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PDF is out of touch, implies industry expert
another industry expert disagrees

 4:05 pm on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

Burton Group analyst Guy Creese, quoted:
"The mental model of PDF (a paper
lookalike for documents) means that Adobe is not thinking of content as recombined snippets, which is what XML is starting to allow. XML, XQuery, publishing on the fly, wikis, are all driving companies to create dynamic documents rather than snapshots of documents," he told
source [labs.itweek.co.uk]

Reporter Tim Anderson quotes Guy to imply that Adobe PDF is "out of step".

I don't see that as a criticism against PDF. I like that fact that PDF is not for dynamic documents. It's what differentiates that medium from almost everything else on the Web.

Sometimes you just need a snapshot of a document. Not all documents are wiki. Sometimes words on a page are literature, and you do not want them to be different every time you open it.

While Dynamic PDFs are an oxymoron, it's EASY to create Dynamically-generated PDFs. For instance, if a newspaper is generated dynamically from the freshest news stories, you could ask for the latest issue as a PDF and get a different front page every time you download it.

But once you have that PDF it's a (metaphorically) tangible thing that you can save and send to a printer or read on a screen -- the same way every time you open it. You know it's not going to be in a different font, size, orientation, language, encoding... and page 322 of the document is and always will be on page 322.

If pundits like these start making noise about how their PDFs aren't wikifiable, they're going to influence executives at Adobe, and we'll end up with annoying PDFs that break the mental model of what makes a PDF act like itself. Flamethrowers at the ready!



 4:34 pm on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I agree. I love .pdf's for email attachments. I spend a lot of time creating these documents. I want them to appear on the screens of far-flung associates exactly as I made them, exactly as I see them. I don't want them to edit my work and call it their own! If that were my goal, my desire, I'd send them the original document and a note that said, "Edit and sign your name."

Heck. The best example of this is my resume. I don't want people to have my original. I send the .pdf so they see it exactly as I designed it with my graphics, margins, fonts, etc. I don't need to send the original graphics or anything that can be mutated or distorted. A .pdf is a way to VIEW...MY...WORK...


 4:42 pm on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

I also agree. We frequently send receipts that our customers give to their employers for reimbursement. So we send .PDF files. Send the orignal .DOC or .XLS file, and you're just asking them to edit them and pad the amount they'll get reimbursed. Plus not everyone uses MS Office as some people can't afford it and have scruples and won't use a pirated version. But a PDF reader is free for the download.

Another thing I like is editable PDFs (where you can enter data, but not change the formatting). Give someone the same thing in a .DOC file and you know you're going to get it back with the formatting changed!


 7:06 pm on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)



 8:56 pm on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

PDFs are perfect for instant online delivery of documents that were formatted for print, such as an owner's manual, a research report, a form that will be mailed (such as a passport application), or a product brochure. What's not to like about that?


 9:08 pm on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

But PHP does allow for PDF dynamic fields, to recieve user's input, doesn't it?

<edit>well, the pdf php version at least
On another hand I believe that the newer PDFs allow for user input</edit>


 9:11 pm on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yup. I like printing to PDF for many of the reasons noted + to save paper. If I ever needed a paper copy of a receipt or web page, say, I could print it to paper from my saved PDF and no one would know I hadn't just printed it straight from the web on the day I did the original print to PDF (natively supported in Mac :) ). If the PDF were more dynamic this wouldn't work. Also, one of the great things about PDFs is they tend to be supported on almost every platform (Windows, Mac, Unix, Linux, iPhone, etc). Adding tons of new features would no doubt cause problems with these implementations.


 9:15 pm on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

This is just FUD. Microsoft has just come out with a new, XML-based "specification" which, they hope, will "compete" with PDF. It is apparently fairly easy to create PDF from XML-formatted content--several sites take my XML-formatted content and PDF-ize it. Which makes PDF good for, um, FIXED content and bad for repurposing from; and XML good for repurposable content but lousy for FIXED content.

Microsoft's proposal compares to XML-based specifications (like ODF). It has nothing in common with with machine-language code for pigment-spraying devices (which is what PDF is). And it has nothing to do with portability, which is the only point of HAVING a standard.


