back to article How a tax form kludge gifted the world 25 joyous years of PDF

HTML is the world's most common digital document file format. However, it's not the one everyone turns to when they want to create a precise document that looks, prints and behaves the same on any platform on any device. And it's hardly the format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability. For …

  1. Mage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

    PDF stinks for that. The ONLY plus of PDF is maintaining appearance of paper printout. So it's useful to electronically proof books, manuals, magazines and papers as well as other documents intended to be printed.

    If the goal is immediate reading and portability, then eBook formats win. Or a responsive HTML document (Save As Web Page Complete). Except you need two, Mobi and ePub. Because Amazon are nasty. Calibre is your friend to convert Doc, RTF, HTML, ODT and SOME PDFs to ePub/Mobi/azw. The AZW format, like ePub, supports publisher fonts (mobi doesn't), but the publisher fonts etc only work well on newest Kindles.

    PDFs need a giant screen unless they are designed for smaller than Letter/A4 documents. Also really slow for larger documents.

    Adobe version of ePub readers that are age of Kindles with only basic mobi support work very well with publisher fonts. Some very old eInk and LCD readers.

    PDF is now only of use for people preparing & proofing documents for paper publishing, not ordinary users. It needs to DIE as a document distribution method to the public. HTML or ePub is better for that.

    PDF is primarily for paper, hence fixed layout. Now with people primarily reading on screens, (over 50% of eBooks on phones) and no standard screen size or resolution, like Letter and A4 on paper, layout needs to be "Responsive" and work with user selected rescaling (sharp vs poor eyesight).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

      PDF is now only of use for people preparing & proofing documents for paper publishing, not ordinary users. It needs to DIE as a document distribution method to the public. HTML or ePub is better for that.

      Good luck prying PDF out of the hands of marketing peeps! Even for on-line use they are addicted to PDF because it preserves exactly the layout they designed. The re-flow and adaptive nature of HTML and ePub are the very antithesis of what these people want, no matter how clunky of inconvenient for users. They also believe that PDF locks in all those sooooo important things like exact corporate colour palettes (without considering that this isn't a real world outcome other than for a few viewers with a professional grade display that's been properly calibrated). And they think that PDF is acceptably secure to lock the document down and thus prevent changes or modification (think of the marketing dweeb's nightmare, of a subtly defaced HTML home page for their company). And PDF does lock in those for most users, most of the time. Few people bother to have a PDF editor, of those that do, fewer still see any point in trying to deface somebody else's dull corporate prose. Curiously, the original purpose of the technology, to make document files flatter and smaller has completely bypassed marketeers, who happily use it to package up huge high res graphics creating 3-20 MB documents from three page pamphlets with 150 words on.

      The marketeers know full well that these days most of their "publications" will be read on screen, but the idea of giving up one iota of control, nope, not a chance.

      1. rg287 Bronze badge

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        Good luck prying PDF out of the hands of marketing peeps!

        If only that were true. The number of press releases I see as .doc(x) - because obviously I'm going to have the same fonts installed on my Ubuntu/Mac/Win10 machine as you will on your Win7/Mac box. And my version of Libreoffice will play perfectly well with the formatting that Word lovingly implemented - I think not!

        I assume they do it because they think journos may want to copy snippets out for use in articles - which would be fair except that if you don't fully flatten the file down you can quite happily cut-n-paste text out of a PDF. More to the point, the press release is invariably presented as a page on the corporate website, with a document available for download/offline usage. If I want to cut-n-paste I can do that from the HTML. The entire point of the downloadable version is a static offline-copy for printing. Not an editable .doc or similar!

        Meanwhile I get an explosion of mis-formatted text instead of a nice clean release that I can read through and file away.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

          "The number of press releases I see as .doc(x) - because obviously I'm going to have the same fonts installed on my Ubuntu/Mac/Win10 machine as you will on your Win7/Mac box."

          You could, of course, make some - interesting - amendments to those before passing them on.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

          "I assume they do it because they think ..."

          My impression is that they do this because they haven't a clue. I regularly receive .doc and .docx documents that are unreadable because they use some obscure font that is mis-substituted at the receiving end by Word, or unprintable because they include idiocies such as multiple overlapping text boxes. The myth of WYSIWYG is the fundamental problem, and it has permeated to web development as well. When one contacts the originator, the standard response is "it works on my computer", to which I generally reply "maybe, but I'm not looking at your computer, I'm looking at mine", which tends to draw a complete blank.

          Some 35 years ago I worked in print production, which was then a skilled trade. Now anyone can DIY their own documents without the necessary grounding in skills, the outcome is inevitable. The document format is not the primary problem - it's the lack of expertise.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        "Good luck prying PDF out of the hands of marketing peeps! "

        Who cares about any of their shit?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

          > Who cares about any of their shit?

          THEY do!

          (Nothing against good marketers, but those are the ones you do not even notice are there)

      3. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        Good luck prying PDF out of the hands of marketing peeps!

        Or those of us who use it for engineering type drawings that need a paper trail. I use it for quite a bit as it preserves the original in case of "oops, gotta' go back". Others for "just in case" of legal or any thing else requiring historical records.

        1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

          Same here for engineering documents. Even if larger than screen size of my tablets, they scroll just fine. The same for any type of analytical output for what they're now calling data science. The standard used to be TeX, PDF is serving as a useful replacement where there is zero tolerance for rendering a page. Anything besides TeX and PDF don't have enough of a guarantee to bother with, and yes Microsoft, I'm looking at you.

          Aside: I really did like DPS on the NeXT. I'd be using it now if I could find a way to readily rip and replace the rest of the desktop. Menus, docks, etc. are already setup the NeXT way. Nobody even thinks of using my machines. Too weird.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

          > Or those of us who use it for engineering type drawings that need a paper trail.

          We use the files that come out of our software (think .dwg sort of thing), along with all the input data and some PDF renditions for easy graphical preview, all cryptographically signed and archived along with a copy of the exact software that was used to produce them (version and configuration), as is standard in our industry. The estimated lifetime of our documents is five to twenty years and it is expected that we are able to replicate the exact output at any time during that period (there will be at least one other independent entity with the same requirement on their identical copy of the data).

