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

For week beginning 6 January 2003
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 the previous Weblog.

MONDAY

PDF on Wheels: Before getting to today's PDF-oriented newsbit, I want to explain a slight change in the way we use our Weblog. It originally was intended as a daily catchall for shorter news items that in many cases didn't merit -- for any of several reasons -- more detailed coverage, or to serve as our space to air out Acrobat/PDF-related opinions that were best separated from our regular news coverage. Quite often, however, the entries ended up longer than expected (again, for any of several reasons, usually because we discovered we had more to say than we realized once we got into a Weblog topic).

If this rambling tendency became evident numerous times during a given week, that week's Weblog ended up being a rather lengthy, sometimes cumbersome to read Web page. And searching the site for Weblog items wasn't as useful as we expected.

The new year gives us an opportunity to resolve returning the Weblog a bit closer to our original intent. Sometimes we'll post here only brief newsbits that can be read fairly quickly. When we want to include something in greater detail, we'll break that portion of the entry into a separate page and link to it. That gives you the option of reading it if/when you want, but not having to wade through the more detailed version when the topic isn't of interest. Anyway, that's the plan, so watch for that change -- beginning with today's entry, which now follows.

If you're not quite ready to let go of the year 2002, at least not without a parting glance, the best resource we've seen so far unfortunately isn't available in PDF. But for those if you properly equipped with the full ($) Acrobat product, its ever-handy 'Web Capture' feature can correct for that oversight. Simply plug the URL for Google's "2002 Year-End Zeitgeist" into Acrobat's Web Capture and create a PDF of the following lengthy Web Page:

http://www.google.com/press/zeitgeist2002.html

Of course, if you're only (free) Acrobat Reader-enabled, the HTML version will have to suffice. Sorry!

AutoWeek 2002 Review

Here's a 2002 reflection of another sort that *is* available in PDF: For the automotively inclined, the editors of AutoWeek Online recently published "2002 Year in Reverse," a special four-page humor publication. It's a December-backwards-to-January flashback recalling some of the strange-but-true, car-oriented news items from the year in the rear-view mirror. As the PDF pub's headline and illustration suggests, it attempts to answer the apparently significant query "What would Jesus drive?" as well as "other heavenly questions."


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TUESDAY

Trying on 'Shoebox': Unless you're a registered beta tester, you don't typically have an opportunity to have an up-close look at Adobe software products before they are officially released. But if you read yesterday about Adobe's announcement of a future imaging product called Photoshop Album -- which uses PDF as its core exchange format -- and are curious to know more, point your favorite Web browser at the Digital Photography Review Web site. Among its various, detailed reviews is a new one exploring the finer points of Adobe's not-yet-available, Windows-only product that the company initially referred to as being a 'digital shoebox':

"We have had a copy of Adobe Photoshop Album 1.0 beta for evaluation, and I have to admit it's very impressive. Photoshop Album is designed to be a total solution for the acquisition, organisation, identification and output of your images. It works around the concept of a catalog of images which can be tagged and easily re-located later (including images on removable media)."

The full review by Phil Askey includes a wealth of screenshots -- including many animated views highlighting features -- that clearly show off the product .. at least as it appears in its beta state. (The usual disclaimer applies: things may look smaller in the mirror, etc.) Askey also includes a downloadable example of the option to save a slideshow of images as a PDF file.

Photoshop Album review

By the way, if you choose to download the "Tammy.pdf" slideshow, ignore the text on page 1 that invites you to "Click Go Online" in order to download an "Adobe Image Viewer Plug-in" that, presumably at some future time, will allow you to "view this PDF with audio and video." Currently the link merely goes to an Adobe Web page featuring a text message stating you have reached a "test page for the Imageviewer plugin download."

And since MacWorld 2003 is underway in San Francisco this week, with Adobe on hand, it's worth noting Askey's conclusion, which includes the following comment:

"Asked to give Album a rating I'd give it a 'Recommended;' there's still some space for development and it would be nice to see a Mac version."


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WEDNESDAY

New Adobe Plug-in for Acrobat 5 and Reader 5: A follow-up on yesterday's post on the forthcoming Adobe Photoshop Album software and the seemingly missing Acrobat plug-in for viewing multimedia slideshows. The link that went nowhere yesterday now leads to the real thing: Adobe has posted its new "Image Viewer 4.0 plug-in" for both Macintosh (OS 9.1, 9.2, or 9.2.2, or Mac OS X v.10.1.3, 10.1.5, or 10.2) and Windows (Windows® 98 Second Edition, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows NT® 4.0 with Service Pack 5 or 6 (Service Pack 6 recommended), Windows 2000, or Windows XP):

"You will need this plug-in for the full version of Adobe® Acrobat® 5.0 and later or Acrobat Reader® 5.0 and later to view Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) slide shows and eCards created by Adobe Photoshop® Album with audio, video, and transitions."

After downloading the file, double-click it to reveal its contents, then run the installer to update Acrobat or Reader. To confirm installation, when you launch Acrobat or Reader, check the "About Adobe Acrobat Plug-ins" option under 'Help' -- a new listing for the Image Viewer plug-in should now appear.

"This product includes MPEG Layer-3 audio compression technology licensed by Fraunhofer IIS and THOMSON multimedia. It also contains source code governed by the Mozilla Public License version 1.1."

