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

For week beginning 16 December 2002
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. You can also catch up on last week's Weblog.


PDF = Particularly Difficult to Find?: The folks at Financial Executive Magazine seem to have discovered yet another definition for the "PDF" acronym as a result of a recent "review of the corporate governance information of 135 companies around the world."

Based on the resulting article "Communicating Corporate Governance Via the Web" published on the Web site, the use of PDF apparently translates to something like "Particularly Difficult to Find." In the conclusion based on a September 2002 review are a variety of tips for readers -- the site calls itself "the predominant Web portal for the accounting industry" -- on ways to maximize the capabilities of the Web. The use of Acrobat/PDF is not among them, at least not in a favorable reference.

The article says:

"Almost 70 percent of the companies posted their most recent proxy statement in one large PDF file. Generally, PDF is a poor format for users who want quick and easy access to important information, as it lacks HTML's fluidity, ease of use, familiarity and access speed. PDF is, however, often the most convenient way to quickly post new information against tight disclosure deadlines. So, once the immediate pressures are over, the PDF should be replaced with an HTML version for ongoing reference. This is especially true for information that changes infrequently and has a long lifespan, such as corporate governance policies."

The "difficult-to-find" (information) premise comes a bit further on, basically citing the use of PDF for disclosure and public communication documents as ineffective and inadvisable:

"However, the communications effectiveness of approaches among companies varies widely, and many don't adequately address the needs of their audience. For example, by simply placing information in large documents, often available only as PDF files, Web site visitors are forced to navigate and search the site for the information they want.

A better approach is for companies to use their corporate governance sections to directly answer the most pressing concerns of investors, and then to provide direct links to more detailed information that resides elsewhere on the site - in the proxy statement or other documents."

Frankly, I have a difficult time thinking of a Web site where I wasn't "forced" to navigate and search the site" for the specific information I wanted. Granted, search capabilities vary widely from site to site, as does the degree of challenge accordingly. But with the most prominent Internet Search tool -- Google -- and a number of other sites now able to index the full-text of PDF files, and to allow searching *only* for PDF-based text if desired, that particular criticism seems like a bit of a stretch.

But in the end, this still seems like just another variation of the once-common debate about having to choose between PDF and HTML when the truly user-friendly option is to offer the choice whenever possible. With Adobe's greater emphasis in Acrobat 5 (and likely to be further developed in a future upgrade) on making it easy to export and/or extract content out of PDF for re-purposing, it seems folly to us to proactively discourage PDF use for corporate financial documents when the format's strengths are well-suited to many of that industry's publishing needs.

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Carol-ing in PDF: You will -- or should -- be glad to know that the Planet PDF staff will *not* be showing up outside your abode (or outside Adobe, for that matter) to belt out Christmas carols this holiday season. By popular request, we've concluded that a better and far more in-tune way to wish you a festive break from the usual rat race is to offer free PDF-based eBook versions of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. Trust me, a 'good read' is a far more pleasant option than a 'bad tune.'

Christmas Carol - Non-Tagged

Our ace eBook producer Richard Crocker has been building up a collection of copyright-free classics that are freely downloadable from Planet PDF. The Dickens' holiday tale is just one of more than two dozen titles currently available; Dickens other famous 'tale' -- "A Tale of Two Cities" -- is also on the list.

As noted, there are no copyright restrictions on any of these eBooks (or we'd be in trouble!), and thus the PDFs have no security protection or restricted permissions. You're free to move these PDFs from one computer to another as you desire, or to freely pass along your copy to a friend (or let them know where to download their own). The DMCA Police won't come calling.

However, *if* you do plan to read any of these eBooks on more than one device -- Christmas Carol - Tagged PDF and if at least one of them is the hand-held variety -- you'll want to know that each title is available in two different versions, one of which is more ideally suited for viewing on smaller screens. The better choice for reading on small devices is the "Tagged PDF" version. The file size is larger because structure tags have been added to this version, meaning that the text on the page can be reflowed -- using either the full Adobe Acrobat or the free Acrobat Reader -- by clicking the "Reflow" icon with the eBook displayed on the device of choice. No scrolling from side to side; the content automatically reflows to fit the available display space. (NOTE: "Saving" the PDF after reflowing does not save the new formatting of the content.)

Wishing you a restful and literate holiday season!

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Printable Holidays: Unless you're among the brave and ink-free hoping for a paperless holiday season, there's undoubtedly *something* useful among the varied made-to-print holiday projects available at the Hewlett-Packard Web site. If you didn't know better, you might think that the site is an official extension of Adobe Systems' online presence, based on the extensive use of PDF for HP's creative templates. Some come ready to print and cut out, others allow for a degree of customization -- through the use of PDF Form fields.

Holiday CD cvrAn example of the latter are several projects for creating personalized, color cover illustrations for CDs or DVDs. The PDF contains a field for entering a project title to the illustration before printing. So if you're planning to digitize and archive some aspect of the late-year holidays, these freebies could prove useful.

If, on the other hand, you're planning for more traditional analog festivities, there's a multitude of other PDF-based projects for Christmas and other year-end -- and also New Year -- events: they include designed-for-printing gift cards, holiday cards, ornaments, recipe cards, newsletters, scrapbooks and more. You'll need the free Acrobat Reader -- and a printer (they'd prefer one with the HP name on it!).

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Enhanced Government 'Nosiness': People who already feel that the government sticks its proverbial nose in places where it doesn't belong -- or at least where those people would prefer bureaucrats not go sniffing -- may want to keep their eyes (or noses) on a proposed Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project dubbed the "Odortype Detection Program."

According to the Associated press, the $3.2 Million project -- detailed in an 18-page PDF -- "challenges scientists to create a detector that could identify people by their unique, genetically determined odor." The AP cites a spokesperson for DARPA -- yes, the same folks who developed the original Internet -- as explaining the purpose: "Such a detector would essentially allow on-the-fly DNA identification, measuring and collecting yet another biometric, or identifying characteristic of the human body."

The $3.2 Million, by the way, is apparently just to assess the feasibility. Scientists will have two and a half years to prove it, then hopefully build a prototype within six.

I assume someone first needs to find out what Osama bin Laden smells like before he can be 'sniffed' out with any such futuristic criminal detection system.

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Holiday Pause: Some of us at Planet PDF will be taking a break from the normal workflow during the next 1-2 weeks, depending on the person. Accordingly, there'll be a slowdown in posting content during that period. We'll resume the normal work pace and publishing schedule on Monday, January 6, 2003. There will be no new posts to this Weblog until January 6. The PDF Store ( remains open for business 7x24 throughout the holiday period, with only a slight reduction in staffing.

We trust some of you will also be enjoying some downtime from your usual work-related pursuits!

Happy Holidays! Hope to see you here again in 2003.

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