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Open Publish 2002:

The past, present and future of the

Portable Document Format (PDF)

• Karl De Abrew, CEO of Planet


• Our discussion is broken into phases so that

we can be specific with our discussion of the

• Five Phases:
1. Past (< 500 years to present date)
2. Present (now)
3. Near Future (1-2 years)
4. Medium Future (3-5 years)
5. Distant Future (5-99 years)
Basic Assumptions

• That there is a future... Our framework

and environment need to remain
relatively consistent for these attempts to
predict the future to be reasonably
• Competitors are limited... (note: talking
about PDF, not Acrobat). Microsoft,
teenager building software in garage,
• On a similar note, that we will still have a
need for information interchange (i.e. No
direct-to-cortex methods of
communicating have been developed).
Why you should listen to me…

• In preparing for this discussion, I've

spoken with many of our colleagues and
friends in the PDF community, including:
– Acrobat 5.0 Bible Ted Padova.
– President of PDFLib Gmbh and book author,
Thomas Merz.
– Principal of PDF Sages, Leonard Rosenthol
– Planet PDF editor, Kurt Foss and the rest of the
Planet PDF team
– CEO of activePDF, Tim Sullivan
– A drunk in the casino last night who gambled
away his soul for one more spin of the big
• Please don’t just take my word for it.
Framing our discussion

• PDF is commonly seen as having (at least)

two distinct uses (we’ll address both)
1. PDF for use in Print Publishing where it acts as a
container format for high-end professional
printing capable of reproducing high quality
visually rich publications on a variety of different
2. PDF for use in corporate communications acting
(at least in part) as a paper replacement
technology. This includes informal
communications, short reports and more
professional publications such as annual reports,
brochures and so on.

• The discussion will be general, for specific

info, please ask me (after the session).
The Past

• Tim mentioned the visionary Camelot

paper written by John Warnock in the
spring of ‘91. This document talks about
Display Postscript or Interchange
Postscript which is the precursor to PDF.

• A quote of note:
– Imagine being able to send full text and
graphics, documents (newspapers,
magazine articles, technical manuals etc.)
over electronic mail distribution networks.
These documents could be viewed on any
machine and any selected document could
be printed locally. This capability would
truly change the way information is
managed. – Dr John Warnock
The Past cont…

• Paper archives, manually filing and

retrieving of information
• Overnight mail, physical delivery, faxing
• Data entry, data re-entry and analysis
• Large generic print runs, photocopying
• Physical document review & approval
• Paper-based procurement using forms

• Unfortunately for some companies, this is

still their future… The past to the present
can most accurately be described in this
6 minute presentation titled ‘jeopardy’.
The Present

• We’re now up to version 5.0 of Acrobat

and PDF has reached a critical mass with
users. It’s a rare situation to find
someone, who doesn't know what
'Adobe' is.
• Acrobat is a US $300 million dollar
business for Adobe (1/3 -- 3 years ago)
• 3rd party vendors are like a plague. At
Planet PDF, we've counted 550+ PDF
tools. Still increasing..
• If you invest your company's time and
efforts into using PDF then you're likely
to get a return on your investment
(assuming you’re using it as a solution
for an appropriate problem).
The Present cont…

• Acrobat 5.0 – engineered to sit along side

Microsoft Office as part of the standard
office toolkit.
• Acrobat includes more advanced support
for accessibility, digital signatures, batch
sequences, JavaScript, network install.
• Entrée to alternative viewers and
products such as Jaws PDF Creator and
Jaws PDF Editor along with newer
versions of alternative Open Source
products such as GhostScript.
• PDF is beginning to be used as the
lifeblood with Adobe applications such as
Illustrator, PhotoShop and InDesign.
The Present cont…

• Some general comments: Paper is being

used as a transport, storage and display
• PDF has paper equivalence. With a little
effort, PDF can be used as a paper
• Formally final-form, PDF can (with the
appropriate software) included tags
which can convey structural information
about a document (PDF and/or XML).
This makes it possible to make more
flexible and broad usage of PDF
(repurpose, reflow, …remix).
The Present

• Are we compromising the graphic arts

industry with a one-size fits all approach?
– PDF - No, as long as we have a well architected
enforced subset and tools to validate this
– Acrobat - compromising the graphic artist by
menu items, toolbar buttons, features that they
don’t care about. Perhaps the future, might
include a more configurable Acrobat (graphics
mode / corporate mode). MRU menu item
The future Æ what do you want to

You take the blue pill and the story ends.

You wake in your bed and you believe
whatever you want to believe. You take the
red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I
show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
The Near Future (1-2)

• Domino effect - Smaller companies will

follow the use acceptance of larger
• Increased marketing by Adobe will drive
rate of adoption in corporate/enterprise.
• Wider-range of tools and 3rd party
support for PDF further cementing its
popular usage.
• Refined standards for PDF’s use in print
publishing (PDFX).
• Increased electronic delivery of tailored
information (Web, CD, POD). Anywhere,
anytime, anyhow …
The Near Future cont…

• Increased usage of online form filling and

dynamic PDF output (data collection,
data output, Accelio)
• Acrobat: managing complexity by
multiple profiles or configurable
application (Print/Corporate). Maybe…
• Greater usage of on-line, markup and
review of documents (page seeder).
Higher fidelity annotation tools.
The Medium Future (3-5)

