. The map layer and map must have an assigned coordinate system in Surfer prior to the export.

GeoPDF files can be imported as a base map in Surfer.


3D PDF documents render a 3D model inside a PDF document. The view can rotate and zoom, and layers can be turned on and off. Surfer can export contours from a contour layer to a 3D PDF. Only contours are exported to 3D. The best use case is to export a map with only contour layers where the XYZ units are the same. The option to create a 3D PDF is displayed in the Vector PDF Export Options dialog.

See Also

Adobe Acrobat .PDF Export Automation Options

Adobe Acrobat .PDF Import Automation Options

Adobe Acrobat PDF Import Options Dialog

Adobe Acrobat .PDF Raster Export Options Dialog

Adobe Acrobat .PDF Vector Export Options Dialog

File Format Chart