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

For week beginning 3 June 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.

MONDAY

Acrobat 5

Live from PDF Conference: As we post this first news brief from the site of the PDF Conference 2002 in Bethesda, MD, it's about 90 minutes before the official opening -- the traditional welcome by host and event producer Carl Young, followed by the day's keynote on "PDF Today and Tomorrow." The morning continues with a session on "PDF Best Practices, Part 1," by Shlomo Perets of Microtype (Shlomo writes a series of columns by the same name and theme on Planet PDF), followed by Thomas Merz of PDFlib fame (among his many talents and accomplishments), speaking on "How Safe is Your PDF." We'll offer coverage of both talks, and on some of the topical breakout sessions being held later today.

During yesterday's run throughs and tech prep of the hotel meeting rooms where events are being conducted, Young was a bit concerned about some large speakers being set up and tested for an unrelated conference in an adjacent ballroom. The real threat may not come from the competing event's audio spillover, however; the next-door gathering turns out to be some sort of cosmetics industry affair, apparently complete with a stable of young runway models. Young, Perets and Merz may have to work especially hard to maintain the attention of at least some portion of the largest-ever PDF Conference audience. In their favor: Based on past events, the folks who attend are serious about learning to improve their knowledge of and skills working with Adobe Acrobat and PDF. A quick review of the final program suggests there will be ample opportunity to do so during the next few days -- and also beyond via the plentiful and valuable networking opportunities.

We'll do what we can in our upcoming coverage over the next few days to spread some of the enlightenment beyond the physical conference site. If you'd hoped to be here with us in Bethesda, but for some reason couldn't manage it, the date of the annual west coast version of this same event is now set: November 22-24, 2002 in Las Vegas, NV. The focus will be on Web technology and PDF, according to Young. More details shortly on Planet PDF and on the conference's official Web site.

The girls-next-door cosmetics showcase here in Bethesda may be just a warmup act for the plethora of competing distractions -- male, female and otherwise -- at the future fall confab in the desert! In any case, we're about to get on with the show here; more to come.

NOON Update: Some very good opening talks so far -- with only occasional cosmetic disruptions (audio only so far); we'll post highlights later today from the sessions cited above and from some afternoon, topic-specific sessions. But we wanted to alert the community to a late afternoon show-and-tell that's sure to be of interest to many -- the "Warp-Speed Overviews" where up to 14 product vendors each will have five minutes (and absolutely no more!) to show off a hot product. We've had a chance for a sneak preview of one totally new product being unveiled publicly that we're sure is going to be popular once it's released. Sorry, if we told you any more at this moment ... you know the drill. And we have a sense from the vendor lineup that there'll be other noteworthy product revelations to share. Do check back!

Global Graphics offers sneak peek at upcoming release: JAWS PDF Editor 1.0

During a PDF Conference session outlining the strategy for its expanding line of PDF-oriented products aimed at graphics arts and business users, Global Graphics also offered a preview of its forthcoming JAWS PDF Editor 1.0 product, slated for release and official announcement next week. The product, intended to complement its JAWS PDF Creator software for authoring of PDF documents, Editor was developed for Global Graphics in a partnership with Ansyr Technology, known primarily for its solutions for viewing PDFs on Palm and other hand-held devices. Tamar Cruse of Ansyr, introduced as the new product manager, gave a brief demo of the tool's release feature set. Alan Wheeler, a Global Graphics VP, said pricing details would be released next week when the product ships, adding that the 1.0 version would have a "short update cycle," with additional features and functionality available not far out from the launch.

Jaws PDF Editor 1.0

Pressed by an attendee's question on why one might purchase both Creator and Editor rather than the full commercial Adobe Acrobat product, Wheeler said the bundled JAWS products (also sold separately) would be less expensive than Acrobat -- and also would have a simpler interface and shorter learning curve, requiring less user training. Not all Acrobat 5 functionality and tools are supported in the JAWS products. Editor is not intended to be a tool for editing text in PDF files, Wheeler said.

Features accessible from customizable toolbars in the coming-soon product include the ability to:

  • insert, extract, delete, rotate and re-order pages
  • add comments, highlight, strikeout and underline text
  • find, select, copy and paste text

It will be available initially for Windows NT, 2000 and XP in English only.


