The ABCs Of The PDF: J-L

First off, my apologies. It has been awhile since the last posting in this series, and there is still yet more to uncover and discover. So for this posting, its about the figures behind the PDF world and information behind PDF links and some tips. If you’re stalking up on some backgrounder bits and PDF facts in preparation for the 2007 Conference, then by all means, read on.

John E. Warnock

The name, the man, the father behind the PDF, Dr. John E. Warnock. Along with Charles Geschke, he co-founded Adobe Systems, Inc. in 1982. Before that, he worked as a computer scientist at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1978, where he first developed the Post Script language (aka “Interpress” in its early Camelot development), the page description language which would be the building blocks of the PDF.

For the first two years of the company, Warnock served as president of Adobe Systems Inc. and then was CEO until his retirement from that position in 2000. Warnock has led an active career of achievements in computer technology, being highly distinguished in numerous associations and winner of countless awards for his innovation and influence. He is now co-chairman of Adobe with Charles Geshcke.

Also interesting to note is that he has an Adobe typeface named after him—Warnock Pro. Here is a quoted description: “Warnock Pro’s structure is both rational and dynamic, striking a balance between innovation and restraint.” I wonder if the look of the typeface design reflects his personality. . . .

Kurt Foss

As regular day-to-day PDF user, you hardly notice how quickly names can stick in your head—Kurt Foss being one of them. I first came upon Kurt Foss in the beginning of my PDF research, when I read many blogs and searched many articles (I still do). And his were among the top of the research piles.

And doing a bit of research on Foss himself, you’ll find that he has a major presence in the PDF world too. As a long time veteran of the PDF industry, his attraction to the PDF world was a passion for the format, a curiosity about the potential uses and users of the format: “I became increasingly aware of looming technological changes that seemed poised to change the way my profession worked. So I immersed myself in learning about it.” One of his most “notable notables,” in fact, was being one of the first to globally publish newspaper pages in the PDF format, experimenting with how the digital format could work for the printed word.

Foss started out as an Adobe evangelist with the company from 1993-2003 when Acrobat was still in its first version. Since then, he has been web editor of both PDFZone and Planet PDF, and has written articles on issues surrounding the uses of the PDF format. Currently, Foss is the online editor of the Acrobat User Community, a site you may have heard of or been to at one point or another for resources and tips. He has written numerous posts, commenting, reviewing and reporting anything and everything having to do with PDF.

Links

Linking within a PDF file itself is a great way in which to include more background content within your file. Yet, the hypertext link, itself, has a background history of its own, one associated with Vannevar Bush’s influential work ,“As We May Think.”

The paper contained the first rough concept of the computer, called the Memex, an idea which inspired the creation of the actual hypertext as we know it today. The term “hypertext” was first coined by Ted Nelson in 1965, and its invention is usually accredited to him and American scientist, Douglas Engelbart. In 1968, with Engelbart’s historic “Mother of All Demos,” the first hypertext interface was demoed. And by 1980, Tim Berners-Lee, also another famous name, created a hypertext database system, a system created out of a motivation that became the same driving force behind the World Wide Web and the Internet—to meet the demand of automatic information sharing. The implementation of such hypertext link databases in the late 80’s eventually led to the first stages of the World Wide Web.

Of course, needless to say, when you add links within your PDF, you create the same mini-network of information resources and sites. However, behind the convenience of endless information resources, is the frustration of usability. Web usability guru, Jakob Nielsen , has a few words on the use of links and the PDF, which might come in handy in making that PDF user-friendly and informative.

Hope this helps out with that small talk. ‘Till next time!

How The PDF Made Stephen King An Internet Star

Being a newbie to the PDF world, I like digging up things that I never knew about the PDF format. Well, here’s another one I just recently learned about and wanted to share—just in case you need a good ice breaker when your supply of anecdotes run out at a cocktail party. Although you may not connect the PDF with mainstream commercial fame nor with big names outside the “who’s-who” circle of PDF faces, here’s one to add to the list: Stephen King.

Stephen King is a name that’s become a huge part of mainstream culture with his published novels, short stories and books-turned-movies— Carrie (Doubleday, 1974), The Shining (Doubleday, 1977), Firestarter (Viking, 1980), and Dolores Claiborne (Viking, 1992), just to name a few. And apparently this name has also seen its day as part of the PDF culture.