          PDF alone would just show you a visual representation of the result but not how you did get there, for that you also need the input data and the operations applied to it.

          Of course, your requirements may vary.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

            I agree pdf's are useful, but in my industry unchangeable distribution of drawings and information is paramount. PDF information is very easily edited and then forwarded as "original" ...

            Certificates etc can be easily forged and then your client has a big pile of steaming inexactitude waiting for their perusal.

            At my expense.

    2. Peter Prof Fox

      Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

      ePub etc. is for fisher-price publishing.

      Placement and styling is important.

      Anybody who cares about communication should appreciate how design affects interpretation.

      Lack of control over basic 'css-level' styling is a complete fail.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "Placement and styling is important."

        ePub is OK for novels or the like - when you have mostly text whose format is usually not very important.

        Try any ebook where you have images, charts, graphs and any other kind of non-textual data which are reflown randomly somewhere in some page.

        That's the same issues HTML has, but at least HTML - from its very own name - was never designed as a document formatting language, just as a way to quickly write, distribute and link information, regardless of the device. All the attempts made later to develop HTML into a document laanguage (moreover combined with application development capabilities) led to a Frankenstein which still fails to deliver proper documents - try to print it any HTML page and usually you get a mess.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: "Placement and styling is important."

          >try to print it any HTML page and usually you get a mess.

          Even tools like Print Edit WE for Chrome have difficulty rendering HTML pages into something fit for printing to PDF/Printer.

          Why do want a PDF/print out? because it enables me to read the article off line and retain a copy so that I can go back and confirm details if necessary. There is nothing more frustrating referring to a webpage, getting a client querying your point, you going back and discovering that either the webpage has changed or disappeared totally. News sites such as the BBC are very good at 'amending' articles...

          1. rg287 Bronze badge

            Re: "Placement and styling is important."

            News sites such as the BBC and El Reg are very good at 'amending' articles...

            FTFY.

            1. Killfalcon Silver badge

              Re: "Placement and styling is important."

              As a massive nerd, I've picked up the current round of Warhammer 40k rulebooks as ebooks.

              Some only display properly in ONE epub reader (of dozens) - the Redium addin for Chrome. There's no _standard_ behind epubs, it's just a mess of different implementations that disagree on if you an have an image behind text or not, and if you can, they disagree on how you declare that, so publishers just have to pick one and hope it works well enough.

              PDF is slow and annoying to use, and often it's used by people who thing two-column portrait A4 is a close match to a desktop monitor, but it does at least reliably produce the same output on different platforms.

          2. ma1010 Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Re: "Placement and styling is important."

            What do you mean "'amending' articles"? Are you accusing the Ministry of Truth of using IT to "rectify" previous news stories? Crimethink! Expect a visit from the Ministry of Love.

            Oceania is at war with Eastasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Placement and styling is important."

          > led to a Frankenstein which still fails to deliver proper documents

          HTML delivers very proper documents, much richer in content and "presentability"¹ than pretty much anything else I can think of, all in a format that is still entirely possible (and for professionally authored documents, this is often effortless) to read in a text editor if need be. It is rich, accessible, portable and reasonably easy to both produce and consume, all without proprietary tools. How on Earth does that "fail to deliver proper documents"???

          > - try to print it any HTML page and usually you get a mess.

          Printing? Bloody printing? What is this? 1980-fucking-5? At the office we *had* a printer. Earlier this year our accountant insinuated that we could print some form or another so I chucked it in the bin². No more silly requests since then.

          ¹ Not presentation as that is not HTML's job. What is important is that it captures content and makes it possible to render it across many different visual and audio platforms. Reliably capturing meaning is the next step but I am not aware of anything that can reliably do so at the present time.

          ² The printer, not the accountant, if nothing else because the bin was already half full.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "Placement and styling is important."

            "Printing? Bloody printing? What is this? 1980-fucking-5?"

            Just wait until your business gets challenged on something and you need a paper trail to prove your side of it. BTW you'll find that swearing at the judge doesn't improve your case.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "Placement and styling is important."

              > Just wait until your business gets challenged on something

              Like GPG signing the tax documents? Tax office winghed about that. We pointed them to the relevant section of the digital signatures act, they went "ah" and never bothered us again.

              Yes we could have used X.509 like almost everyone else but there is a reason why we do not, which is not relevant here.

              > and you need a paper trail to prove your side of it.

              You utterly fail to understand traceability, we do not. Ours is a safety of life industry where you do not fart without that being verified, approved and recorded.

              > BTW you'll find that swearing at the judge doesn't improve your case.

              And you will find that this is not a fucking court of law.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "Placement and styling is important."

                It's amusing to see your smug and profane ranting based on your limited perspective! Just because you can't imagine a good use for something doesn't mean others can't.

                Saying "you're still using XX? This is (fill in year)" is a pathetic argument. I've seen many technologies stay useful in spite of shortsighted twats like you insisting they're dead.

      2. Schultz
        Stop

        "Placement and styling is important" ...

        if the content requires it. Sometimes you just want the text, which explains the great success of the good old printed book. Sometimes you want sound, or moving pictures, or VR. Just find the right medium for your job and accept that others may prefer a different medium / file format.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Placement and styling is important" ...

          > Sometimes you just want the text, which explains the great success of the good old printed book.

          The good old printed book is much more than "just the text"!!!

          Hours could be spent on deciding the right kerning, and vigorous arguments could be had on whether two (or more) letters formed a ligature or not. There is nothing like a well-typeset book.¹

          What bothers me is those people who insist on knocking out PDFs for no sensible reason at all and then end up using a single space form, hyphens instead of en, em and figure dashes or the minus sign (let alone soft- and non-breaking hyphens), three dots instead of ellipses, and so on.

          ¹ And nothing worse than a poorly typeset one. Especially if you read languages that are typographically richer than English.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: "Placement and styling is important" ...

