PDFs Dont Have to Be an Internet Blight

Opinion: Improper editing and posting-not inherent flaws in the format-are to blame for the plague of disconnected online PDFs.

The free Adobe Reader is everywhere! PDFs are easy to make! Everyones doing it! Because of that, PDFs are getting a bad rep in certain tech circles.

The argument goes something like this: Writing in to a Ziff Davis Media sister site, Microsoft Watch, a reader proclaimed PDFs a "plague on the Internet."

His main beef? Documents in which theres no structure or links, so when a PDF represents one part of a set of documents—its a chapter in a book, a part of a technical manual, one of 10 brochures—it often has no context or trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to follow. People who find the document via Google and download it get only a slice when they need the whole pie.

/zimages/3/28571.gifAdobe works with Belgium on digital signatures for PDF. Click here to read more.

"I cant get to any associated information on the server hosting the PDF!" this reader said. "PDF is … destroying the fundamental linkage mechanism that made the Internet so powerful."

Thats a pretty heavy accusation to level at a little old document file format, but "unfortunately, he is right," said Carl Young, Acrobat trainer, book author and organizer of the PDF Conference.

"Government agencies and corporations wouldnt think of distributing a paper report a section at a time, yet they routinely place PDFs on the Web that lack links—either to the rest of the document or to related files," Young said. "The files often lack links from tables of contents and bookmarks."

The reason for this, he said, is that when it comes to making PDFs, its the Wild West. There are no rules. Most of us can do it, but few of us can do it well.

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