PDF Evolution: ISO Standards, Subsets, Versions and Types

PDF versions and subsets

The Portable Document Format (PDF) was created by Adobe in the last decade of the 20th century.

  • 1991 Dr. John Warnock, Adobe’s co-founder, started The Camelot Project
  • 1992 – Camelot evolved into PDF
  • 1993 – The tools for creating and viewing PDFs were released

The format was developed with the idea that every document should be readable and printable on any device while preserving the fidelity of the content.

PDF Versions

As expected, the format wasn’t popular from the start. Nevertheless, the PDF evolved steadily over the years to become one of the most used electronic document file formats today.

Continue reading →PDF Evolution: ISO Standards, Subsets, Versions and Types

PDF/UA is on the Way to Becoming A New PDF Standard

When the PDF became a standardized format in 2008, it served as the backbone for other PDF subset standards that mainstreamed certain uses of the PDF. Examples include the PDF/X (professional printing and publishing), the PDF/A (digital archiving) and soon, the PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility).

The new subset standard, PDF for Universal Access (PDF/UA) is slowly, but surely, going through the standardization ranks. The PDF/UA subset standard may still be relatively unknown right now, but people will know about it soon enough.

In case you didn’t know, just last month the PDF/UA has reached the ISO status of “Approved Work Item” (AWI) and the US and International Committees for PDF/UA are working to complete the draft for the ISO meeting in Orlando, FL this October.

What is the PDF/UA?

Essentially, the PDF/UA is designed to make PDF data accessible to everyone, which includes those who are hearing impaired, suffering from bone fractures, or are color-blind. The aim of the new standard is to let users with disabilities gain a way to interact with digital content.

PDF/UA: Making Files Accessible to users with Disabilities

The internet is filled with a large amount of files and a significant number of them are in the PDF format. Everything from annual reports to academic research documents can be accessed through PDF because it’s easy and convenient to use.

And because of this convenience and availability, most users take it for granted. But what if a user has a certain disability that prevents him from accessing digital content?

Creating PDF files that are “accessible” entails properly structuring the format. Of course, the proper structuring of the PDF file is more complex than it first appears. It involves integrating keyboard shortcuts to provide navigational options, adding alternative texts to describe images, and validating the reading and logical order of the page.

How Is This Possible?

Tagged PDF files. Tags in a PDF are basically markers for every content element in the file. The separation between content and appearance is critical because the validated tags pave the way for assistive tools to interpret the data.

For instance, this enables screen reading devices like Windows Eyes and Jaws, to voice the PDF text and information out loud to help people with visual impairments.

It’s fortunate that a lot of new PDF creation software has been developed over the years. These developments accommodate assistive-technology devices.

One notable application, Acrobat 9 allows PDF creators to generate tags easily. It can also switch to the zoom mode, read the data out loud, and check the file’s level of accessibility.

So try adding a few accessibility features to your own PDFs while the PDF/UA gets nearer to standardization. It’ll definitely help your PDFs reach, and benefit, a wider audience.

How To Live A Healthier Life With 10 PDF Rules

Life can be stressful.

Angry Woman
(Image from zenhabits.net)

At work alone you can go through a number of health risks–both mental and physical. Banging your head on the keyboard, getting annoyed by repetitive clicking, gaining weight from sitting in front of the computer, having had the sanity beaten out of you with the slowness of your computer–sound familiar?

That’s an average day for all computer users, no doubt. Well, believe it or not, PDF users can experience all that while working with ONE PDF file!

While PDF creators may neglect to create a stress-free, picture perfect PDF to work with, you, on the other hand, can actively prevent the usual stress bugs and unhealthy habits that are associated with every file. By simply adhering to these 10 basic PDF rules you can start leading a healthier life in front of a computer.

1. Deal with large PDF Files in short glances.

The number one frustration with the PDF is file size. They open slowly, they download slowly and they can even cause your browser or reader to crash. Unfortunately, not everyone takes the time to compress images, unembed fonts, optimize scanned pages or remove unused elements in their PDFs.

However, if you’re on the receiving end, take advantage of the wait time to get a cup of coffee, check your inbox or survey your RSS feeds. Believe me, checking in with the download in short glances is way less frustrating than one long wait session.

2. Add security to your PDF.

Have you been worried about the contents of your file? For the most part, your daily frustration includes being concerned about your work, making sure everything is done properly and that confidential information remains confidential.

For peace of mind, always add security features. Encrypt your PDF, add a self-signed digital ID or assign user and master-level passwords. This will go a long way to reducing the worry that causes sleepless nights.

3. Have good PDF tools.

A good idea for PDF users is to have a good list of third party tools handy. Working with the PDF file often involves manipulating the content more than anything else, and for the most part basic copying and pasting or quality printing are restricted. Consequently, working with PDF files can be extremely stressful.

You need to use more than one tool to be efficient with the format. While there are many task specific PDF tools online, the basic tools to have include a good PDF viewer, a fully loaded PDF creator and a versatile PDF file converter that outputs to more than one format. Having the right tools will make your life easier.