            The good old printed book is much more than "just the text"!!!

            Yes, but that excess is often irrelevant to readers. Anyone with even cursory knowledge of textual scholarship knows that audiences generally consider all editions of prose books to be essentially the same, even though they may be typeset completely differently.

            There are certainly cases where typesetting matters to more than a small subset of the audience, but those cases are the minority. And most of the professional book designers and typesetters I've heard discuss the subject are well aware of that.

            Precision layout is mostly important to the people who lay things out. For most other audiences its effects tend to be detectable but not hugely significant.

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        Placement and styling is important.

        Anybody who cares about communication should appreciate how design affects interpretation.

        I have a Master's in digital rhetoric, so I'm well aware that design affects interpretation. I've read scores of scholarly articles on the subject, presented on it at academic conferences, done user research, etc.

        It's naive to claim that the rhetorical effects and additional information channels afforded by precise control over layout are an absolute good, or that they outweigh the tremendous advantages of responsive layouts, particularly when addressing a large and diverse audience using a wide array of devices. Unreadable documents have proven very poor at communicating and persuading.

        Frankly, based on your comment, I rather doubt you've studied this area in any depth.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

          >I have a Master's in digital rhetoric

          Ah! someone who most probably has read ALL of Tufte's books.

    3. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

      >giant screens< - 25 years ago 1024x768 on a 14" VDU was normal, more than a couple of pages of PDF filled the spare RAM space on an average computer, (queue renditions of "when I was t' lad...") and if you had said people would volunteer to use 5" screens, people would have died laughing.

      ePub&HTML may well be better for the current phones but after 25 years PDF is now the defacto minimum standard for documents in a graphic format, it'll still be here in another 25 years just like .TXT

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        I get thumbs down here?

        For the historical reminiscence or the predictable human inertia?

        1. PhilipN Silver badge

          I get thumbs down here?

          No Yorkshireman'd say "t'lad" when referring to himself.

          Sheesh - Southerners!

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: I get thumbs down here?

            No Yorkshireman'd say "t'lad" when referring to himself.

            Depends. I could, for instance, say it when quoting a member of the older generation commenting about me.

    4. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

      @Mage: "PDF is now only of use for people preparing & proofing documents for paper publishing"

      All my clients use paper, and lots of it, for contracts, specs, NDAs, minutes, invoices, as-builts, verification matrices, certificates, training packs, manuals, expositions, etc., and I can't see any of that changing in the next ten years. Even the ones who have integrated paperless systems (e.g. DOORS) end up converting to Word then pdf for reviewing and issuing docs. The Italians like to sign and date every page of a paper copy of everything. The Germans still use Fax, FFS, and won't take an email copy of anything vaguely contractual. Most European organizations have invested in a fancy company stamp and want some nice white paper to use it on. The Swiss won't even take a pdf scan of an invoice and want an original snail-mailed to them with a wet signature and then they'll bounce it because they want the original expense receipts as well.

      PDF works OK for me and the most of the people who pay me. It's secure enough - but it doesn't have to be Fort Knox because there's a paper copy in a filing cabinet to resolve disputes.

      1. Spanners Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        I regularly come across people who "must" have fax. I come across them once anyway, then I don't do business with them. This is probably harder when you are owned or controlled by someone with their mind still in the 90's.

        I do see people trying to use PDFs for backup purposes. Someone once asked me if a printout of his emails would be suitable for an enquiry. I advised that it would be good proof that he had access to a printer but not of much else. He then asked if it would be any better if he saved them as .PDFs. I pointed out that this would not even prove that he had a printer but it would be more tree friendly!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

          > Someone once asked me if a printout of his emails would be suitable for an enquiry. I advised that it would be good proof that he had access to a printer but not of much else.

          At last someone with some familiarity with basic forensic principles!

      2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        "All my clients use paper,"

        I've seen the same thing. I deal with one outfit that requires my signature on some forms. The office e-mails me the PDF, I print it, sign it and scan the signed copy. A PDF of the signed copy goes back. Now for the fun part. That form has to go from the local office to corporate via fax. And sometimes the local office demands the wet-signed* copy. So I have to follow the e-mail up with snail-mail and wait to see what the delay will be. There is no way to predict what the people on the receiving end will demand.

        *A few times, I've been requested to sign with blue ink. So as to verify that they have the same piece of paper that I scribbled on, I suppose.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

          > A few times, I've been requested to sign with blue ink.

          Ah yes! The blue ink. :-) I got that once a few years ago. Since then I only carry black pens with me, mostly out of spite.

          I explain (truthfully) that if asked to recognise my own signature on a document I will look not at the signature, which could be anything, but at the presence of certain marks elsewhere on the paper. Since the above I also do not sign in blue so if it's a blue signature it's not mine.

          For business correspondence, it is all signed electronically whether clients, providers, the tax office and the regulator like it or not. Again, you want proof or you want ceremony?

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

            "Again, you want proof or you want ceremony?"

            Ceremony, complete with witnesses, used to be the whole point of signing.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        > Most European organizations have invested in a fancy company stamp

        Ah yes, the Company Stamp, or how to prove that you took the PDF, printed, Stamped it, scanned it and saved it back as PDF, wasting many trees and cumulative man hours by the end of the year.

        Worst part is that this often comes from people who are simply not old enough to have seen a computerless office.

    5. Barry Rueger Silver badge

      Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

      Where to start...

      The reason why PDF is ubiquitous is simple: you can be 99% certain that it will display properly and legibly on any and all computing devices, from monster water-cooled super fast gaming rigs to the lowliest of cheap ass Android phones.

      It has been many years since I have heard someone say "Your PDF file won't open on my computer."

      Aside from TXT there is no other document type that can make that claim, including some sub-sets of MS Office documents.

      (Once had some goof "Web manager" send an MS Project file to a group of 100+ piano teachers. Oh the hilarity that followed!)

