Saturday, 31 March 2012

PDF - the most AB-used file format on the planet...

In days of old, when knights were bold, before the O/S war,
You couldn't share you documents, and see them as before,
Then the Knight Adobe, presented PDF to the King,
Who rejoiced and said "At last!  An open documenty-thing!"
Alas Adobe cautioned his royal Haughtiness,
"It's read-only your Majesty - sorry for the mess..."

We all love PDF files.  In the world of information, the Portable Document Format means that everyone can read your document, on whatever device you wish - and the document will look the same on each device.  At the time of it's inception, PDF was perceived as the Holy Grail by many folk, and the format made Adobe a household name.

However, not all is rosy in the world of PDF, and the wise old silver surfer should be aware of all the pitfalls, misconceptions and stupidity that goes on within it, so here is a quick guide for those of you with you own teeth - especially if they're on the sideboard...

1.  PDF is open source
Yes and no.  PDF was created by Adobe, who released the details of the format to the IT community.  It's format is now controlled by the International Standards Organization (ISO)

2.  Once you've created a PDF for sharing, no one can edit it.
Wrong - ANY file format that can be read, can be re-created.  PDF's do contain secure features, but in essence, if you can read a PDF, then it's data can be extracted by a third party tool, and reused.

3.  All text in a PDF is true text - that is, it's a set of characters
Wrong - Any text you see in a PDF can be either character text, or a bitmap representation of text (a picture).

4.  PDF's contain either character text or bitmap pictures.
Wrong - they can contain vector images too...

5.  PDF's are small
WRONG!  The size of a PDF depends on what's in it.  A PDF containing a simple text character version of "War & Peace" is going to be MUCH smaller than a PDF created by scanning in a copy of "War & Peace" from a book (which will be mostly bitmaps).

6.  You NEED Adobe Acrobat Reader to read PDF files, and Adobe Acrobat to creater them...
Wrong - Foxit make a good replacement reader, and free utilities like Ghostscript or CutePDF can create them...

1 comment:

Chris Locke said...

Foxit used to be good, but has gone the way of bloatware of late. 14 MB download isn't bad (compared to Adobe) but there is better.
SumatraPDF is only 4.3 MB and doesn't require any installation - totally portable.
NitroPDF is also recommended, but also has editing capabilities as 'standard'.
These are of course Windows programs...