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TUESDAY

All Things PDF: If it's not PDF, it's *not* news today here in Bethesda on Day 2 of the PDF Conference East 2002. Adobe's Dov Isaacs, who to those familiar with his ceaseless, immensely helpful online presence answering a gamut of questions about Acrobat, FrameMaker, InDesign, etc. hardly seems like he could really be only one person, will actually dispense some of that accrued product wisdom in non-virtual mode as he opens today with a morning keynote on "Reliable PDF Creation in the Enterprise." Not to be missed! We also have his presentation available for download.

How safe is your PDF?

As other speaker presentations become available, we're posting them for download. So far only Thomas Merz of PDFlib has delivered -- you'll definitely want to read his overview of and tips for maximizing the effectiveness of PDF security! Also this morning is a new session for this conference: a "Tips from the Masters" pow-wow moderated by Planet PDF's Karl De Abrew; a hand-picked group of Acrobat gurus will each share some of their top tips. We'll post at least a selection of those a bit later. We've also got a couple interviews lined up today that we think will be of interest to many of our regular site visitors. Coming soon with more from the conference.

Dov Isaacs on Reliable PDF Production

NOON Update: In a repeat -- but updated -- performance of his keynote at the last PDF Conference that drew rave reviews, Dov Isaacs dissed a number of Acrobat myths -- i.e. contrary to past warnings, use of TrueType fonts in PDFs is no longer a legitimate issue -- and dished out a variety of recommendations and opinions based on his own extensive Acrobat use and online efforts as a respected PDF troubleshooter. Isaacs suggested that users should simplify their PDF-authoring techniques, thoroughly test for reliability and predictability, and then lock down those preferences and variables for the majority of their portable document production. Many of Acrobat 5's defaults need tweaking for optimal performance, he said; for example, the four standard Job Options available for Acrobat Distiller 5 are inadequate for many enterprise users. In his 80-page presentation, Isaacs showed a detailed chart comparing a pair of customized Job Options settings he's created (instead of using any of the pre-defined defaults) that serve most of his varied PDF generation needs very well.

In the following session, even more tips were doled out by a panel of so-called Acrobat Masters -- unfortunately you had to be here to fully appreciate how that term came into use for this new session -- including one unsuspecting attendee who was drafted from the audience simply by virtue of having claimed one of the sponsor giveaways (golf balls, oddly enough). The intent was to include a Shootout at the end of the hour, eliminating panelists one by one who couldn't serve up a new tip on command. But none faltered; so the GrandMaster was selected using an interactive PDF file that had been wired with JavaScript to randomly choose from among the panelists' names. Using that method, the title of Acrobat Tip Poobah was awarded to Max Wyss, considered by many in the Acrobat/PDF universe to be the ultimate PDF Forms wizard for his complex forms productions that make extensive use of JavaScripts. So there was a degree of justice at work -- if you're going to allow a snippet of JavaScript to choose the brightest PDF star in the galaxy, it's only fitting that it singles out the PDF Forms God from Switzerland. (Whether he had a hand in the creation of the script that selected the winner we may never know.) Congratulations, Max! FYI: We're pulling together all of the tips from the session to be posted on Planet PDF in the near future.

Next Up: Lori De Furio of Adobe Systems is slated to give a presentation on the Adobe PDF Library in a few minutes -- details to follow.


   

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WEDNESDAY

PDF Power: The final day of the PDF Conference will begin shortly with the always popular Power Panel session -- registrants have been submitting written questions about Acrobat/PDF issues the past two days that a group of experts will attempt to answer live on stage. Once again, Karl De Abrew of Planet PDF will host the lively give-and-take, which consistently rates as an attendee favorite. And again, we'll also be posting all submitted questions to the Planet PDF Forum later today to tap into a second empowered panel of sorts -- the global experts within the Planet PDF community who selflessly share their knowledge and experience every day answering similar sorts of questions.

More from the just-completed Power Panel shortly; but there was a recurring theme in some of the solutions offered, one that echoes comments from previous conference sessions this week: As great and multi-faceted an application as Adobe Acrobat has become -- incredibly useful in many ways across diverse markets and industries -- it often by itself isn't quite enough to handle precise user needs. That's why there's been a steady growth in the third-party tools arena, leading to the development of products, tools and plug-ins that in most cases complement Acrobat, enhancing its capabilities. It's always refreshing to hear Adobe Systems reps at these user-focused events paying sincere tribute to third-party products and companies because in part, they've contributed to the growth and success of Acrobat and PDF that Adobe's ePaper products -- and company stockholders -- have been enjoying the past couple of years (give or take a recent quarter). Many of these (typically small) companies were committed to the technology long before PDF attained its current level of understanding, popularity and use.