 10:27 pm on Jul 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

The author is out-of-step with what PDF was created for as it's well rooted BEFORE the web.

Time for a trip to the wayback machine...

I worked at a branch of Lotus that was next door to Adobe in Mtn. View way back then and was involved in some meetings about what became PDF and it pre-dated the web as we know it and the reason it was created is still as valid today as it was way back then.

Imagine you're at your desk in 1991 getting an email with a Word Perfect file attachment and you have Microsoft Word. You can't read the dang thing and if you could get a Word Perfect import filter it still lost some data so you weren't seeing the same document that the sender sent.

Not only that, there are some types of documents you may send via email such as an invoice or legal document that you don't want the recipient to be able to alter.

That's where PDF originated from with the concept of one document type that could be shared that everyone could read regardless of the source of the document and alteration restrictions easily controlled.

Does that mean PDF should keep up with the web?

Of course it does, but I don't see PDF and dynamic XML merging being a benefit to anyone nor do I see Microsoft's new specs solving the legacy issues still addressed by PDF.


 12:34 am on Jul 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

True Bill,

But you would think a company as large as Adobe would like to evolve a bit. May be allow the creator to lock it down or have the option for users to fill in fields. They have a great product line and it would be nice to have flash work with a pdf


 1:06 am on Jul 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

it would be nice to have flash work with a pdf

Maybe I'm missing the big picture, happens now and then, but why would you want Flash and PDF to work together?

Two totally different technologies addressing totally different needs.

Flash is dynamic multimedia where as PDF is designed as a portable printed document typically created via the PRINT command.

True, some potential application exist to make PDF read a data stream but I can think of many other technologies that are much simpler to integrate that already do this.

FWIW, people have been saying email is "out of touch" and "a dead product" for the last 10 years yet email use is booming and PDF is much younger than email and it's use is booming as well.

I would say both are commodity technologies which doesn't make them out-of-touch at all.

[edited by: incrediBILL at 1:08 am (utc) on July 26, 2008]


 2:16 am on Jul 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

Where Adobe is out of step is in the ridiculous bloatware they've turned Acrobat into. Acrobat 9 is a 30mb download and uncompresses to a whopping 230mb on disk. The browser plugin is also slow (and sometimes crashes the browser) and I always try to save a PDF instead of trying to view it in the browser.


 7:38 am on Jul 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

PDF approaches paper in more ways than just 'feel'; ironically, it's been a great help to the print industry: fonts, kerning, spacing, images, graphics, all embedded into a document readable but unalterable by any printer. Most printers swear by it these days.

[edited by: Josefu at 7:40 am (utc) on July 26, 2008]


 7:44 am on Jul 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

This thread is full of savvy web users right? So I hope nobody is still using the Adobe PDF reader. How any software company can write what should be a simple problem but make it the poster boy of bloatware I really don't know.

I know I cannot drop links in here so I'll give you a clue.

The free PDF reader software you want (size about 3MB) goes by the same name as the small dog like animal that the English love to hunt on their horses (well, used to as this form of sport has now been banned).


 12:34 pm on Jul 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

It is a remarkable piece of software; small but 100% effective, and so much quicker than the 'official' version, and seems to have more features than I'll need (and several I didn't know existed!).

But be careful where you download it.

On some sites, even to get the "00.00" 'trial', you have buy something else that costs at least 9.99, or sign up for a book club / download club that will follow you to your grave (and likely beyond). And you've already given your email address before they tell you about the 'conditions'.

You can download it for free from their own site. It's a weird site - it seems you can choose between paying 39.99, or getting it for free. Personally, I'd have happily paid, say, 9.99; remembering that I'd be buying on one half recommendation here ;) - but not 39.99, so I got the free version. Go figure!


 1:30 pm on Jul 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

You're talking about Foxit, the free PDF Reader.

In the same breath, I might mention there are several others besides Foxit, named Drumlin, Sumatra, Skim, and Okular. They are all competing in that free space where Adobe incurs no financial damage.

