Planet PDF's AcroPDF Weblog
A daily chronicle of Acrobat/PDF-oriented newsbits

For week beginning 8 April 02
By Kurt Foss, Planet PDF Editor

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday


MONDAY

Planet of the ACEs? No, we won't be changing our site name, but we do want to recognize Pattie Belle Hastings for her latest noteworthy achievement -- passing the Acrobat 5 Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) exam! We like to believe Planet PDF played a small role (and she's acknowledged as much in a recent email message). Only a couple weeks ago we named Pattie Belle, an active and knowledgeable participant in our Planet PDF Forum, as one of the randomly selected winners in our promotional contest to win a fee-free chance to take the certification exam. If you read some of the comments we published from past test takers about their experiences and/or looked at the sample ACE/Acrobat questions we also posted [thanks to Jim Mendes of Adobe Systems], you know she's earned the distinction of calling herself an Acrobat 5 expert. We'd suggest to Pattie that she consider sharing some of her vast PDF wisdom by publishing a book -- but she's already accomplished that, too. Almost, anyway. Her forthcoming collaboration (with Bjørn Akselsen, co-author, Icehouse Design business partner and husband "in that order," she says) titled "Adobe Acrobat 5 Master Class: For Interactivity and Digital Documents" is due out from Peachpit Press in May. It's available for pre-ordering from Peachpit or Amazon.com. Pattie has set a challenge goal for our five* other ACE contest winners to match!

Speaking of ACE winners, Adobe Systems originally provided us vouchers to award to five members of our global Planet PDF community in our now-closed Acrobat 5 certification promo. Randomly selected, qualified contest entrants were notified weekly by Planet PDF and required to confirm within 48 hours to become official winners. Unfortunately, during our final week one selected participant was unreachable due to a special assignment and thus could not confirm by the deadline; a different winner was selected, confirmed and announced. After the contest closed, we made Adobe Systems aware of the situation. Lori DeFurio, Acrobat Developer Evangelist, graciously responded with a sixth ACE exam voucher so that we could belatedly name UK-based Mark Anderson as a bonus ACE-wannabe winner. If you've ever struggled with getting Acrobat Reader to run on a CD-ROM, you may have encountered some of Mark's detailed advice [PDF: 395kb] on creating an AutoPlay CD. So public Congrats are due Mark, with a special note of thanks to Lori and Adobe for their understanding and generosity!


COMING SOON!

Adobe Acrobat 5 Master Class
Adobe ACE

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TUESDAY

Last week we published an article based on insights of a Seattle-based technology writer and author of two books on Bill Gates suggesting that due to a failed strategy, Microsoft has more or less conceded the role of a key Internet format to Adobe's PDF. In yesterday's edition of Adobe's hometown newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, a headline with a similar theme caught our attention: "Adobe takes on Microsoft in desktop publishing." The gist is that with the release of Adobe FrameMaker 7.0, the software application periodically portrayed as least likely to succeed/survive (some of its ardent supporters claim the acquired-by-Adobe product to be on the verge of extinction), the San Jose-based company is now positioning it as a 'secret weapon' in its Network Publishing strategy. In a twist from the usual Microsoft-as-aggressor angle, "Adobe thinks is powerful enough to take some business away from mighty Microsoft Word," writes Jon Fortt in the Mercury News.

In our same article last week, we noted a portion of a 1995 Gates memo where he lamented to his executive management team that after 10 hours or so of Web browsing, he found little evidence of Microsoft file formats -- such as Microsoft Word's .doc filetype -- in use on the Internet. As we also mentioned, Microsoft does make use of PDF files on its on corporate Web site, but in a clearly secondary role. We've since turned up some non-scientific stats, thanks to the Google search engine, to add some additional context and support.

PDF Search

Using Google's Advanced Search capability to search a specific Internet domain only for PDF files, we found that Microsoft.com has "about 3,220" .pdf files available on the Internet, compared to having "about 9,520" .doc files. For the fun of it, we also checked to see how many .doc files are available from the Adobe.com site. Answer: None. But here's perhaps the most interesting stat of all -- how many PDF files are available from Adobe.com? "About 3,040," according to Google. In case you are not playing along mathematically at home, that suggests Microsoft actually has more PDF files available on the Internet than Adobe Systems!

On a related note, Yahoo seems to be catching on to the world of PDF. ResearchBuzz noted recently that it's now possible to utilize a search query specifically for finding PDFs within Yahoo's human-approved index (but with additional shared content from other search sites also included), which is beginning to include portable document format files. Search for u:pdf (according to RBuzz, it's Yahoo's special syntax that means, "search in the URL for"). Search results will indicate a PDF with a red-lettered filetype inside parentheses. The buzz from a quoted Yahoo rep: "As long as it adds more value for our customers, we will include it. We are definitely going to expand on what we have now, but only when it makes sense." From a few tests of the new feature, we were interested to note an apparent demand for early indexing of a PDF outlining the process for converting manure into methane and other byproducts:

Yahoo PDF Search

Perhaps it works as an attachment to an Enron shredder?