He was the first major writer to exclusively web-publish his books and played a role in exposing the world to the PDF e-book format. His series “The Plant,” which was begun in the 1980’s, was distributed as an e-book in 2000, hit the 40, 000 mark in the first week, but petered off in sales after awhile. The web distribution of the work was then discontinued as well as the series’ completion as King wanted to finish work on different projects first.

He published his novella, “Riding the Bullet”, in 2000 as well, exclusively for the Internet and was later on made into a movie in 2004. Although these attempts occurred six years ago, this may prove to be a good PDF tip for budding authors with Digital Editions having been released– “Riding the Bullet” got 400, 000 downloads in 24 hours. And this was when the e-book industry was just getting started and when the Adobe Acrobat e-book Reader was known as Glassbook.

However, the e-book industry was pushed into the shadows after legal issues with piracy and DRM security measures (protecting both content and copyrights of the author) proved to be bad publicity for the use of e-books themselves. Nonetheless, popular “Must Haves,” like Harry Potter for instance, still get pirated and distributed illegally online. It’s an issue that won’t disappear overnight.

Yet, seven years later, Stephen King’s Internet success with publishing e-books says something about today: the PDF e-book format has a good chance of coming out stronger this time around. With Google’s e-book search, Digital Editions, better viewing GUIs, digital devices for entertainment on the go, and virtual libraries replacing physical books. . . .

So, if you’re looking for a book, try out an e-book and download instead.

One PDF To Go, Please: A PDF In The Palm Of Your Hand

The portable document format does live up to the word “portable.” Whether you’re a busy entrepreneur, a workaholic or a web surfer, location doesn’t seem to really matter anymore. Everything is going mobile.

And you’re probably seeing a lot of technology moving from the desktop computer to the handheld device, which adds yet another category of decisions about your working habits that change with along with the trends.

So if you’re interested in joining the iddy-biddy-sized mobile world with your PDF work, here’s a brief background on some details surrounding PDFs on mobile devices .

Creating A PDF Optimized For Handheld Mobile Devices

First of all, regardless of what PDF creation software you have, you can create PDF files specifically optimized for mobile browsers by paying attention to a few details about your PDF.

1) File size. Use the Save As command to save the PDF. This will re-write the entire file and not just append the changes made to it, making it a more compact size that won’t ruin the integrity of the PDF.

2) Images. For images, use the best compression settings to ensure that you don’t include unnecessary pixel data. Using a lossy compression (JPEG and ZIP) or downsampling will help to decrease this.

3) Fonts. Don’t embed many, unnecessary fonts as embedding fonts also increases file size. Mobile devices importing the PDF may already have the fonts needed to render the text.

4) Tags. One of the key differences between desktop PDFs and mobile PDFs is file structure. Just as structure is important for reflowing the text to fit screen readers, it serves the same purpose for mobile browsers. Ensure that only the necessary tags for smooth textual reflow are included with the PDFfile.

Software For PDF Mobility

Palm OS, Symbian OS, Black Berries, and MS Pocket PCs are the most popularly used mobile OSs. The OS’s compatibility will play a factor in your mobile PDF research as some PDF software for handheld devices won’t support all platforms.

But for starters, there’s Adobe Reader LE. The software is supported by Symbian OS, Windows Mobile (Pocket PC 2.0), and Palm OS. Reader LE comes pre-installed on some mobile devices and supports scrolling, zooming and decryption for viewing your PDFs. As well, the software can support text search, bookmarks, and links within the document. In addition, Adobe has a user discussion forum for users with any tech support topics or tips regarding the software.

Features for different mobile devices vary. For instance, for Symbian OS devices, such as Nokia Smartphones, you can view a PDF as either a tagged PDF or in its original formatting. With Pocket PCs, you can directly print wirelessly from your handheld device to a remote printer. Adobe Reader LE on Palm OS devices allows you to view and transfer your Digital Editions e-books to your device. And another thing to note, there are a different variety of language options for you to choose from with each individual download.

Other mobile software supporting PDF viewing includes Dochawk Platinum 2.0, Repligo Professional 2.0, mBrainsoftware, DataViz’s Documents To Go v.9.0. Add them to the research list as it might come in handy as well.

Why Would You Need Mobile PDFs?

