PDF In-Depth

PDF goes to ISO: The road ahead

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Duff Johnson picture

Duff Johnson

Since 2011, Duff has worked in the ECM industry specializing in PDF technology since 1995. An industry leader, Duff co-chairs the international committee that manages ISO 32000, the specification for the PDF file format. Responsible for marketing and product...  More



Even without ISO recognition, PDF stands as today's de facto standard for final-form electronic documents. Trust is a precious commodity, and Adobe's PDF has earned the trust of computer users everywhere for consistency, reliability, ubiquity and relative safety.

Like Microsoft's Office, PDF and the Adobe Reader are deeply embedded in the fabric of the desktop computing experience. Also like Office, PDF's present-day dominance generates concerns over proprietary technology. Such concerns are accurately regarded by Adobe as retarding official recognition and adoption of PDF, and at a sensitive time. Just in December, 2006, Microsoft obtained ECMA approval for their massive and much-criticized OOXML specification for Microsoft's Office applications (and little else), now headed for ISO.

In the previous article, I pointed out that Adobe's early choice to publish the PDF Reference was a major factor in the format's climb to this justifiably proud status. The notable downside was early industry adoption of an imprecise, incomplete Reference document. This spawned a major problem (which continues to this day): the lack of any real conception (programmatic or otherwise) of what constitutes "valid" PDF.

Millions of PDF files are created around the world everyday. The results from a large fraction of these PDF creation events isn't going to meet any likely ISO-PDF Standard anytime soon, yet most of these same files represent "good faith" executions of the PDF Reference - one way or another.

This article reflects some conversations on these matters with a few 3rd party industry heavyweights, the sort of people who will sit on AIIM's PDF committee alongside Adobe's own representatives.

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