After a long wait, Art Department is finally back. I am sorry for the past few months, but work has been really hectic over here. Anyway, this month’s topic will be Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF). As simple as this file format sounds, you will be amazed at how much more there is to it.
Anyone familiar with the printing and publishing industry will probably be familiar with the never-ending search for that environmentally friendly digital document that will help towards a paperless office. With increasing attention being given to the Internet, this search is becoming more aggressive. Motivated by cyber-dominance, money, or even fame, several companies have come forward with various solutions. One of the most exciting of these solutions is Adobe’s PDF format, which not only promises cross-platform compatibility, but also ensures low file size, embedding of fonts, and an arsenal of other options.
Of course, to create PDFs you need special software called Adobe Acrobat (consisting of: Exchange, Distiller, Reader and PDFwriter.) It is similar to the fax concept in that you convert your document to a common format, which can be viewed by anyone who has Acrobat Reader installed on his machine. The format has also improved a lot since its introduction, with added searchability and seamless conversions. It seems PDF is here to stay.
More Than Just A Format
There is more to PDF than just looking at pages on screen. Like the success of PostScript itself, the success of PDF was based upon capturing the high end of the printing industry. Competitors to Acrobat saw viewing on-screen as the only problem to be solved.
This was quite obvious to me when I attended the Adobe seminar held in the middle east, two weeks ago. Adobe’s representatives, while introducing the newest version of Acrobat (version 4.0), mainly focused on the software’s ability to exchange high end artwork rather than emphasizing mere viewability on screen.
Some of Acrobat’s (PDF) highlights are:
- Create PDF files in a flash—it’s as easy as drag and drop.
- Collect memos, spreadsheets, presentations, and graphics from a variety of programs and turn them into a single PDF file for distribution.
- Convert scanned paper documents to PDF. Bring all your important documents together in a single universal format. Run OCR on them so they can be searched.
- Streamline document reviews. Acrobat gives you and your workgroup a powerful yet easy-to-use feature set, including text annotations, stamps, a pencil tool, underlining, and highlights, for paperless PDF mark-ups.
- Transferring files across platforms is made easy with an arsenal of different compression algorithms (even lossless ones) and presaved settings for the different media types (Internet, CD-ROMs, presentations, etc.)
- Embedding of fonts for making sure that the document looks the same even at terminals where the fonts used are unavailable.
- Automatic conversion of HTML into PDF format.
PDF’s ability to integrate into just about any digital media will make it the thing of the future, but unfortunately, it has still has a lot of problems to deal with. Some are mentioned here:
- Variety of formats (being updated regularly) also means that a lot of people cannot handle the new, updated PDF formats. I know this is kind of expected, however, you might find this a problem, considering how fast this program is evolving.
- Not all PostScript files can be converted to PDF. In theory they can, but we designers run into many files that just will not convert to PDF.
- Although fixed, both color and layout fidelity are not exactly perfect.
- Editing of non-Unicode fonts is still a problem.
I hope this gave you a better understanding of PDF. I would be pleased to answer any additional questions about the subject. Have a PDF time! :-)