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        "The reason why PDF is ubiquitous is simple: you can be 99% certain that it will display properly and legibly on any and all computing devices, from monster water-cooled super fast gaming rigs to the lowliest of cheap ass Android phones."

        Really? *Legibly*? On a device with a 3-inch screen?

        What ... the ... fuck ... are ... you ... smoking?

        1. Celeste Reinard

          Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

          What I am smoking is whatever there is on the carpet... when it comes to reading I started with a Palm TX, until some miscreant in Leuven stole it from me on an epic pub crawl (Hi there, I hope Satan will eat your soul with a spoon), necessitating me to anything ese but .pdb, and passed the different formats, such as ePub, which I suspect being created by Satan, DjVu (idem, but then His adjunct), and finally conversed to pdf, giving me the ability to create not only booklike renditions, but also enabled me to make the text easier to the eye, one of the best arguments (and one I haven't seen above) to use pdf. Since reading almost everthing from a screen, that is one issue: how to continue on difficult texts (or simple, dependend on your education) for hours on end. ... And these days one can carry it even into bed, since the tubular bach-breaking papaerweight is a thing of a by tiimes hilarious past, and ENJOY a bit of good printing, instead of having to deal with eye-scourching ugliness from things like ePub (eating your soul away). Aesthetics go a long way, and when it comes to reading, it can become essential for those of finer taste; it makes reading good reading.

      2. brotherelf

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        ""It has been many years since I have heard someone say "Your PDF file won't open on my computer."""

        Funny that, I've had two this year already. One was a form, intended for printout, that was built in Lice fickle Designer and used JavaScript to replace the text "if the form does not appear, use a proper software to view this" with an entirely non-interactive form; and the other is that one of the default Linux viewers still can't do transparency.

        1. J. Cook Silver badge
          Pirate

          Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

          ... And that's why I want to locate the person who thought that putting a general purpose scripting engine into the PDF viewer was a good idea and run them through the Guido school of Admin training. (you know, the one that is held in the back alley of a nice brick building with a strong lad named Guido, and you know, run them face-first into the wall a few dozen time until they've learned their lesson...)

          We've blocked more than a few attempts at desktop ownage from *that* particular vector...

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        There's a "yes but.." aspect. I, as a consumer, do get to see far too many PDF instruction manuals that display really poorly on my PC's screen, or even worse, print in a font too small to read.. And that jump from the bottom of one page to the start of the next as I scroll. Not the PDF standard's fault, just the idiots who created the document.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

          >And that jump from the bottom of one page to the start of the next as I scroll. Not the PDF standard's fault, just the idiots who created the documentreader.

          I don't get that jump with Foxit Reader when it's displaying in 'continuous' mode.

          >or even worse, print in a font too small to read..

          The worst part about this one, is that often it isn't possible to adjust printer settings to enlarge text. Sometimes having an A3 printer is helpful, but wasteful as it does permit the enlargement of an A4 source into an A3 hardcopy.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

            "I don't get that jump with Foxit Reader when it's displaying in 'continuous' mode."

            Nor Okular with scrolling although pg up and pg down keys respond with a jump.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

              >Nor Okular with scrolling although pg up and pg down keys respond with a jump.

              Understood, with Foxit pg up and pg down are screen pg up and screen pg down, not PDF page up/down.

              If I put Foxit into page mode then Pg up/down are PDF pg up/down.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        > The reason why PDF is ubiquitous is simple: you can be 99% certain that it will display properly and legibly on any and all computing devices

        Yes and thereby you are missing the point. Your PDF may display perfectly well on a myriad devices. But is that what you wanted?

        Or did you want to convey information to other people reliably, efficiently and in an æstethically pleasing manner? Because those two are not the same goal at all.

        For a start not everyone is sighted, and those who are have wildly differing capabilities and perceptions both in terms of physiological performance (visual acuity, colour blindness, etc.), and environmental and situational conditions.

        There is no doubt that there is a need for picture-perfect layout and presentation in some cases, and PDF is very convenient for that, while still allowing graceful degradation if the file has been packaged properly. But all too often that is not what is required. Think about HTML vs plain-text email if you will or alternatively, thirty years ago we were using typewriters and managing to do the same stuff as we still do, with a single monospace font, underline, bold and two different colours if you were lucky.

        At my company, we moved our quality manuals from PDF to Markdown in 2016. The result has been that now people not actually *read* them more often but they are also kept up to date with updates and improvements on most weeks as opposed to once or twice a year.

        Why? For a start, they are handy references for many processes that need to be carefully executed so it makes sense to check them out. Then, frequently people access them via their mobile phones, where PDFs are not all that convenient but a nice responsive and accessible HTML rendering is. Lastly, because it's just a Markdown that you can edit with pretty much anything from ed upwards, people actually *do* keep them up to date.

        As a bonus, maintaining the quality stuff in a Git repo is rather convenient and about as traceable as you can get.

        So you see? Without taking any merit away from PDF which is very useful when needed, I wish it would stop being abused by barely computer literate people who could use their time in better ways than coercing whatever it is they wanted to write out of their word processors, while remaining convinced that it is very important that we should get their horribly formatted and barely legible prose in all its Comic Sans glory.

        Let's see how many of you PDF botherers are out there. >:)

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

          "At my company, we moved our quality manuals from PDF to Markdown in 2016."

          AIUI Markdown is text only. So your quality manuals don't need illustrations of any kind?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

            > So your quality manuals don't need illustrations of any kind?

            Ever heard of ASCII art?

      5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

        you can be 99% certain that it will display properly and legibly on any and all computing devices

        I don't know what magical unicorn devices you use, but the vast majority of PDFs I have aren't legible on my (Android) smartphone or my Kindle. A small rectangular subset of a given page may be legible at any given moment, but scrolling half a dozen times just to read a few lines is not a usable reading experience.

        PDF is a non-responsive format, and as such is inherently limited on what device form factors a given document can be usably rendered.

        (I won't even bother noting that the vast majority of "any and all computing devices" don't even have a display, and chalk that phrase up to lazy thinking.)

