The ABCs of the PDF: D to F

The holidays are over for this year and it’s time to get back to work—and back to learning. Here’s the second posting on the ABCs of the PDF and, as promised, a few tidbits behind the day to day elements you use in your PDF work.


The most important thing about a PDF is the data— its printability, its transmission and its integrity. Of course, this last point is the driving force behind the inability to edit PDF content, a quality with which the PDF world is familiar.

There have been notable rants and raves about this and, consequently, about the “usability” of the PDF format, citing issues such as document size and on-screen behaviour as annoyances. And yet, there are strong arguments defending the PDF and the working needs it fulfills with its “set-in-stone” data.

What do we make of this PDF usage debate? What’s the bottom line for PDF users, makers and shakers?

Fantasy: digital documents that aren’t easily manipulated by malicious users.

Reality: file integrity and data extraction go hand-in-hand with the PDF format. The only way to change or work with the data is to extract (aka “convert”) the content.

Conclusion: when working with a PDF, work with conversion in mind —which conversion software is practical for daily use, which format conversions you need, what kinds of PDFs you’re working with (scanned or native), what security features restrict the data you need, etc.


And speaking of security, you’ll more than likely encrypt the PDF documents you create yourself. So, here are a few knick-knacks surrounding the encryption you’ll use:

• You may see the word “bit-encryption” when creating a PDF. Bit-encryption, which secure your documents, is based on the use of binary digits

• The higher the bit-number, the more secure your files are because of the increased probability of possible decryption keys. A 128-bit encryption, for instance, has a key length of 128 bits long, meaning that there 2128 possible keys

• Sonic PDF Creator v.1.2 includes 40- and 128-bit encryption

• The DES (Data Encryption Standard) was based on 58-bit encryption and adopted by US Federal government in the 1970’s. The current AES (Advanced Encryption Standard, 2000) is based on the RijnDael algorithm which makes use of128- to 256 -bit keys. It was adopted after winning a 3-year competition against other algorithms

• The concept of the computer, in fact, was based upon “cracking codes.” It was developed during WWII while trying to decode encrypted messages through the use of an “Enigma” machine


As a PDF user, you know that part of maintaining the document’s appearance is retaining the textual font within the PDF. Yet, there is more to fonts than just a pretty face.

• There are about 20 components in the anatomy of a letter that define one typeface from another

• There are 3 different types of hyphen/dashes and, of course, vary in usage— and in look, from typeface to typeface (Three? Yes, three. Who would’ve thought?)

• Which fonts are best used for on-screen (PDF) presentation?

• The fonts used in a document affect the way you read the textual information. Serif fonts help to guide a reader’s eye along the lines in large blocks of text. Thus, Times New Roman, for instance, is generally used for printed text. Sans-serif fonts are used ideally for on-screen text because it presents a legible rendition on-screen

• Do you know the history behind the letters and fonts you use in your PDFs?

Hopefully, next time you read or create a PDF, you’ll look and think differently about the extraction, the encryption and the fonts you use on a daily basis. And, who knows, with a little tinkering, you just might create that ultimate PDF!

The ABC’s of the PDF: A-C

I must confess that I’m by no means an expert on the ins and outs of the PDF. Having said that, I must also confess that, since beginning this blog and writing articles for the company website, I’ve learned A LOT. And with that in mind, I thought it would be fun to share in the learning.

I’ve been wanting to do a series of postings for a while now and thought, what better topic to do it on than the ABC’s of the PDF? I’ll be researching tidbits surrounding the PDF, getting you to know the format in a different way. I’ll also include links to articles, both new and old, as well as to relevant sites if you’re interested in reading more about a topic so that I don’t leave you in the lurch (you can only cover so much in a blog entry!). So, if you’re ready for it, we’ll start (where else?) at the beginning.

Adobe System, Inc.

Proprietor of the PDF format, Adobe System, Inc. was founded in 1982 by John Warnock and Charles Geschke (current Chairmen of the Board for Adobe). This company has been ranked and recognized in top business magazines, such as Fortune and BusinessWeek and currently consists of approximately 5,879 employees worldwide. In addition, the PDF actually makes up almost 10% of web content on the internet today. Did you know that the company, itself, was named after a creek in Los Altos, California located behind Warnock’s home? There’s even an Adobe Day on December 2, which was established in San Jose in honour of the company’s 20th anniversary in 2002. Does the company get the day off for that one?

Bruce Chizen

What is the history behind this PDF household name? In a 2001 interview with PlanetPDF, Chizen stated: “ ‘In five years I hope people can look back and base my legacy on what we were able to do with Acrobat.’ ” Well, five years later, Acrobat is more capable than ever and his legacy is safe. Since March of 2001, Bruce Chizen has been the president and CEO of Adobe Systems Inc., coming into his new role after having been with the company since 1994. For those 6 years in between, he’s held top head positions over the professional graphics division and Adobe’s consumer division. In his pre-Adobe days during the eighties, Chizen worked for Claris Corporation, Mattel Electronics and Microsoft where he gained the background and experience that would lead him to becoming Adobe’s head honcho.

Camelot Project

This project was the conception of the PDF, itself, as we know it today. As part of PDF history , the original document was written by John Warnock, as CEO of Adobe in the spring of 1991. Camelot was essentially geared towards making the fundamental elements of PostScript and PostScript Printers more efficient both electronically and economically. In the original document, Warnock envisions the technology, software, and implications of what, with innovation, the application of PostScript language could achieve: documents that were universally viewable. “This capability,” Warnock states,“would truly change the way information is managed. Large centrally maintained databases of documents could be accessed remotely and selectively printed remotely. This would save millions of dollars in document inventory costs.” The culminating result: PDF. The original name, ‘Camelot’, however, was later renamed to ‘Carousel’, which is said to be the reason why the PDF file type on Macintosh was ‘CARO’.

Okay, so that’s it for this series posting—don’t want to give away too much all at once now. There’s still more to come. Stay tuned for the next posting in the series where I’ll look into the nuts and bolts behind the PDF features which you use on a day to day basis.