• An Adobe Acrobat-like application will

become as ubiquitous as Microsoft Office
(Adobe Acrobat/Jaws PDF Editor).
• PDF creation likely to become free,
massive number of tools already in this
• Tools used to manipulate PDF, especially
on the server-side will remain
• A veritable plethora of tools will exist for
PDF. Having a conference centered
around PDF would be like having a floppy
disk convention.
• Fully defined standards for PDF’s use in
print publishing (PDFX).
The Medium Future cont…

• PDF used more frequently as input and

output (forms, dynamic PDF)
• Acrobat and/or other PDF editors will be
highly configurable to your needs.
• On-line, markup and review of
documents will be a standard practice.
• Advances in screen technology, enable
mobile use of PDF instead of paper –
• Hard copy archives replaced by PDF –
delivering enhanced searchability and
vastly reduced physical storage
The Medium Future cont…

• Paper usage declining as people print on

demand and store electronically
• Improving accessibility and helping with
publishing to a variety of devices by way
of reflowing/repaginating
• PDF digital signatures will be recognized
though still not frequently used.
• Paper being used more as an output
device, not a transport and storage
• PDF will possibly be used as a securable
container for other content types.
The Distant Future (5-99)

• Should you print faxes, copies, drafts,

reports and forms, or should you
exchange them online? Over the next ten
years we'll see the move from paper &
ink to digital paper & digital ink including
digital signatures. PDF will continue to
grow, being used as 'digital paper'.
Faxing and photocopying should fade,
even printing should fade -- once users
experience significant improvements in
computer usability and screen
readability. Keeping PDFs on your
computer will over time improve
workplace efficiency; technological
improvements will eventually make
digital paper preferable over paper.
Issues to PDF adoption

• Unlike ?ML, PDF is based around a page

– This is highly suited for the short to medium term for
the transition of the world from paper-based
communication to electronic means, it's not necessarily
the most apt going forward.
• Having a fixed form factor is obviously
appropriate where the form itself is
constrained. But where you expect the output
to be multi-purposed to a whole range of
different media sizes or form factors then you
need something more flexible.
• This is the problem that reflow (based on
content tagging) has attempted to solve with
PDF. Right now, these tags are only created
with application such Microsoft Word using
the bundled-with-Acrobat or Adobe
Issues to PDF adoption cont…

• Microsoft may release an alternate

format wrapped into MS Office, but PDF
and supportive companies have a
reasonable jump.
• A start-up company may produce a
format that has a greater lean towards
web based information and distribution.
• PDF tools (including Acrobat) may
change, but the format is getting
ingrained and will be around for a while
yet. May become a legacy format in 10-
20 years.
The very distant future (99+)

• PDF usage superceded by direct to cortex

interface allowing information

• Note: John Travolta used this method in

Battlefield Earth (I don’t recommend you
try this at home).

• Or … some form of weapon of mass

destruction is used meaning that we
revert to the original PDF, the stone tablet
along with the authoring application, the
Michael Patrick says…
• PDF in ten years will be PDWOM: Portable
Document Workflow Objects and Methods.
The traditional distinctions will become more
blurred between document and application
running as web services to mobile, desktop
and servers. Even now, how do we exactly
classify a tagged PDF Form with JS called by
an <OBJECT> tag in a web page shown in a
browser with its associated FDF file?
• So PDF will still retain its 'traditional‘
strengths for display fidelity, but the primary
value will be that it is a open standard, self-
sufficent container across platforms for both
document objects and the associated methods
for processing. Also, as skyscraper sized
outdoor video displays, super high resolution
meeting room projectors and electronic paper
flexible films appear on the market, they all
will encounter the same issues that have been
the province of the print world: accurate
color, resolution independence, and accurate
Ted Padova says…
• In the year 2012 Adobe Acrobat will see more
than 50 million installed users. The Acrobat
Reader Software will be installed on over 1
billion computers and Reader will be launched
worldwide more than 100 billion times a year.
Adobe Acrobat version 14.05 will be launched
by users as near as the Sydney Star City
Casino and as far away as the planet Mars by
US and Russian Astronauts. The next
generation of desktop printers will all be
based on PDF replacing an old language
people used to call PostScript. Adobe's PDF
development utilities will enable users to
dynamically create, edit, and modify
documents designed for imaging, office use,
Web pages and eBooks. Planet PDF will be
hosting its third annual conference in Geneva
promoting the worldwide consortium for
intelligence where Karl De Abrew will once
again deliver the keynote based on input
solicited from his PDF pals.
Main Points To Remember

• PDF will become the print industry’s

proof & print format.
• PDF will augment/replace the use of
paper within the enterprise.
• This will happen in varying degrees over
a number of years depending on the
extent of the benefits that PDF offers
within each organization.
• …think of how many companies,
organisations and institutions could use
Acrobat, and how long it will take them
to change from the processes they have
been using for decades. PDF is not going
Thank you for your time…

• Karl De Abrew
• PDF info @ http://www.planetpdf.com/
• Company @ http://www.binarything.com/

• Dr. John Warnock's 'Camelot': The document

that started Adobe Acrobat/PDF
• Thomas Merz, "The Structure of PDF, or:
whither Acrobat?"