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Old 07-02-2008, 08:33 AM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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Adobe PDF 1.7 now an ISO standard

Hot on the heels of yesterday's release of Adobe Reader 9 comes the news that Adobe's PDF format has turned into an international ISO standard. Vnunet reports:

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"By releasing the full PDF specification for ISO standardisation we are reinforcing our commitment to openness," said Kevin Lynch, chief technology officer at Adobe.

ISO secretary-general Alan Bryden added: "As an ISO standard we can ensure that this useful and widely popular format is easily available to all interested stakeholders.
So what does this mean for us? For one, ISO is now in control of updating and developing the future specs of the PDF format. These specs will be open to all, so no more Adobe homebrew solutions. Perhaps we can also expect improved PDF support in upcoming e-book readers or firmware updates, now that everyone can build on the open specs.

You can access the open document specification under the ISO 32000-1 standard.
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Old 07-02-2008, 08:49 AM   #2
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PDF format specification is open for a long time already (I think since the beginning), and several previous versions were adopted as ISO standarts as well. This is not really a new development. I'm not sure why you think that ISO is now in control the PDF spec and why you call Adobe's solutions "homebrew".
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Old 07-02-2008, 08:53 AM   #3
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Agreed. Dr. Leonard Rosenthal has worked assiduously on standards for Adobe for quite some time now. He blogs about his efforts here.
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Old 07-02-2008, 09:00 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by igorsk View Post
PDF format specification is open for a long time already (I think since the beginning), and several previous versions were adopted as ISO standarts as well. This is not really a new development. I'm not sure why you think that ISO is now in control the PDF spec and why you call Adobe's solutions "homebrew".
Being open and being an ISO standard are not the same things. And previous versions weren't accepted as a standard. Only parts of PDF, such as PDF for Archive (PDF/A) and PDF for Exchange (PDF/X), were already ISO-certified.

By "homebrew" I am referring for instance to DRM solutions that build on PDF. Obviously, there was no standard here, and how often have we heard people complaining about devices with PDF support not supporting PDF documents that are DRM protected. By homebrew I also mean that instead of setting the future path of PDF on its own, Adobe will now just be one of several parties with a say in how the standard evolves.

See here for more about the PDF to ISO process: http://www.adobe.com/pdf/release_pdf_faq.html
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Old 07-02-2008, 09:11 AM   #5
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I agree that Adobe has gone PDF mad. Look at the confusing, hydra-headed "suite" of Acrobat products these days. And they completely abandoned the world's only true programming language PDL, PostScript, in favor of PDF, which is a "dumb" format... no programming logic possible. Unless you count JavaScript, which was shoved in there, along with movies and "external content".

PDF used to be nice and tidy, and a good idea. Now it's a monster.
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Old 07-02-2008, 09:43 AM   #6
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interestingly, acrobat 9 natively uses the PDF 1.7, adobe extension level 3, PDF spec.
which, incidentally, seems to be fully backwards compatible, and yet seems to yield PDFs (specifically of scanned/unOCRed text/books) that are up to 70% smaller than when encoded with acrobat 8.12
(Perhaps they've started saving black/white pictures in something more appropriate than 24-32bit colors? i don't know, all i know is that my ~4.5gb ebook collection last week became a 3.1gb one, while staying just as readable)
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Old 07-02-2008, 09:49 AM   #7
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See here for more about the PDF to ISO process: http://www.adobe.com/pdf/release_pdf_faq.html
Thanks for the link. I don't see, however, ISO overtaking the PDF. Sure, they will maintain the approved version and probably update it from time to time, just like with PDF/A and PDF/X, but I'm certain Adobe will develop the format further independently.
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Old 07-02-2008, 10:01 AM   #8
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I agree that Adobe has gone PDF mad. Look at the confusing, hydra-headed "suite" of Acrobat products these days. And they completely abandoned the world's only true programming language PDL, PostScript, in favor of PDF, which is a "dumb" format... no programming logic possible. Unless you count JavaScript, which was shoved in there, along with movies and "external content".

PDF used to be nice and tidy, and a good idea. Now it's a monster.
What you say is true, the PostScript is a programming language and PDF is "dumb". However, it doesn't mean PostScript is magically better for everything. PDF is definitely much much better than PostScript in prepress. Its "inflexibility" is actually an advantage - e.g. you don't need to interpret the whole file to figure out the final page size or the colors used.
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Old 07-02-2008, 10:05 AM   #9
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I know many prepress professionals who'd emphatically disagree. In theory, you are absolutely correct. Much better to have a "finished" format than a program you have to 1) interpret and then 2) figure out how to fix.

But overwhelmingly, the PDFs print shops get are finished improperly, and Adobe has provided no tools, other than Acrobat, for fixing them. And when you finally do, what happens to that PDF when ripped? It turns back into PostScript. Adobe stepped away from the printing industry, and left a big hole that third parties are only now beginning to fill.

I suspect the average prepress technician spends more time working on PDFs then they ever did working on PostScript files.
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Old 07-02-2008, 10:28 AM   #10
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And when you finally do, what happens to that PDF when ripped? It turns back into PostScript.
Yes, the old rips used to do that, and naturally all kinds of issues cropped up. But Adobe PDF Print Engine does native PDF rendering and supports many features that had to be emulated in PostScript (like transparencies) and often didn't come out right.
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Old 07-02-2008, 12:27 PM   #11
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Right. So all you RIP manufacturers, please immediately license the Adobe PDF Print Engine. Why? Because Adobe has changed their minds about things, again. That's progress. Ok, now all you commercial printers and prepress shops? Pony up again to buy new RIPs. Why? Because that'll fix all your PDF workflow issues. Well, not really, but it'll make ripping faster. Well, not really... what, PPML? JDF? Well... umm. Listen, just write the check and we'll worry about all that later. It'll involve more massive retooling. What, you mean you have actual work to do this month? And you can't find trained, competent employees these days? Sorry, that sounds like an internal issue.
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Old 07-02-2008, 06:12 PM   #12
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I'm still on version 7 of the reader. Any comments if I should update to 8 or 9 already?
Thanks
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Old 07-02-2008, 08:31 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by igorsk View Post
Thanks for the link. I don't see, however, ISO overtaking the PDF. Sure, they will maintain the approved version and probably update it from time to time, just like with PDF/A and PDF/X, but I'm certain Adobe will develop the format further independently.
ISO has indeed taken over full control of the future of PDF. Adobe is just one company/participant (and in some ways, less than one, since we are only 1 vote on JUST the US committee).

The next meeting of the ISO 32000 committee will be in October to begin work on the "next generation" of PDF.

Leonard Rosenthol
PDF Standards Architect
Adobe Systems
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Old 07-02-2008, 08:35 PM   #14
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Welcome, Leonard! If you reveal my true identity, I'll not be happy. That said, I do hope you'll stay. Because you are undoubtedly a reader, and I'd bet, an e-book reader. If not, shame on you. Acquire a device (take your pick) immediately.
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