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Using PDF Files (for Members of the MPHS)

The Military Postal History Society (MPHS) offers a number of documents in electronic formats. This web page describes how to view the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files published by the Society.

If you already have the desired PDF file on your computer, phone, or tablet, you may skip the following paragraphs.

Download PDF File

If you see a direct link to a PDF file, such as Al Kugel's Germany Plebescite exhibit PDF file, there are a couple of steps you need to take to be sure you have the file in the location you wish. With many web browsers, if you click on such a link as shown above, the browser will download the PDF file, and activate a PDF Reader program. The trouble is, this action only creates a TEMPORARY file on your computer, which allows you to view the PDF file inside your browser, but only as long as the browser is running. Some embedded PDF Readers provide an on-screen menu that allows you to save the temporary PDF file for later off-line viewing.

We suggest instead that you download the file, by right-clicking on the link, and using the "Save As" (or "save link as...") menu item to immediatly store a copy of the document on your computer, phone, or tablet.

Existing PDF File

By the time you get to this section, you should have one or more ".pdf" files on your computer, phone, or tablet. The PDF format is a standard, and is pretty much world-wide in use. It was originally created by the Adobe Corporation. When viewed, a PDF document appears on your screen as close as possible to its appearance on the printed page. Note that MPHS documents are stored in PDF format as 8 1/2 x 11 inch pages, not A4 or any other European standard.

On most systems, double-clicking on the PDF file should bring up a viewer for the document. On many computer systems, the reader is the Adobe Reader program. There are several other readers available for computers, phones, and tablets. One example is the Foxit reader, provided by a commercial company for free. (WARNING: When downloading a program like this be sure you are connected to the vendor website, and not just any "free downloads" website, as some so-called "free" sites can try to load dangerous software into your computer or phone.)

Using PDF Readers

PDF is a powerful document system. For many documents you read, you might not see all the features the format offers. A lot depends on the author or PDF creator.


One example of feature provided by the PDF format, are "bookmarks" within a file. To see an example, download and view Al Kugel's Germany Plebescite exhibit PDF file. When you view this PDF document in a reader program, you will see the pre-set "bookmarks" along the left side of the display screen. These were put in by the Society webmaster, to allow you to navigate to different pages of the exhibit. If you don't see the bookmarks, try to enable them with the "View" menu of your PDF program. Not every PDF document will have these bookmarks.

Searching Within a Document

When the content of a PDF file is text, such as the content listing for Auction #209, you can search the text of the PDF file, using the PDF reader program. For instance, looking at this file, you can search for the string "1918", and you should see all the lots that are described as being used in 1918. NOTE that text searching will not work with PDF files made up of only images, such as the Al Kugel exhibit pages described above. That PDF file contains only page images, and no searchable text.

Page Thumbnails

Many PDF readers offer a list of "thumbnails" along the left of the display. These little images show each page of the document. It may be easier for you to navigate around the document, using these thumbnails, rather than using the scroll mechanism of your computer.

Clickable Links

PDF provides the ability to be interactive. That is, if the author set up the PDF file correctly, there will be clickable links within the document that not only jump to a particular part of the document, but can also jump to a web page in the internet. Again, existence of this feature depends on the author of the PDF document.


PDF reader programs allow you to "zoom in" on the page. This feature is quite powerful, when used with postal history documents, since zooming may improve your view of an illustrated cover or card. While zooming in may not improve the quality of the scanned image, you may be able to discern greater detail in the image, such as a postal marking, censor marking, or the stamp(s) used.

Issues with Multiple Text Columns

It was noted above, that PDF provides a view of the "printed page" on your computer screen. If the original document was multi-column, it will appear as multi-column on your computer screen. Users of other electronic formats, such as the Amazon Kindle (tm) see a continuous flow of the text in a document. When viewing a multi-column PDF, however, you will have to stop reading at the bottom of the current column, and reposition the viewer to the top of the next column, in order to continue reading. The top of the next column might be on the next page.

More Links

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Updated April 9, 2017