Now many users already complain about the usability of the PDF because of the long periods of time that can be spent in front of a screen. And handheld mobile devices have viewing and interactivity problems of their own (how small can a keyboard get?).

So why would you need PDFs on the go? One major reason is that, light and compact, handset devices are ultimately a matter of convenience. And when working away from your desktop, you need to have access to all the important documents you need—even PDF documents.

Checking emails on the way to work has perhaps become a daily routine for some. And undoubtedly, opening email attachments that are in the PDF format may be part of that. Or, for a PDF workflow that is almost essential to niche industries, such as publishing, for instance, emergencies that need attention don’t anticipate (or care) where you’ll be when they happen. And unfortunately, for others, going on vacation or getting ill doesn’t mean they stop working altogether– not with a PDA in hand and thumbs poised in the air.

Going portable with portable documents. . . . It does add a nice spin to the name, Portable Document Format!

The ABCs of the PDF: G-I

Veering away from XPS this week, I’ve got the next posting in the ABCs series for you. It’s been a while, but here it is. This week, it’s about the history, the mechanics and the product. A little vague? What does this have to do with the PDF?, you ask. Read on.

GUI

From creation to manipulation and accessibility to view-ability, the GUI’s function is crucial to working with PDFs. Yet have you ever wondered about the history behind the interface you use? The first rough idea of a GUI was conceived of by American engineer, Vannevar Bush (1890-1974) in the early 1930s. In his essay “As We May Think,” published in 1945, Bush describes a device he called the “Memex” that would transform physical gestures into technical commands. A user could call up and display multiple “book” files on a desktop screen and jump through pages of content with the movement of one’s hand. Yet, it was only theorized about until Douglas Engelbart (1925-2013),  inspired by Bush’s idea, decided to develop and implement the idea into a prototype. In 1968, the first working GUI was demonstrated.

The first marketable GUI using computer was invented by Xerox PARC in 1973 with the Xerox Alto computer. It was further enhanced by Apple’s revolutionary Apple Lisa PC ten years later in 1983. And by the 1990’s, the GUI of Microsoft’s Windows OS improved the functioning of the GUI into the one you know today. Of course, the interface has also been developed and used by a number of individual computer companies over the years, and it has come a long way in terms of looks and usage.

The goal for the GUI nowadays is to provide the most functionality within the least amount of space. And Adobe Reader 8 is just one example in its simplicity. Perhaps in the future our PDF viewers will do away with the GUI altogether, and use virtual reality as a way of “handling” PDF documents!

Hash Function

So far, we’ve made it so that electronic docs would be an easy way of storing and recording data. In addition, it prevents data from being physically lost or stolen– invisible and intangible until opened and printed. Yet, that also means that security has transferred from playing a physical role to a digital one. And just as you need a sense of security when physically locking doors, you also need it when securing electronic documents.

You already know that information security is important to the PDF and can be done with the click of a mouse. Yet, one of the things behind that simple move is something called a Hash function . Hash functions or algorithms play a role in creating a digital signature which you’ve undoubtedly used in the past to secure your PDFs. It is that digital signature which is made up of a hash and encryption key.

A textual message or document is made into a smaller data version of itself through a “hashing” process. When this happens, the content of the message is encoded, using a hash function. The hashed version of the message is called a message digest, which is, in turn, encrypted with the author’s private key. The resulting encryption of the message digest is the digital signature that you attach to the original PDF Document. All of this is done behind that one deceptive click.

And although the term “hash” may seem a funny word to refer to a security/encryption element, according to definition sources, it caught on in the 1960’s because it described the way in which hashing algorithms work—they “chop and mix” up the data being secured.

Investintech

The ever changing nature of the electronic world is not a new concept. Software and gadgets continually evolve within the fast paced environment of technological innovation. And Investintech has also been caught up in that forward momentum with the recent release of Sonic PDF Creator v.2.0. And, with its more-advanced-than-v.1.2 features (support for more formats, document toolkits and formatting capabilities), you can now create better PDF documents than you did before.

Of course, we’ll aim to surpass this 2.0 version in the future as well and continue to push the PDF creation envelope. It’s just a matter of checking in frequently to see what new creation features we’ll have in store!

‘Til next time. Stay tuned!

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.

Data

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.

Encryption

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

Fonts

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!