Sunday, November 15, 2009
  Why PDF portofolio's are a bad idea: a user's poor experience
I bought a new TV yesterday, a Philips 37PFL5604H. Good price, decent quality; chosen as the best buy based on a test of 20+ TVs by local consumer mag Test-Aankoop; but I digress.

It's 2009, and no paper manual to be found in the box.
This is ok, never use them frequently anyway. And they use up limited physical shelve space.

Philips included a sticker where they say that the manual is available on the machine itself via a help menu. Seems like a good idea, but as some other residents of the house were already watching, my suggestion that 'I want to have a look at the manual' were greeted with angry looks.

Ok - on to the Philips website to download an electronic version.
Which was remarkably easy to do, I quickly found a PDF of the manual, and downloaded the file with the prosaic name '37pfl5604h_12_dfu_nld.pdf'.

Opened it on may mac, and I was greeted with:

Oh, the joy! In stead of showing me the manual, I got the invitation to download and install another piece of software, otherwise I would be deprived of the ability to read or print the damn manual.
My regular PDF viewing software,, which could be regarded as fairly up to date, was sadly not at liberty to preview this PDF.

So caved in, and installed the latest version of Adobe's Reader, as apparently PDF might be an open, accessibly format, as long as you work with it using Adobe software.

Waiting to be amazed by the sheer progress that portofolio's bring to the concept of an electronic manual, I got this one (after declining an Adobe Updater request to update itself, and another update offer for the software I just downloaded):


Ok, just give me that manual already. And I click on the right (Volledige Gebruikshandleiding.pdf), and make an attempt to get it out so I can go back to to read it.
Then I get this gem:

Achtung! You dare to save this document, and possibly use non Adobe software with this document! Beware, bad things might happen!!
Or something along those lines.
Anyway, it seems to extract alright, despite the dire warning, and then I have a new pdf, which does open in

But sadly, they have spend so much time and effort in generating a PDF portofolio that can only be opened with some latest version of the Adobe Reader, but failed to include something basic like a clickable table of contents.

Philips should reconsider this: go back to regular PDF (or *gasp* XPS) so anyone can open it, and include links in the manual - they're very useful!
Apple's Preview application doesn't even support the complete PDF 1.4 specification, let alone the current ISO 32000-1 standard. Nor, unfortunately, do most other 3rd party vendors. That is why we (Adobe) are unfortunately forced to put such notices/warnings in PDFs files that use "more advanced" features of PDF so that users get SOME experience rather than blank pages...

Perhaps you need to focus on complaining to Apple (and others) to support the international standard?!?!

(but yes, it is quite silly that they use a Portfolio but NOT bookmarks!!)

Leonard Rosenthol
PDF Standards Architect
Adobe Systems
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