More thoughts on flashy PDF
There's quite some talk about Adobe adding flash to its PDF format. For instance read this post
by Joe Wilcox, and the comments.
Joe seems to be a big fan, but in the comments you see some sound opinions against it.
From a PR and strategy point of view, I assume the move makes sense. Tying PDF to flash, 2 market leading key technologies of Adobe, Adobe releases a formidable new 'format' for electronic publishing. Or so it seems.
Looking at PDF lately, you see a lot of standardization going on:
- PDF/X: a subset of the PDF spec that is intended to make PDF 'safe' to use for eXchange. It is used primarily in the graphic arts. In that industry people want a file format that can be printed, and as good as possible. So you have various levels of PDF/X (PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-2, PDF/X-3:2002, PDF/X-1a:2003, etc... I'm not kidding, there are a lot of these.)
All these basicly define a subset of PDF, so it becomes more predictable to exchange and print PDFs.
- PDF/A: a subset of the PDF spec intended to make PDF more suitable for archiving. Here the emphasis is on making text searchable, making sure it can be rendered in the future, etc... Also here a few different 'conformance levels' - aka different subsets.
- And more PDF subsets: PDF/E, PDF/UA and PDF/H - all with a multitude of differenct conformance levels.
So - a letter soup of PDF subsets, which subset the PDF spec each time according to a specific usage scenario.
This clearly indicates that the vanilla PDF spec contains features that a lot of different users of the format would like to do away with (granted, probably not all users would like to do away the exact the same features).
It also indicates that nobody is really waiting for a PDF format that does everything but the kitchen sink.
By making PDF a 'generic container' that contains all kinds of different documents, movies and even 'application like'
interactive interfaces, it starts to look a a hell of a lot like an interactive zip archive, or even a portable website.
It stretches the boundaries of what is considered a document
, and is heading firmly into the area of what is called an application
For printing this is a bad evolution, as they will continue to block out these features, as they are irrelevant (at best), or bad (at worst) for print.
For sharing as an e-document this is also a dubious evolution. The software required to view these docs gets more and more complicated, at contrast with the current trend towards mobile devices, which are not as powerful, and lack a lot of storage for these bigger, resource hungry files.
And then, there is also security - receiving a document to view should be a passive, safe thing. Receiving an application disguised as a document, is well, dangerous...