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

For week beginning 22 April 02
By Kurt Foss, Planet PDF Editor

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday

NOTE: Previous Weblogs will be archived at the end of each week, and start fresh here.


Chizen chat on Accelio acquisition: Adobe Systems has begun to integrate recently acquired Accelio Corporation into its Web environment, adding links within its product section under "Enterprise" for Accelio's forms solutions, and a prominent link from the homepage to the current Accelio site. Note that if you want to take either of the virtual tours there to see "Adobe Accelio products in action," you'll need to first install the Flash plug-in from Adobe rival Macromedia. Seems doubtful this will be a long-term requirement, especially considering the dueling lawsuits between the two Silicon Valley companies.

Integrating product listings online is trivial compared to the actual work ahead for Adobe to maximize the perceived benefits enumerated by San Jose-based Adobe in acquiring the Canadian company. In a face-to-face interview with Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen, ZDNet staff primarily focused on the release of Adobe Photoshop 7, the first version of Adobe's flagship graphics product to be Mac OS X-ready. Several video clips from the interview are posted under the umbrella headline "Adobe shoots for survival."

Another video segment from the series is titled "Adobe: Expanding Acrobat software to Web services." Asked whether there's any development underway at Adobe to convert applications into Web-based services, Chizen talks mainly about the implications of the Accelio acquisition for Acrobat forms users. He cites the work done by Pfizer Pharmaceutical several years ago to convert and automate its paper-based drug submittal procedure to one based on PDF Forms, which required the government agency to build its own tools for submitting forms data to a database so information could be extracted and manipulated, with new PDFs created on the fly for eventual submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"The Accelio tools will allow every other company (with the same needs) to do it in a much easier fashion, without having to do their own development," Chizen says. "It will allow you to design the form, extract the information, integrate it with your back-end system and regenerate forms in an automated fashion."


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Web Capture URL of the Day: Monitoring a technology news item of widespread interest and potential impact, we noted yesterday's appearance by Microsoft co-founder and top dog Bill Gates in the company's current legal standoff with nine states that are seeking stronger penalties against Microsoft's allegedly monopolistic and unfair practices. Perhaps in part because his taped 1998 testimony in the US v. Microsoft main trial more or less blew up in the company's face -- Gates appeared "fidgety, evasive and combative" according to news reports -- this time he's testifying up close and in person to explain why he fervently believes the real unfairness is the ongoing effort to penalize Microsoft for its decades of 'innovation.'

Web Capture Dialog Box

Notwithstanding our recent Weblog report that Microsoft actually appears to have more PDF files available online than Adobe Systems, Gates' transcript was released publicly on the company's Web site in HTML format.

One could make a case that the published Gates testimony is the latest evidence Microsoft still doesn't get the Web, or at least publishing on it. The Gates' document, apparently submitted to the court as a 163-page document (a PDF version of the submitted file is available from The Seattle Times), is presented online at as a single, long Web page -- consisting of a 384kb HTML file, with an additional 110-115kb of graphics. Pointing Adobe Acrobat 5's "Web Capture" tool [available only with the full commercial application, not part of the free Acrobat Reader] at the URL, we ended up with a 77-page, 390kb PDF document using default settings -- smaller file size, easier to browse, more suitable for printing, ideal for distributing as one file containing all text and graphics. It's no wonder many courts are standardizing on PDF.

Web Capture Options

And when lengthy documents aren't available in PDF, Acrobat's Web Capture feature can be a godsend for quick conversions (with various preferences available, depending on the desired results and intended use). By the way, Gates was on the stand again today -- reportedly threatening under cross-examination to yank Windows off the market -- so there may be some additional Web Capture work on the road ahead.


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'Why use XML and not HTML or PDF?' That's one of the 'key topics' addressed in the free strategy document titled "Maximising the value of QuarkXPress content." It's produced by and available from EasyPress Technologies, London-based supplier of graphic arts software. The 26-page white paper "focuses on the technical issues of leveraging the value of content held in QuarkXPress," and apparently is the first in a series that will "cover some of the key aspects surrounding the adoption of XML in the publishing industry." The document's goal is "to take the reader through the key issues involved in getting content out of QuarkXPress, the formats involved and how content value can be maximised and the cost of its reuse minimised."