And we have a second follow-up on yesterday's Weblog entry pointing to a detailed review of Adobe's forthcoming, Windows-only Photoshop Album product. We noted reviewer Phil Askey's conclusion that in part wished for a Macintosh version. It appears from a recent newspaper article -- "Santa Rosa startup Fotiva launches new Photoshop product" -- that a Mac version of Photoshop Album isn't in the plans. According to The Press Democrat's article on Fotiva, which Adobe acquired in December 2001 for the technology that was further developed into Photoshop Album, the company is "not developing a Mac version, which would compete against iPhoto, Apple's free digital photo applications."


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THURSDAY

'PDF as a Necessary Evil?': We recently featured a promotional contest for the book "Inside the Publishing Revolution: The Adobe Story" by Pamela Pfiffner, published by Peachpit Press. In her day job, Pfiffner works as the editor-in-chief of the popular CreativePro Web site where, among her other duties, she occasionally comments on graphics-oriented news and events.

Her current editorial "Can Designers Learn to Love PDF?" is particularly relevant to the Planet PDF community. It's in part a response to feedback on an earlier item by another CP columnist that suggested designers have mixed emotions among Adobe Acrobat and PDF. As Pfiffner puts it: "They know they have to use it, but often they see it as a threat to their livelihoods."

The reason, she says, is that "the general perception is that PDF cuts designers out of the process."

Personally, I find this line of thinking quite astounding, on a number of levels. First, as they say, 'consider the source.' By that I mean the source of the technology: Adobe Systems, widely recognized as *the* most significant producer of software for the graphics and design community. It's hard to fathom a company whose customer base for its various products has consisted of the exact type of creative professionals -- many of them designers and graphic artists -- deliberately trying to alienate this audience. Logic and good business sense dictate that Adobe would more likely seek to develop complementary products. One can only presume, since PDF-generation capabilities are now part of most of the company's graphics products, that they view PDF as meaningful and relevant to customers using its other graphics tools.

The problem here, as Pfiffner points out, seems to be a misunderstanding of the product. In that sense, add it to the list. What percentage of people, 10 years since the product family was launched, still don't grasp the difference between the commercial Acrobat product and the freely downloadable Acrobat Reader? Or the product name from the *company* name, for that matter? Far too many, judging by the frequent, inaccurate references we still see and hear. That aside, Acrobat (and most certainly not the free Reader) should never be thought of as a design tool -- at least in terms of being useful in the authoring process. But to leap from that to a conclusion that Acrobat -- and PDF, by affiliation -- is in any way a threat seems a jump worthy of ... dare I say, a trained acrobat. While not a design tool, it's definitely a tool.

One discussion we've fortunately begun to hear less of in the days of Acrobat 5 is the debate about 'HTML or PDF,' a narrow-minded argument that once presumed one had to choose between the two formats for Web publishing. As we've opined before, there's not really much debate here -- and if there is, the answer is 'both.' But if you really need to make a choice for certain situations, then there's no hard and fast rule that says one format is always the right one. Each has its merits and its shortcomings. Weigh them, make a decision ... if you must.

On the debit side of the ledger for HTML, at least as perceived by people skilled in print-oriented design, is the ongoing challenge of preserving in HTML the exact look and feel intentionally created by a knowledgeable designer. Simply too many uncontrollable variables -- still true today, but even worse the time this debate peaked. And as anyone who has worked much with PDF knows by now, that's where PDF shines. It preserves the intelligent decisions made by skilled designers so that readers will perceive the information in the exact manner originally intended. It may be an inexact science or skill, but there's a world of evidence and experience that supports the notion that presentation (design) plays a key role in comprehension of information.

If design didn't matter, we wouldn't need PDF, or at least not for fidelity's sake. But if you buy into the notion that communication results in part from the conscious, deliberate intentions of a design-oriented individual or staff, then viewing PDF as a threat seems unjustifiable. It's an extension of and complement to the principles of design, seems to me.

Last, with the ever-increasing acceptance of PDF, within not the least of professional arenas the publishing world, any designer today who chooses to ignore the potential applications of PDF only limits themselves and for some, also their future career opportunities.

Pfiffner concludes that the fault here lies to a great extent with Adobe marketing, a group that over the years has been flogged for any number of shortcomings, both perceived and real. She says "Adobe needs to tweak its marketing strategy so that designers better understand the role PDF plays."

At the same time, working in a field as competitive as publishing, any designers (and companies employing designers) looking to have a richer and more valuable toolbox than others in the field would be well advised not to sit back and wait for the maligned Adobe Marketeers to get around to dispensing such enlightenment.

Read Pfiffner's column and, if you have an opinion, join us in the PDF-Talkback section of the Planet PDF Forum to have a pow-wow on this topic.


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FRIDAY

Acrobat/PDF Going to Disney World: Planet PDF is pleased to announce it has signed on as one of the co-sponsors for a new educational event aimed at Acrobat/PDF users -- and wanna-be users. Disney World The American Graphics Institute (AGI) will host the "Acrobat & PDF 2003 Conference" at a Walt Disney World resort hotel on April 10-11. If you haven't visited (or 'experienced') the vast theme-park world of Mickey, Goofy and the other assorted denizens of the Magic Kingdom and other Disney properties in the Orlando, Florida area, here's a chance to combine that with a little PDF magic. To help find your way around the myriad adventures in and around Adventureland, Disney Online offers a series of PDF-based maps outlining each of its highly commercialized, adjacent properties.

For more information about the AGI-hosted event -- sure to be a wonderland of another sort -- check the conference Web site (www.pdf2003.com), and watch for further details on Planet PDF.


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