The PDF format is open-licenced, right? So anyone can make a PDF reader/writer, sans licencing issues and without angering Adobe. I learned that on the Internet, but I forget where, so pls correct me if I'm wrong.


 7:42 pm on Jul 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

How any software company can write what should be a simple problem but make it the poster boy of bloatware I really don't know.

True, you can be smaller and faster if you're just a shadow of the original product.

Having developed large scale software it's the large scale aspect of the product that causes the bloat such as internationalization, being broad based covering all aspects, requirements and quirks for 3rd party products, cross-platform support, obscure data types, etc.

Most of the things those so-called clones gloss over and ignore are the difference between a really well-rounded product and a mere approximation with no support.

I must say, I do get a chuckle over the bloat discussions in the days of computers with 2 dual core CPUs, 4GB RAM and 1TB hard drives where bloat on anything except Norton AV, which impacts the entire machine, is relatively insignificant.


 9:43 pm on Jul 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

>>>>>>>>>> May be allow the creator to lock it down or have the option for users to fill in fields.

PDFs can do this.


 9:55 pm on Jul 26, 2008 (gmt 0)

True, you can be smaller and faster if you're just a shadow of the original product.

True enough, and M$ are past masters at that Word is absolutely huge so than no typist anywhere between here and Alpha Centauri can ever say "they don't have the gismo I need" - whereas for 99.9% of us, we'd have to live 300 years to explore all the gizmos it carries.

I'm sure there's some of that in Acrobat reader - but when all you want is a reader, you don't really want to wait five minutes while it goes through all the possible scenarios in it's mind, you want to see the document!

Even on very powerful PCs, acrobat is so s-l-o-w.

And just for reading, a clone is just dandy, if adobe think they're too good to do a lite version!


 12:17 am on Jul 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

I don't see the fuss, I read a few PDFs a day and those 3-4 extra seconds to INITIALLY load won't mean squat at the end when I'm clutching my chest from a heart attack so I'm not sure what the point is.

[edited by: incrediBILL at 12:17 am (utc) on July 27, 2008]


 12:34 am on Jul 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

A dynamic pdf would just be a webpage - doesn't html and php cover that - what am I missing? PDF has a seperate purpose.


 1:31 am on Jul 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

acrobat reader is slow enough for me that i actually think twice before clicking a known pdf link.


 5:27 pm on Jul 27, 2008 (gmt 0)

I like it because just about everyone can print out PDFs and in my hobby topic I design patterns that require templates that can be printed out in an exact size.

There is still a need for something simple to use. I hope they will keep it that way.


 1:21 am on Jul 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

There are freeware versions of the PDF writer/viewer available. They even have text protection built in.


 8:52 am on Jul 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

it would be nice to have flash work with a pdf

from Adobe's blog [blogs.adobe.com]:
Video and Flash animations running in a PDF are cool, no doubt. Drop a video in a PDF file and chances are pretty good that everyone you send it to will be able to play it.

[edited by: phranque at 10:46 pm (utc) on Aug. 1, 2008]
[edit reason] changed quote and provided link [/edit]


 1:58 pm on Jul 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Acrobat is rubbish, it's true, very buggy and lacking what would seem to be obvious features. Anyway, for me at least it's critical, we use PDFs for lots of things.

@ the person wondering why Flash integration is useful. For a start, it would be nice as an alternative to the current video embedding, so you could just copy in existing built-for-web SWF & FLV solutions rather than having do monkey round with the Adobe thing. Also, there are lots of applications that people might want to use it for, in similar ways to the 3D plug-in.

Or just animated graphics for decoration on distributable documents. We have lots which are intended to be printed, but if folk are looking at them onscreen, why not make 'em pretty.

For example we have a dimensions sheet of a product. Next to the dimensions info, there is a small 3D model of the product which rotates slowly. It helps illustrate what is a complex shape. It prints okay as a static frame. It's an excellent feature.


 2:01 pm on Jul 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Current #1 annoying Acrobat bug for me: stupid thing does not redraw its boundaries properly when maximized, if opened as a non-maximized window. PDF stays in an invisible window the size of the original window if resized. DUMB.
Acrobat 3D 8.1.0, nVidia gfx.

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