Yesterday Dov Isaacs, for example, singled out a handful of non-Adobe products he relies on for helping to create (and/or troubleshoot) reliable PDFs, including:

As long as we're naming (product) names, I noticed a discussion list post that partially relates to an item mentioned in last week's AcroPDF Weblog regarding the indexing and retrieveability of PDF files using various Internet search tools/sites. Specifically, we noted the difference in the way Google and AllTheWeb displayed the 'Title' of the same PDF document each had indexed -- one was meaningful, the other more cryptic. The related post below chronicled the following dilemma in search of a cure:

"Most of our internal documentation and whatnot is captured to PDF and stored for later retrieval. We've been experimenting with a bunch of different search engines and have discovered that their returns are more "intuitive" if the Document Summary portion of the PDF has the Title field filled out (if it exists, the name of the file is returned as the result; if it doesn't have any info in it, it picks the first line of the PDF). We have a ton (I would say over 1300 files) of PDFs that we'd like to modify so that the Title field in Doc Summary now has a value."

"So, does anyone know of a way to batch insert the file name of the PDF into the title field? I'd rather not enlist a corps of c-co-workers to open each PDF and put it in there."

Long-time PDF proponent and system integrator Robert Moran of Digital Constructs Inc. (www.dconstructs.com) responded [slightly edited to clarify product name and related references] as follows:

"Yes, I know how to do this. First get ARTS PDF Workshop. It's an awesome Excel package that allows insertion of information into the default metadata fields of Acrobat. It's worth every penny. After that, it's 7 steps:
  1. Put all of the target PDFs in one folder.
  2. Install PDF Workshop, then open Excel; you will see the PDF Workshop toolset.
  3. Use PDF Workshop to scan the PDFs; it will generate an Excel file showing the default fields of all the PDF files in the folder.
  4. Make the change in one target field (preferable the top one under the field name. (Document Summary will work), highlight and copy the change.
  5. Highlight all other DS fields and do a paste. They now should all be the same.
  6. Do an Update/save within PDF Workshop.
  7. All the files will be updated with the same DS field information.

"You can do all kind of neat stuff with this app."

NOON Update: We've begun posting the written questions submitted in advance for the Power Panel session held this morning to the Planet PDF Forum -- specifically, to the most topic-relevant conference area within the broad forum. First crack at a subset of the questions went to the following on-site experts:

  • Gary Staas of PDFDream
  • Thomas Merz of PDFlib
  • Dov Isaacs of Adobe Systems
  • Michael Jahn of Enfocus Software
  • Leonard Rosenthol pf PDF Sages
  • Bill Carberry of PDFexperts
  • Tim Sullivan of activePDF
  • Jinsoo Kim of Image Solutions

However, as always the quantity of user-supplied questions (there was also an opportunity for live, on-the-spot queries) exceeded the available time for the session. In addition, there often is more than one solution to many Acrobat/PDF-oriented problems. Posting *all* of the questions -- including those not asked of the panel here -- allows for increased input (or as De Abrew only partially in jest told the audience: "Aandi Inston will answer the rest...") and wider benefit. The seemingly omnipotent Aandi, presumably at home in his Scottish castle, and the rest of the worldwide Power Panelists can easily locate the conference questions by the 'Subject' line prefix:
PDF Conference >

Aandi on Cue!: We're actually still in the process of posting the panel session questions to the forum, but just noticed that The Fabled One from Quite Software is already contributing responses to those already posted. A footnote to anyone in the Acrobat/PDF galaxy who, as unimaginable as it seems to some of us, doesn't fully appreciate the reverence bestowed on Aandi: the sum total of his online responses to user questions (forums, lists, newsgroups, etc) from the days of Acrobat 1.0 and forward must be in the 25,000 range by now. And one note of caution: In part because of the time he generously commits to helping users solve PDF puzzles, Aandi frequently demonstrates a low tolerance for questions that are inane, incomplete or that the user could have had answered by using Acrobat's built-in Help documentation. Also, you know you're a true PDF disciple when your idea of enjoyable reading is watching an unsuspecting, often arrogant whiner confront and engage Aandi -- genial by nature -- in a battle of online wits and wisdom about some aspect of PDF. Hint: The ending is not always pretty, but it *is* always the same.