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Best: Acrobat XI; Worst: Acrobat DC (v12) =shitty UI

      I still prefer Acrobat XI (v11) from 2012. The new Acrobat DC has the worst UI ever.

      I want normal File | Edit | View | ... menubar. I want a normal toolbar and sidebar. Acrobat 1 - 11 were great. Acrobat 12 aka Acrobat DC is crap.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "by which time the name "Camelot" had been changed "

    ... Camelot - 'tis a silly name

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      ... Camelot - 'tis a silly name

      but Elderberry would have been worse ... :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Should have gone with cameltoe ;)

      1. JulieM Silver badge
        Coat

        Cameltoe

        And no doubt the Open Source version would have been called LunchBox .....

  3. Paul Crawford Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Content creators have long been demanding a version of PDF that supports embedded HTML5-based media, interactivity and animation

    For the love of $DIETY no, no and thrice no!

    How many vulnerabilities have been in Acrobat reader due to the ability to execute arbitrary code? Please keep a document standard as that - something for reading and printing. Even the option for forms to fill in has piss-poor support and don't get me started on the shit that is the encrypted versions that only Adobe products can open.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Wasn't that the Flash idea?

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Devil

      For the love of $DIETY

      Now with 30% less hellfire and damnation.

    3. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Content creators have long been demanding a version of PDF that supports embedded HTML5-based media, interactivity and animation

      I'd love to see how those print out. I've already seen "Please click on this [link] for more information" in all its brain-dead-tree irony.

    4. Gobhicks

      $DIETY ...

      ... like a $DIET ?

  4. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Since PDF's are normally designed for printed media, why would you want animated junk in it? If people want that kind of stuff, stick to HTML.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Joke enters stage left...

      There are some examples around of people asking "how do I print off this video on page 3 of the PDF*"....

      [edit]* By that I mean PowerPoint Slideshow, because AFAIK you cannot embed a video in PDF :P

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Joke enters stage left...

        Click if you dare. Or if you've got a Mac it's probably this one.

      2. Allonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        Re: Joke enters stage left...

        You can embed video in PDF. I used to have an unrewarding job webmastering for a large public sector organisation. There was a policy of "all website video needs approval", because accessibility and generally lousy production standards of most of the stuff comms/marketing droids were buying in or shooting.

        However there was no such policy for PDFs. And all of a sudden some people were uploading suspiciously large PDFs with very few pages. Upon closer inspection these were found to contain embedded video.

        "Can" != "should". Unless you're a JavaScript interpreter perhaps.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      What really annoys me is people who don't understand the potential of the format. For example years ago I was supporting a small business who used PDF. The company received forms via email and were then printing them out to fill them in. They were being sent them from companies they were customers of through to a trade organisation they were a member of. Most if not all of these were locked down preventing filling them in electronically. These were just forms there wasn't anything about them that had intellectual property or anything like that. I pointed out to some of the companies concerned that they could put form fields in but don't think any of them had a clue what I was going on about. Some of them wanted the physical printed filled in copy sent by post and wouldn't accept a emailed version let alone a fax.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An interesting article. Tried to get my screen-scraping bot to read PDF text in a browser***. I have never found an easy way to get the text words and paragraphs from the accessible page data. The exposed HTML, if accessible to Selenium, merely places letters in precise positions on a page.

    ***which for technical reasons is now Chrome.

  6. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    PDF has its uses I suppose

    As the story says, if you just want to print it out like it's supposed to look then PDF is fantastic. Must be great for people who still own printers.

    For everything else just no. When Amazon first started selling the Kindle I had this wonderful idea to load our existing technical documents onto it. Nope, they are all PDFs designed to look like A4 and resisted my every effort at resizing to fit the smaller screen. Even trying to edit a PDF is a series of unpleasant workarounds unless, I suppose, you bought a full copy of Acrobat.

    It's got so much more difficult recently because of Adobe trying to "cloudify" everything, plus extend PDF far past simple document representation into interactive forms and their own version of electronic signing.

    Funny that PDF originated from a way to print tax forms because as it happens the "Agencia Tributaria" (Spanish tax equivalent of HMRC) have done a thorough job of offering their users a PKI-based online tax system. Works well but its weakness is its dependence on PDFs and problems are guaranteed in those bits every time.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: PDF has its uses I suppose

      Not just for print outs, communication.

      So you want to do away with a standard, so when I refer you to page 404 of the HTML status code manual, you get something totally different because in your rendering of the manual the relevant material is on page 418 or even 1415...

      Similar considerations apply when I try to refer to the same material across devices and formats.

      1. Allonymous Coward

        Re: PDF has its uses I suppose

        This comment deliberately left blank.

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: PDF has its uses I suppose

        That's why standards and legal documents use paragraph numbers.

        As does the Bible and other holy books.

        That particular problem was solved over a thousand years ago - in fact, before the concept of a "page" was invented.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: PDF has its uses I suppose

        > when I refer you to page 404 of the HTML status code manual, you get something totally different because

        Because you are not referring to a page: you are applying a physical metaphor in an inappropriate context and failing to comprehend the implications. That is an example of misuse.

      5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: PDF has its uses I suppose

        So you want to do away with a standard, so when I refer you to page 404 of the HTML status code manual, you get something totally different because in your rendering of the manual the relevant material is on page 418 or even 1415...

        The vapidity of this example (there is no "HTML status code manual") aside, the problems with using page numbers for citation have been well known since long before there were computers. That's why, when we're using responsive-layout documents, we don't use page numbers to cite passages.

        This straw man was scattered to the winds long ago.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: PDF has its uses I suppose

          >The vapidity of this example (there is no "HTML status code manual") aside, the problems with using page numbers for citation have been well known since long before there were computers.

          @Michael - I think you need to get out into an office or classroom and listen to real people and look at the books/source materials they are using, especially the "contents" page. Also take a look at the covers of various magazines: "Your guide to Cloud - see p18". I'm not talking about citation, although looking through various academic papers, I do note many in their references include page numbers, which can be helpful in confirming that the paper's author was referring to the "2nd edition - reprinted with corrections" and not the 2nd edition.

