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Building a website around PDFs

Acrobat 7.0 has great multimedia features



5:56 pm on Feb 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Checking out Acrobat Pro 7.0 I'm amazed at all the multimedia features you can put into PDFs these days : snazzy zooming comments, integrated movies, neat little crossplatform sound players free from crass Windows Media Player animations...

plus of course you can use the typefaces you want, make pages that print easily, zoom in and out with one touch...

you can also make them load without anyone seeing acrobat toolbars - so it'll be a virtually seamless transition for visitors...

so amazed I am that rather than wasting my time trying to build something that's crossplatform, crossbrowser, crossversion perfect... I'm thinking of putting a link to Reader 7.0 on my multimedia site for language learners and then building the whole thing around PDFs. I reckon in the broadband era most people will stomach the download times and the advantages in presentational terms are enormous. Have I gone nuts or has anyone else beeen thinking down these lines?


6:13 pm on Feb 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

If you can make it work go for it. How does it handle connecting with a database? Would you check out through a PDF? How do SE treat them? I am comfortable with the quirks of HTML, learning the quirks of PDF will be desireable once I can see how it is better than what I have right now.


8:03 pm on Feb 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

There's a lot to consider here - especially the fact that not all browers act like Explorer does, with that total integration between Acrobat Reader and the browser. Some will open a new, blank window with any click on a pdf file - and serve up a dialog box.

Then the pdf file opens in the Adobe application (which on my computer would be full Acrobat, not just the Reader)

Also, depending on screen resolution and window size, pdf files often open to an odd percentage of their full size (like 147%, or 83%) which can give some very fuzzy looking fonts and pixelated images.

I'm not saying don't experiment - just know that your non-IE visitors may have some awkward usability to cope with, and even some IE visitors will not see things as nicely as you do on your system. PDFs were originally created for print, not screen - and in my view they are still mighty rough on screen. I have some applications that came with PDF Help Files, and I much prefer HTML.

So I'd say start small scale and watch the stats pretty closely.


10:47 pm on Feb 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Well, aside from the search engine issues, accessibility issues, update difficulties, lack of good database backend workings, slow loading compared to standard HTML, worrying about the end-user actually having Adobe Reader 7 installed (about 20% have no Adobe PDF reader installed, of the other 80% some may only have version 4)...

Adobe Reader 7 is only available for Windows 2000 SP2, Windows XP and Mac OSX 10.2.2+. It is not available for Windows 2000 SP1 or lower, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT, Mac OSX 10 & 10.1, Mac Classic, Unix or Linux.

You'd have greater compatibility with more users by developing a site for Internet Explorer for Windows version 6 only (and advertising your site as such). That would get you about 80% of the online population.


12:28 am on Feb 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Also note: on the Mac, most browsers by default download PDF files to be viewed outside of the browser. And, on OS X, the default PDF viewer is not Acrobat (which does not come installed), but Apple's Preview (which does come installed).

I've had a few clients expecting some of the advanced PDF form features to work on Mac and getting tripped up when their users view the PDFs using Preview--which works fine for all the basic features of the PDF, but ignores some of the more advanced ones.

And, due to the bloat of Acrobat, the availability of Acrobat alternatives and the increasing embedding of PDF readers in other applications, folks on other OSs might also have similar issues.

To add to what tedster said: a number of Acrobat's advanced features are designed for document exchange within the enterprise or an otherwise similarly committed community of readers. The target for PDF on the web in general is a more basic set of features.


1:17 am on Feb 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Good to hear from you, jayjay. And thanks for the Macintosh information about the Preview application for viewing pdf files - that's quite useful, since I rarely use a Mac except for testing my sites.


9:29 am on Feb 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

great feedback, thanks everyone. as our site attracts loyal visitors I'd not be worried about asking them to equip themselves to see the content. but as you all rightly point out, the existence of acrobat alternatives plus Mac behaviour means it's not the universal solution I was looking for. Back to the drawing board. In fact there was a specific functionality that attracted me to PDFs in the first place, but I'm going to post a new thread on that as it's a slightly different issue.


2:16 pm on Feb 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

You could try launching a few pages that are clearly labelled as "beta." Ask for feedback and see what people think of them.

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