Bright PDF Futures: The soon-to-be-completed PDF Conference East 2002 in Bethesda, MD is the fifth in the series of twice-annual educational confabs developed by Carl and Jo Lou Young of DigiPub Solutions, focusing this time on uses and users of Adobe Acrobat 5.0 and PDF. Version 6.0 -- of the conference, not the software -- has been publicly announced for Las Vegas from November 22-24. Judging by this week's event and by any of several criteria, the conference has more than regained any momentum it lost (as happened across the conferencing world) last fall following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Certainly the all-time attendance was one prime indicator of recouped interest and focus -- and without the draw of a recent major release of the software at the core of the Bethesda program. The increase in vendors and vendor support is certainly another strong sign that the PDF Conference is bringing together the right mix and serving the needs of both product users and developers. On the user side, the event is definitely building a sense of community, with a considerable number of repeat attendees who with each new three-day trip to 'Camp PDF' deepen their professional and personal friendships, in addition to enriching their tech skills.

But perhaps the most obvious measure of success -- at least to those of us who attended PDF Conference 1.0 a couple years back -- has been the steady increase in both visibility and support from Adobe Systems. Truth be told, at the inaugural event, there were more employees from Microsoft in attendance than from Adobe -- and there was only *one* from the Redmond, WA software empire. [That factoid was emailed from the Scottsdale, AZ-site to then-CEO John Warnock in hopes someone from San Jose could be freed up for at least a day trip, as conference attendees took note of the irony, which some even voiced as displaying Adobe's perceived indifference to users.]

That won't be said about this event. You needed more than one hand to count the traditionally black-shirt clad members of the Adobe clan who were on hand most of the week to lead or participate in numerous sessions throughout the program -- and even one or two not garbed in the company's usual industry event attire. Word had it there was at least one "incognito" Adobe staffer registered, whose mission was to observe and absorb information from end users, at least some of whom presumably might not have been as frank and forthcoming with their feedback. And there was a new Adobe face, too, made all the more obvious by his apparently "thinking differently" dress code.

Planet PDF had a chance here to sit down and chat with Jonathan Knowles, Adobe's new Worldwide Evangelist for Acrobat. In short, we came away very impressed -- and not (only) because he favored a tan, corporate-but-casual dress shirt bearing the red Adobe logo. You'll find out why in our interview, in which Knowles discusses his background (including a stint as a product manager for a "Way Cool Technology"), his personal interests (such as working as a park docent-naturalist -- walking among the Redwoods while talking about courtship, mating and reproduction behaviors of banana slugs, newts, woodpeckers, redwood trees and more); his first eight weeks evangelizing -- and learning more about -- Acrobat/PDF; his impressions of listening to and meeting with Acrobat users at the conference; and his predictions on the bright and exciting future for Acrobat and PDF.


   

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THURSDAY

Travel Day: No post today


   

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FRIDAY

Survey Says: It's been a while since we surveyed Planet PDF's community of Adobe Acrobat/PDF users -- it's always helpful for us to know a little about those of you who are spending time with us here and whether we're meeting your needs. As much as we may like to believe we're divinely inspired, the truth is that we depend on more earthly indicators of how well (now and then, we hope) we contribute to your appreciation for and use of our site's featured technology. So we've posted another survey seeking frank and honest feedback from our readers and visitors. We assume that if you come back more than once or twice that you find some value in what we do. And to make sure you continue to return, we sincerely want you to tell us what we can bo better, or more of (or both) so that Planet PDF meets even more of your needs. We want to be the place you turn to when you are in need of accurate information, help with a problem or a knowledgeable user community. Feel free to tell us what we do that you find most useful as well as what we should be doing that we're not.

We do ask for some demographic data, but by no means do we seek to (or can we) correlate individual respondents to their survey question replies. We're only interested in a general compilation that gives us -- and relevant companies that might choose to sponsor some of our independent, Acrobat-centric efforts -- a better sense of our audience's makeup. We're offering a variety of software products as incentives for participating, but we automatically separate on submission an entrant's email address on his or her contest entry from the survey responses.

We'd very much appreciate if you'd help us help you by taking a few minutes to complete our survey before June 12. Thanks in advance!


   

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