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XML & PDF: Competitors or Complementary?

March 05, 2004

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PDF and XML will be the main themes at Seybold Seminars Amsterdam 2004 (April 18-21). PDF is covered in its own conference, but XML is addressed throughout the PDF, JDF, Creative Pro, eForms and content-management conferences.

Of particular interest in the upcoming Amsterdam conference is a revamped discussion of the old question: Do XML and PDF compete or are they complementary? In many cases, PDF and XML work in conjunction and are complementary. But that's not always the case. For instance, at our eForms summit, different companies will show different XML solutions for eForms, which either (also) focus on PDF (Adobe's forthcoming Forms Designer product) or are solely based on XML (W3C's new XForm standard; Microsoft's InfoPath product).

Within the PDF conference David Brailsford (Dunford Professor of Computer Science, University of Nottingham) will hold a keynote that is focused on the complex relationship between XML and PDF. He will not only describe how the relationship has changed over the years, but will also look forward to how, in his mind, PDF and XML should be coupled in the future.

Separate, But Equal?

PDF and XML have a lot in common and are increasingly used in conjunction with each other. Both are widely supported standards and can, among other things, make documents viewable on different devices and in various browsers.

Other conferences have historically covered SGML and moved on to XML; Seybold has traditionally covered the broad area of document creation, publishing and prepress.

Since PDF has become the default standard in publishing and prepress, it was a natural choice to treat PDF in-depth through its own conference. Hence, two years ago we upgraded our "PDF Hot Tech Days" to a full-scale PDF Conference.

Why does PDF warrant its own conference and other file formats that are pervasive in publishing or graphic arts do not? Why not a conference on TIFF? For one, even after ten years, PDF is still a rapidly evolving format. Its upgrade cycle is linked to that of Acrobat (i.e., with each new upgrade of Acrobat, Adobe releases a new version of PDF). It would be much harder to justify organizing conferences for file formats that have been relatively untouched over the years.

Also, although PDF is more than ten years old, many uses of PDF are still complex and people are still developing or fine-tuning their PDF solutions. Our PDF Surveys found that many printers and publishers still struggle with incorrectly prepared PDF files. Creating good PDF files is still not a slam-dunk process. Printers often blame document creators for incorrectly prepared files; document creators often blame printers for a lack of support. Responsibilities are shifting, mostly in the direction of document creators, who now face the daunting task of creating print-ready PDF files themselves.

Besides the still-existing complexities of creating foolproof PDF files in the graphic arts, this year we're also seeing an increased interest in leveraging PDF for more efficient collaboration in the document-creation process. We see this interest in collaboration in both the graphic arts and in office-document creation. In addition, PDF is increasingly being leveraged as a rich formatting format in which back-end systems output their documents. In fact, at each of our previous PDF conferences we have seen new working methods, tools and time-saving processes emerge -- all of which more than justify the existence of a "dedicated" PDF conference.

The Role of XML

So where does XML come in to play at Seybold Seminars Amsterdam 2004? It will be covered in many places, from the discussion on creating PDF files on the fly from back-end systems, to the discussions on SVG, PDF prepress workflow systems, eForms, JDF and content management. These topics can't be properly discussed without paying attention to their XML components.

With this "XML throughout the conference" approach, will we cover everything there is to know about XML? Certainly not. XML, with all its various and rapidly changing standards both for document and data markup, is such a vast topic area that it also warrants its own conference. That is why we are pleased to have Seybold Seminars Amsterdam 2004 be co-located with XML Europe, organized by the IDEAlliance. XML Europe covers such diverse and specific themes as ebXML, XPath and XML Standards for e-governments -- thus, nicely complementing the XML coverage throughout our own conference. I look forward to seeing you in Amsterdam!

This article was first published in The Seybold Bulletin.

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