          BTW I know there is no "HTML status code manual", I chose it as computing reference books/tomes are the sorts of things I felt El reg readers could relate to. Also the page numbers were carefully chosen - lateral thinking needed for 1415 .. :)

    2. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      Re: PDF has its uses I suppose

      Even trying to edit a PDF is a series of unpleasant workarounds unless, I suppose, you bought a full copy of Acrobat.

      Thanks for reminding me that I need to migrate my copy of Acrobat 8 to my new PC. (The reasons that I have one are, today, entirely invalid, and, on reflection, probably were *always* entirely invalid, but they seemed like a good idea at the time.)

      Oh, and yes, I own a printer. And when it went so far EOL that I couldn't get ink cartridges any more, I bought different one to replace it. So I guess I own *two* printers, at least until I get around to taking the old one to the tip.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Steve The Cynic

        So I guess I own *two* printers, at least until I get around to taking the old one to the tip.

        If it's so far beyond use, then the correct disposal procedure is take it apart for s**ts & giggles, then take a pile of parts to the tip

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: @Steve The Cynic

          Or, depending on the type of printer, taking it apart for all the nummy parts for making other things. (servos, steppers, smooth steel rods with linear bearings that are already fit for it, etc...)

          I know of a few 3d printers that were built using scavanged dot matrix printer parts...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Steve The Cynic

            > I know of a few 3d printers that were built using scavanged dot matrix printer parts...

            Intentionally or in the process of trying to put the original thing back together?

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: PDF has its uses I suppose

      "Even trying to edit a PDF is a series of unpleasant workarounds"

      Trying to unscrew a welded joint is also tricky and for the same reason: they're both intended to be unchangeable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: PDF has its uses I suppose

        > Trying to unscrew a welded joint is also tricky and for the same reason: they're both intended to be unchangeable.

        Nope. Again that is one of the many and most commons misconceptions about PDF.

        The output was not designed to be changeable. That is an altogether different kettle of fish than "intended to be unchangeable". You are mistaking a non-goal by a requirement.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PDF has its uses I suppose

      > as it happens the "Agencia Tributaria" (Spanish tax equivalent of HMRC) have done a thorough job of offering their users a PKI-based online tax system. Works well but its weakness is its dependence on PDFs and problems are guaranteed in those bits every time.

      Well, that's the Spaniards for you: take a good idea and implement it as poorly as possible. Have you had to deal with one of their electronic IDs?

  7. Steve Graham

    Flow

    "Now with people primarily reading on screens, (over 50% of eBooks on phones) and no standard screen size or resolution, like Letter and A4 on paper, layout needs to be "Responsive" and work with user selected rescaling (sharp vs poor eyesight)."

    Most of the HTML I see these days shows every sign of the "web designer" fighting to stop users' browsers from applying their own formatting to fit the device & screen.

    1. Steve Button

      Re: Flow

      Aye, there's the rub.

      Do you want Jobs style beautiful exact placement on the "page" or be able to view things on many devices.

  8. Lee D Silver badge

    PDF is a WORM format, as far as I'm concerned.

    We use it in work to say "This is it, this is the document, this is how it looks, nobody change it" and then offer that to customers knowing it will look the same no matter what they open it on and it can't be tweaked. Yes, we know you *can* edit them, but you can't edit them easily or nicely or guaranteeably.

    Draft in Word, publish in PDF.

    It's a great format for that. This is the version, no changes. Sign it if you have to. Beyond that, it's really just another format.

    I refuse to buy Acrobat, though. I paid for Nitro once when it was cheap and that serves all my needs. For years (and still currently), I used PDFCreator and other freebie Ghostscript-based things to create PDFs if I needed them.

    I don't see that the format needs much extension.

    However, I was recently asked how to "stop people stealing our pictures out of PDFs" (and also website images). My solution was "don't put them in there" because you can't beat an analogue hole (screenshot tool) and PDFs you can suck the content out any time you like. They can't restrict "reading" permissions.

    The biggest problem with Adobe is all the plug-in shite that tries to put such limitations and other DRM on you. I have one that literally interferes with EVERY PDF you print by watermarking it, whether or not it was part of the purchased PDFs that had that DRM. We stopped buying that stuff, fortunately.

    Keep it to a display format. I mean, use the forms stuff if you have to but even that's a security risk (running Javascript and talking to outside websites, etc.). Anything more is really a nonsense and won't be used and will contribute to the long-term death of the format.

    PDFs are fine. I mean anything would be fine, but XPS. But Adobe can't be making much money out of them at all.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      >how to "stop people stealing our pictures out of PDFs" (and also website images).

      Well this goes back to considering the intended purpose. As PDF's are really intended to be printed, there is generally no reason to have pictures/images that are of a higher resolution than is necessary to print the page. Similarly with websites, do you really need a high resolution image when most people will be viewing the content on a 1366x768 laptop display or a 3~5-inch mobile phone display.

      Doesn't stop people stealing the pictures, just ensures the copy taken isn't take good.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "As PDF's are really intended to be printed, there is generally no reason to have pictures/images that are of a higher resolution than is necessary to print the page."

        If all you have is a printer, that's fair enough. I view PDFs on Okular and that has a zoom control.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          >I view PDFs on Okular and that has a zoom control.

          This caused me to do a little research...

          The image chosen to illustrate Okular's capabilities on Wikipedia made me smile. It nicely illustrates how narrow and limited many commenters experience is; you wouldn't use Word to write a musical score, however, PDF allows those without the relevant application to read your score.

          Which reminds me of other uses of PDF and history!

          We forget just how painful Word was before the rise of PDF; yes Word allowed you to do object embedding, only problem was anyone else wanting to read your Word document and view all those Visio diagrams, etc. that you had so carefully embedded, had to have the relevant applications installed on their system. Obviously, you could paste-as-picture/image but that made updating a pain. However, print as PDF and everyone could view your document as you intended - okay that might have made feedback harder, but generally many people simply printed off the document, annotated it by hand and handed it back.

