Saturday, July 15, 2006


In one of my previous posts I mentioned about the clash between Adobe and Microsoft over PDF creation functionality. This post can be taken as a sequel to that and I am going to delve deeper into the reasons for this clash.

First of all let us talk about the PDF file format itself. PDF was created by Adobe to primarily meet the needs of printing industry. And to that end PDF is the best format available. But that is not the only reason for its popularity. One of the primary reasons for PDF becoming a de-facto standard is that Adobe distributes the PDF reader free for almost all popular operating systems. The PDF reader is available even for mobile devices now. Moreover the visual appeal of the Adobe Reader is so captivating that you would never try to read a document in other formats once you have read it in PDF format using Adobe Reader.

I keep almost all my documents in both DOC and PDF formats (DOC for creation/modification and PDF for reading). The only reason I read those files in Adobe Reader is that their fonts and diagrams look great in Adobe Reader and its an like an awesome experience reading the PDF. If suddenly Adobe Reader vanishes from the world and I have to use other free PDF readers then I would simply throw away the PDF format into trash can.

Apart from the visual experience of Adobe Reader the PDF format offers the feature of bookmarks and hyperlinks which enhance the reading experience. MS Word also offers these features in DOC format but sadly it lacks a bookmark pane on the left (which is the most useful navigation mechanism used in Adobe Reader).

If you were to read a PDF (say an eBook of 600 or more pages) without bookmarks and hyperlinks you simply would not have the courage to do it. Most of the PDF users thus have a need to have PDF files with proper bookmarks (like table of contents in DOC file). This is a need which is satisfied by Adobe Acrobat which can create PDFs alongwith bookmarks and hyperlinks. Acrobat has other lot of features, but those features are rarely used by the average user.

And in terms of creating bookmarked and hyperinked PDFs, Adobe Acrobat is still the No. 1 software, leave aside the memory problems and code bloat (Acrobat PDFMaker does have a lot of bugs and sometimes it does not create proper bookmarks or leaves some diagrams but these can be removed by editing the PDF in Acrobat). So most of the customers pay for Adobe Acrobat (they pay a really hefty price $450) only to have this bookmarks feature.

Then comes this "Save as PDF" feature in Office 2007 beta by Microsoft. And it has this damn bookmarking feature also. Wow! Why would anyone ever buy Adobe Acrobat when one can get a nice bookmarked and hyperlinked PDF out of the DOC file for free? Microsoft created PDFs much better than the Apple's MacOS or the OpenOffice office suite. The PDF generated by MacOS is actually a plain PDF generated using a printer driver. Its a simple utility similar to the PS2PDF uliltity in the Unix world.

That's the primary reason why Adobe is too concerned by the Microsoft move. None of the earlier alternatives to Acrobat created such nice PDFs. Microsoft for the first time has given a serious competition to the Acrobat suite. Adobe somehow wants its monopoly on PDF creation.

Adobe is saying that Microsoft might abuse PDF by adding extensions to the format. But I don't buy this. Why would they add an extension which will not be supported by the de-facto Adobe Reader? I don't think Microsoft will extend the PDF and write a custom PDF reader for it. Even if they tried to make a PDF viewer they would not be able to beat the visual appearance of Adobe Reader (if they were able to, then they would have added the visual appearance in MS Word itself so that no one would have to convert from DOC to PDF in the first place).

For now I would wish good luck to Microsoft guys for their PDF creation and hope that Adobe learns that it would be a gross blunder to sue Microsoft for PDF creation.


Blogger Sandeep Shinde said...

hey, you have "Document Map" available in MS word, where you can view all the "Heading" fonts as links....which is similar to PDF one....

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you can keep ur docs in LaTex. No need to maintain two formats.. one for reading and other for editing. moreover looks like you are a math lover, writing documents for maths sucks in ms-word. Latex rocks there, use latex once and u will forget ms-words and adobe pdf.
PS: wysiwyg sucks as eyes could be decisive, go for wymiwyg.
-- xonicx ;)

6:46 PM  

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