"In case you are not playing along mathematically at home, that suggests Microsoft actually has more PDF files available on the Internet than Adobe Systems!"
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WEDNESDAY

IRS tax form

Times have certainly changed. Not that many years ago it would have been poor form, if not outright folly, to publicly admit working for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). That'd be doubly true this time of year, with the April 15 tax deadline for American citizens confronting us, 'requesting' our 'contributions' -- or else. PDF, at least in part, seems to have helped turn the tables. Take the case of Paul Showalter, an IRS frontman of sorts for the organization's intensive use of Adobe Acrobat software and the portable document format. There he was on the marquee as a co-keynote speaker at the first Seybold PDF Conference in New York in February. At the FOSE 2002 government technology shindig in March, Showalter and a colleague were singled out by Adobe Systems to receive its first annual "Innovators in Government" award for playing a key role in improving government services through technology -- PDF, to be exact. Like a "Dear Waldo" caricature, Showalter pops up today halfway across the world at yet another PDF-worshipping event, this time in South Korea. And in early June, he's slated to reappear again in, of all places our nation's capital, presumably to check in at the office before heading for the speaker's microphone at the PDF Conference East 2002 in nearby Bethesda, Maryland. If PDF can make the IRS this appealing, it's difficult to fathom why there'd be anyone not *rushing* to adopt it.

Of course, don't be mislead into believing the IRS has gone soft, or that they're any less interested than ever in collecting what the government is owed (radical theories aside). Among the recently updated PDFs on its Web site is one titled "The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments" in which the IRS debunks 20 "frivolous contentions" concerning the legality of income tax. "Taxpayers who file frivolous income tax returns face a $500 penalty, and may be subject to civil penalties of 20 or 75 percent of the underpaid tax." Summary: If you don't like paying what the IRS already claims is due, you really won't like the results of telling the federal government it has no right to a portion of your income.


NOT Paul Showalter!IRS Guy
Click Mr. IRS to play Braintaxer, an IRS online gameshow!
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THURSDAY

While the IRS may be the most frequently cited example of Acrobat PDF Forms use, the fact remains that its current eFiling solution does not accept the electronic submission of data entered into its growing number of electronically fillable, PDF-based forms. You'll need to look elsewhere for examples of more advanced stages of PDF Forms. But you may be hard-pressed to find an older form than the 1864 tax form the IRS scanned for its forms archive!

In any case, there are numerous signals that the use of forms in PDF is rapidly emerging as a major application for Adobe Acrobat. The most recent indication, of course, was the vote by shareholders of Accelio Corporation -- formerly JetForm -- earlier this week, accepting an acquisition bid from Adobe Systems. Now we'll all be interested to see the results and the impact -- on Acrobat development and features, on currently competing products and on PDF users. Second, as Planet PDF was the first to report a month or so back, Adobe will begin offering a PDF Forms-specific version of its Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) examination sometime later this year. Third, there are at least three new books coming out that focus on the significantly enhanced forms capabilities of Acrobat 5. "Adobe Acrobat Forms" [shown at right] by John Deubert of Acumen Training, author of the free monthly Acumen Journal newsletter, will be available very soon from Peachpit Press. Also due out within a similar timeframe, we're told, is "Creating Adobe Acrobat Forms" from Ted Padova (author of the "Adobe Acrobat 5 PDF Bible") and Hungry Minds [No cover photo available at this time]. Apress has recently released "Adobe Acrobat 5: The Professional User's Guide" [shown at right] by Donna Baker. Although her book is not exclusively devoted to the topic of forms, she told Planet PDF that while writing the book, she "had to be reined in a number of times because I was off on forms tangents at every opportunity." If the demand for PDF Forms experts and expertise is as strong as these indicators suggest, there'll be a lot more folks taking the tangent offramp quite soon.

And when will we see what impact all of this may have on future releases of Adobe Acrobat? Sasa Zorovic, an analyst with Robertson Stephens Inc., was interviewed for a Investors Business Daily article by Patrick Seitz last week on the expected impact of Adobe's forthcoming Photoshop 7.0 graphics software -- its first version for Mac OS X -- on company sales. Eventually, the focus shifted to Zorovic's thoughts on Adobe Acrobat:

"More important than Photoshop in the long term are Adobe's electronic paper products. By year-end, Acrobat will challenge Photoshop as the flagship product for Adobe ... The next release of Acrobat should come late this year or early next, Zorovic says."

Acrobat Forms
Professional Users Guide
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FRIDAY

At Planet PDF, we think we've seen some creative publishing uses of PDF while tracking the technology over the years. Truth be told, we have. But James Monaco's "How to Read a Film" -- specifically, the multimedia version of an initially print-based publication, using PDF as its core technology (produced with Adobe Framemaker and MicroType's Timesavers) and available as a DVD-ROM -- is frankly in a class by itself. It includes: four books, 130 (four hours of) film clips from Hollywood classics and cult landmarks, audio interviews, animated, interactive diagrams and a thousand or so illustrations ... and more. We'll offer a detailed look next week as part of a special promotion to help show why Monaco says Adobe Acrobat is "the best multimedia platform. Almost perfect." The same applies to his PDF-based DVD project. It's so incredibly well done, and such a showcase for the power of PDF as a creative publishing environment. Almost as amazing is that -- unless we've missed it -- Adobe seems to have done little to make people aware of the classy and classic DVD that would stifle a lot of criticisms about PDF's viability for more than publications intended for print production. Seems the Godfathers of Acrobat ought to be distributing -- legally, of course -- "How to Read a Film" to everyone it can identify as having a DVD-ROM player (i.e. for computer use).


DVD
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