          Similarly for MS Project plans, want to ensure everyone can read the current plan, just print to PDF (using a sensible page size).

          Interestingly, I've never received a document that used or a request for documents to be sent in, Microsoft's "PDF killer" XPS format. [Aside: I don't understand why MS haven't killed this off yet.]

          Picking up on archival and OCR comments, one aspect of PDF not commented upon is it's ability to contain document layers, so for imaging and workflow applications, PDF was an ideal format, paper could be scanned to TIFF, OCR'd and the two files combined into a single PDF file. This meant that you could search on the OCR'd text and if it didn't read well (ie. it contained scan errors) you could view the original TIFF image.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            "We forget just how painful Word was before the rise of PDF; yes Word allowed you to do object embedding, only problem was anyone else wanting to read your Word document and view all those Visio diagrams, etc. that you had so carefully embedded, had to have the relevant applications installed on their system. Obviously, you could paste-as-picture/image but that made updating a pain."

            Interesting. The OLE rules actually said that embedded objects had to offer a rendering that did not require the relevant application and that containers had to save that rendering as part of the containing document, precisely to avoid the problem you've just described. I would say that it was almost impossible to actually program either the server or the container application without being aware of this, so it is interesting that you found yourself using a version of Office or Visio that had managed to screw this up.

            (Update: It's probably also worth mentioning that the OLE libraries provide this capability for free. It requires conscious effort on the part of the programmer to avoid caching a graphic rendering. So that's someone going the extra mile to tick the box labelled "be annoying".)

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              The OLE rules actually said that embedded objects had to offer a rendering that did not require the relevant application

              Agree, however, from memory, the 'rendering' often didn't look exactly like the source, hence it was easier and made for a smaller Word document, to do the paste-as-picture. Also given the performance of the systems back in the 90's and early 2000's and the ease with which you could overwhelm Word, it was often easier/quicker to update the original object in the source application and just paste the results into the Word document.

              The other benefit of this approach was that reviewers/contributors had to tell you about corrections they wanted to make to such objects...

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            It nicely illustrates how narrow and limited many commenters experience is; you wouldn't use Word to write a musical score, however, PDF allows those without the relevant application to read your score.

            1. Terrible thing X is useless for application A.

            2. Sometimes-useful thing Y is useful for application A', which is related to but distinct from A.

            3. Therefore people who do not believe Y is wonderful have limited experience.

            I think your syllogism needs work. Or, preferably, nuking from orbit. Care to try again?

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              @Michael "I think your syllogism needs work. Or, preferably, nuking from orbit. Care to try again?"

              I think you and others understood perfectly what I was saying and implying; PDF is a universal display format for 'printed' material; in some respects it is digital paper; if whatever you wish to communicate can be represented on a piece of paper then it can be held in a PDF file. Provided the reader has a PDF reader then they can access the digital paper and view what you wrote on it.

              Whilst I agree many PDF files do have some limitations which make reading simple text less than satisfying on small screen smartphones and tablets, I suggest this limitation is more a limitation of peoples usage and the tools available. For example, I've not looked at it, but given a PDF can have multiple layers, there is no reason why a viewer couldn't pull the text layer and display that instead of the printed page.

              I suspect also if someone really wants the benefits of ePub (or another dynamic display format) whilst not also losing the benefits of PDF then perhaps the way forward is to Standardise ePub, promote an ePub printer that can be plugged in and used just like PDF printers and get the PDF Standard updated to include an ePub layer!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > I view PDFs on Okular

          That's an automatic thumbs up.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > As PDF's are really intended to be printed, there is generally no reason to have pictures/images that are of a higher resolution than is necessary to print the page.

        You don't know much about printing, do you?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Draft in Word LibreOffice, publish in export as PDF.

    3. arctic_haze Silver badge

      PDF is also great for presentations

      I produce my PDF with LibreOffice. It is very efficient. A presentation produced by Impress (the LibreOffice counterpart of PowerPoint) decreases its file size 2-4 fold when exported to PDF with 90% quality which is good enough even for a big screen. Plus the slides look as intended on every computer.

      The downside you do not have animation (with the exception of slide transitions). But most animations in presentations are a distraction anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: PDF is also great for presentations

        > I produce my PDF with LibreOffice. It is very efficient.

        More importantly, it treats the output as a file not as a printer which obviously it isn't. This means that you can easily and conveniently control such things as the metadata, window title, table of contents, and of course, hyperlinks.

        Few things make you look as incompetent as producing a PDF that goes like "and for this look on page 735¾" and not hyperlinking the stupid page reference (or not producing a table of contents, if appropriate).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > I was recently asked how to "stop people stealing our pictures out of PDFs" (and also website images). My solution was "don't put them in there" because you can't beat an analogue hole

      And I had this conversation with a friend. My solution was: use a free-culture licence so people are not "stealing" them.

      For some unknown reason they actually did that and they realised that 1. the problem was not as big as they thought, it was just amplified by their anxiety and 2. their brand visibility in search rankings shot right up, perhaps as people felt more comfortable linking to them rather than lifting the content.

  9. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    PDF bloat

    I am proof-reading a draft of a magazine for a small charity. Its Editor uses a DTP system that turns 40 A5 pages into a 8 MByte file. Acrobat 9 (vintage 2009) reduces that to 321Kbytes with no obvious loss of visual appearance.

  10. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Ahem

    PDF/X, the X was "X-change" I believe.

    As for versions - it's even worse than you made out:

    * Acrobat 8 was PDF 1.7, aka ISO32000-1:2008

    * Acrobat 9 was PDF 1.7 extension level 3 (there is no PDF 1.8)

    * Acrobat X was PDF 1.7 extension level 8 (unpublished; extension level 5 was published, but as far as we know there was never an extension level 4, 6 or 7)

    * Acrobat XI was... actually I never really figured that one out either. But we got EC sigs, which is nice.