The author addresses the virtues and shortcomings of various formats, noting:

"The alternatives to XML include HTML, PDF and SVG however each of these has significant disadvantages as formats for maximising the value of content."
Among PDF's purported drawbacks: it's "a proprietary, unstructured format."

If you're a devotee of PDF, you can take heart in the fact that the white paper is available only in one (proprietary, unstructured) format -- PDF -- from the EasyPress Web site.


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PDF in the Final Frontier: This week we reported on some new resources for educators to help with classroom instruction on the use of Adobe Acrobat and PDF. That feature ended by noting that beyond these particular educational guides and tools available from Adobe Systems, the Web in general offers a bounty of PDF-based news and information suitable for classroom use -- at all levels.

While it's difficult -- and probably unfair -- to pick one site or organization as the best example of such content, we thought it'd be safe to cite one who's probably taken students -- and PDF -- the furthest. Framed that way, you'd be a real space cadet to cite anything other than the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) educational adventures to Mars.

While it's not exactly feasible -- yet anyway -- to physically transport several busloads of students and teachers to the Red Planet for a field trip, NASA is attempting the next best thing. As part of its "Live from Mars 2002" project, students watching via public television and NASA-TV, and connecting over the Internet, can now interact with some of the same researchers involved in last year's important scientific revelation that large amounts of hydrogen and evidence of water ice were found on Mars -- raising the possibility that the planet could have supported life at some point.

The Mars Exploration Program and Mars Odyssey Web sites offer a range of PDF-based teaching resources, including activity kits, posters and sets of images from Mars. Students can also apply for a turn at targeting the project's THEMIS camera for themselves via the Internet.

And looking ahead, to the Mars Exploration Rover-2003 mission, NASA is offering an opportunity to have your name included on a compact disc that will be included in one of the next missions. After entering your name on a Web page, you can download a PDF-based certificate -- actually, an electronically fillable PDF Form that allows you to enter your name (again).

  Mars NASA project Mars images

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Still Free, Just Older: With the release of Adobe Acrobat Reader 5 about a year ago, Adobe Systems revised its policy for distributing the free, limited functionality product -- with only a couple exceptions (one being Planet PDF), external sites could no longer host copies of the Reader for download, but instead are now required to link to's Reader download area. The change was in part motivated by Adobe's desire to be sure the latest versions of the Reader were available; prior to the new policy, there were many sites offering downloads of several-generations old versions of Reader. In contrast, a brief search turned up only one site still offering downloads of Acrobat Reader 1.0 (for DOS).

With that in mind, we were a bit surprised recently to come upon the "" Web site, a seemingly self-appointed -- although reportedly non-profit -- site for archiving older versions of certain freeware and shareware products. The year-old site says its three goals are to:

  • discourage the use of spyware by software companies
  • help those who are unable to continually upgrade their computer
  • battle bloatware

At first glance, it appeared they might be setting themselves up for a legal encounter -- among the archived products listed on the homepage is "Adobe Acrobat," rather than the free Acrobat Reader. But on the actual product download page, the listing correctly showed they offer only copies of the non-commercial PDF-viewing product ... Windows versions 2, 3 and 4, to be exact.

The site indicates it will try to locate older versions of products on request, and that most of the two dozen or so applications they currently host have been provided by individual contributors (no mention of virus checking on such files, so download at your own risk). In the case of Acrobat Reader, however, the value of the 'service' seems marginal. With the exception of the v.2.0 Reader, the other versions are still readily available from Adobe's Web site or its FTP site for Acrobat Reader. And anyone still needing the 2.0 Reader probably has bigger problems.

Nonetheless, in the spirit of highlighting resources someone might find useful, we're passing this URL along. And if you know anyone needing the Reader 1.0 for DOS ... you need new friends!


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