4. Add bookmarks to your PDFs.

Bookmark lengthy PDFs. There’s nothing more irritating than having to blindly scroll and “Ctrl + G” your way through a PDF you just created. Toggling back between the TOC page and the rest of the file means eyestrain, permanent frowns and headaches–the most common and most fatiguing ailments in the workplace. Having your pages visually indexed on the side, will save you and your recipients a bottle of Aspirin.

5. Redact your files.

Something close to a heart attack will usually come when, despite having set and re-checked your PDF security settings, you realize that confidential information has just been sent out. A pounding heart and high levels of stress due to that “uh-oh” feeling are definitely unpleasant reactions to have.

One cure to this: redaction. Redacting your PDF files can block out and even eliminate text and graphics from your PDF completely. There are redaction tools easily available online and should be added to your PDF toolbox before you heart gives out in a panic.

6. Update your PDF software.

You might be using older versions of Acrobat or Reader. While there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the tools you’re used to, you should worry about PDF hacks that have been developed using those versions. Being caught unaware by viruses and trojans can take years off your life as you try to restore your old system.

As a rule, you should update your software on a yearly basis. There are too many PDF hacks out there to leave it to chance. If you’re dead set on older versions, you might take heart in the fact that most newer versions do retain older features while developing newer ones.

7. Follow PDF/X and PDF/A subset standards.

There’s nothing more disappointing like preparing a PDF only to find out that you haven’t prepared it as well as you should have. Having to redo your work can heighten the stress levels when you’re already swamped with a million other things to do.

When preparing a PDF for any type of publication or archiving, whether it be on a large or small scale, use pre-flighting tools and refer to archival standards. They’ll help you create a PDF that won’t add to your to-do list.

8. Make PDF forms fillable online.

To users, this is now a necessity. And if you’re using the PDF to distribute forms over the Web, it should be a necessity for you too. If you want to do away with the long hours of mind numbing data collection and processing, make your PDF forms interactive and fillable online.

Using Adobe LiveCycle can integrate and automate the process with your company’s back end systems. Why burden yourself with extra work and effort that can be solved with technology already out on the market?

9. Stockpile on multimedia PDFs.

Working constantly with PDF files can amount to a daily 9-5 drone of routine with a 10 minute smoke break every 2 hours. Indeed, not a good way to cope with your day. Instead, break the monotony and low morale with an inspiring multimedia PDF. If complete with animation, sounds and visually compelling material, multimedia PDFs can provide a good mental break from your work. A really good multimedia PDF could help you reset your mentality and prevent you from leaving the desk for another cigarette.

10. Find comfort in knowing there are others who can help.

There’s always comfort in numbers. When in doubt of your PDF skills and in danger of developing low self-esteem, visit a PDF user community. These sites are usually equipped with a forum and network of users who, like you, are looking for simple camaraderie and support. PDF tips and tricks, industry news and software resource lists are also usual staples of user communities, but they can differ from site to site. Overall, they’re an asset to your PDF resource list.

Everyone’s had a bad experience with the PDF at one point or another. Having them repeatedly, though, isn’t all that great for your health. If you can’t avoid them, the best you can do is to improve the ways in which you cope with them.

Try these out and see how they work for you.

PDF, A De-Facto Standard No More

While you’re all excited about the upcoming holidays and can’t think of anything else but that gift list to get through, you can add one more thing to get excited about.

The de facto standard of information interchange, aka the PDF, just got one step closer to being adopted as a standardized format. Last week, the PDF 1.7 specification gained the approval votes it needed from ISO committee voting members as it reached the Enquiry “Close of voting” stage in the standardization process.

Before this certification happens though, the comments included with the votes need to be addressed before the format gets its official ISO standard tag—ISO 32000 (lovely name, no?). Even with those last few hurdles, the PDF’s standardization process is looking good.

Jim King, PDF architect and Senior Principle Scientist at Adobe Systems Inc. will serve as technical editor for the international working group meeting in January where the submitted 205 comments will be resolved.

On his blog he states, “If the group can address all the comments to the satisfaction of all countries, especially the ones voting negatively, it is possible to finish at that meeting and publish the revised document.”

So Is It Still An Adobe-Microsoft Showdown?

In the face of impending success, you can’t help but wonder about OOXML and where its standardization is headed.

OOXML was also submitted and fast tracked for an official ISO standard, but rejected in September. Alongside that rejection was the controversy over Microsoft’s active influence over committee members and their votes. The OOXML proposal then went back to the drawing board for revisions to take the negative votes and comments into account.

Boxing AnimalsNow, three months later, as its Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) draws near in February, OOXML’s standardization is still up in the air as its interoperability, the OOXML hot topic of the day, will be a major factor in the decision to approve it as such.

Making it even harder is that OOXML is constantly held up against ODF, the poster child of open source solutions. It’ll be interesting to see how “open” and how much “interoperability” a Microsoft format can possess in general.

While that issue unfolds, the PDF will more than likely get the ISO standardization without much drama. Has Adobe won this round already without even trying?

These are exciting times for the PDF format indeed.