Back to the past 2002

Looking back to 2002, it’s amazing how much of the prediction became a reality. Take a read and see what you think!

Open Publish 2002:

The past, present and future of the Portable Document Format (PDF)

Author: Karl De Abrew, CEO of Planet PDF, August 06, 2002

Our discussion is broken into phases so that we can be specific with our discussion of the future…

    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 accurate.
  • Competitors are limited… (note: talking about PDF, not Acrobat). Microsoft, teenager building software in garage, etc..
  • 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).
  • 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 wheel…
  • Please don’t just take my word for it.

Framing our discussion

  1. PDF is commonly seen as having (at least) two distinct uses (we’ll address both)
  2. 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 devices.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 system.

The future – what do you want to believe?

  • 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 companies
  • 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 …
  • 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 area.
  • Tools used to manipulate PDF, especially on the server-side will remain commercial.
  • 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).
  • 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 – wireless/tablet.
  • Hard copy archives replaced by PDF – delivering enhanced searchability and vastly reduced physical storage
  • 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 media.
  • 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 XML, PDF is based around a page metaphor.
  • 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 FrameMaker.
  • 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 interchange.
  • 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 chisel.

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 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 typography.

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 away…

Thank you for your time…!

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About the Author: Karl De Abrew

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