    Then you've got Acrobat DC 2015, Acrobat DC 2017, Acrobat DC 2018. Next year it will probably be Acrobat DC 1880 just to keep us guessing, or perhaps Acrobat DC 77πᵉ. With an entirely new user interface of course, with all the buttons rotating in a constant spiral around the center of the screen this time, because change!

    Fortunately the file format means PDF is largely backwards compatible so you can largely forget about version numbers.

    1. Hi Wreck

      Re: Ahem

      Everyone knows “X” sells!

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: Ahem

        I thought that was XXX

    2. WolfFan Silver badge

      Re: Ahem

      I have Acrobat X Pro. So far it reads all PDFs I've thrown at it. I am in the process of de-Adobifying my systems; I will not be getting a newer version of Acrobat. Ever. My PDF needs are simple. I must be able to create PDFs from scans, including from scans from automatic document feeders on assorted scanners, copiers, and multifunction devices. I must be able to combine assorted elements into PDFs, including previously scanned files in PDF, PNG, JPG, TIFF, or GIF format. (You'd be amazed how many pretenders to the Acrobat throne can't handle GIFs...) I must be able to have basic OCR, which generates DOC, DOCX, or RTF files which don't have too many errors. (I can point the file to a dedicated OCR app, usually ReadIRIS, if necessary. The PDF just has to have good enough resolution.) In particular I must be able to generate PDFs from assorted other elements into a single PDF which has sufficient resolution to do OCR if necessary or to just be usable as is, depending on what we want to do with the assorted stuff. (This, of course, means that any image files MUST be scanned in or otherwise generated at a high enough resolution to be useful; anyone who hands us 100 dpi images gets laughed at. This in turn usually means that we get the original document and scan it in ourselves, most people simply scan in at far too low a resolution or use silly formats or both. GIF, I'm looking at you. And BMP. And the idiot who still uses PICT; yo! moron! Apple hasn't used PICT in nearly 20 years! Sigh.)

      1. Chris J

        Re: Ahem

        If you are comfortable with the command line, ImageMagick, OCRmyPDF and PDFTk will probably meet those needs. It looks like you could even script LibreOffice to do the Word file creation from the OCRd PDF: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/44342224/pdf-to-doc-docx-converter

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Ahem

          "script LibreOffice to do the Word file creation from the OCRd PDF"

          Oh, the irony.

    3. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: Ahem

      Next year it will probably be Acrobat DC 1880 just to keep us guessing

      One thing we won't have to guess about: if it's an Adobe cloud product, it will be eye-wateringly expensive.

  11. Christian Berger Silver badge

    PDF can be cool... if you stay away from Adobe

    I mean look at computer magazines like PoC||GTFO which are distributed as PDF files. Those are usually polyglots which use all the sensible features of PDF (so only a tiny fraction) and usually are polyglott. One issue even had the hash of itself printed on the title page.

    One should note that Postscript as a document format has severe security problems, as this is actual code by design. Plus the firmware update feature of many printers works via sending them Postscript. So it would be possible to have a Postscript file having multiple exploits inside owning both your computer _and_ your printer.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: PDF can be cool... if you stay away from Adobe

      Wait, wasn't it PoC||GTFO who produced a PDF, that also functioned as a valid NES ROM that would display the MD5 sum of itself?

      Oh, yes it was:

      Technical Note: This file, pocorgtfol4.pdf, is a polyglot valid as a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) ROM cartridge, a PDF document, and a ZIP archive. We collided 9,824 MD5 block pairs to place the hash of this document on its front cover and the title screen of the NES game, but only 609 of them made it to the final release.

      That's damn impressive.

      (source)

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: PDF can be cool... if you stay away from Adobe

      PoC||GTFO is a wondrous thing (and let us not forget that two volumes are also available as lovely hardbound books). But using it as an example of the virtues of PDF is a bit like using the Bugatti Chiron to argue that cars are pretty fast. It's something of an edge case, surely.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As with everything, has it's uses.

    Incidentally, a lot of "book" PDFs are really a collection if *images* of the pages. Not that it really matters. It's a total abomination either way.

  13. steelpillow Silver badge
    Boffin

    Print Definition File

    History is always written by the winners, so this particular history is about to die.

    PDF originally stood for "Print Definition File". Text was just glyphs, you couldn't even copy-paste from a PDF. But all you needed was a PostScript printer driver and its appearance was guaranteed.

    Technology moved on. Hi-res screens you could read an illustrated print page on appeared, people really did need to copy-paste content, the web and hyperlinks spread like wildfire, you could even embed multimedia in your online document but you couldn't print that off. At the same time, print publishing houses were rejecting PDF and demanding MS Word, specifically so they could edit the content. Nobody in the SOHO market, where the sales volumes are, gave a toss how the castrated print version looked any more. And by now the publishing and print houses already had their print needs catered for by last year's version.

    So Adobe tried to reinvent PDF as an electronic format for onscreen viewing. Embedded text, media and hyperlinking appeared, along with other gimmicks I barely knew and thankfully forget. The name "PDF" suddenly now stood for "Portable Document Format" and the Illustrator airbrush was whipped out on the old Print Definition File.

    But page resizing is a key to onscreen comfort and paper print pages just can't cut it. In the face of more flexible electronic formats such as the XHTML/XML based ePub, the days of PDF as anything more than a print definition format are severely numbered. And even there, the relentless march of page layout markup in HTML/CSS leaves a question mark.

    1. myhandler

      Re: Print Definition File

      Print publishing houses only wanted Word for author's text - everything else was in QuarkXPress.

      There's still an enormous requirement for fixed documents that always appear the same.

      1. steelpillow Silver badge

        Re: Print Definition File

        Print publishing houses only wanted Word for author's text - everything else was in QuarkXPress.

        Yes indeed. Word > QuarkXPress > PDF it was.

        There's still an enormous requirement for fixed documents that always appear the same.

        That's where HTML/CSS keeps growing new features (I am never sure whether this is an abomination or a stroke of genius).

        Still, I acknowledge it'll take a lot for Scan > OCR > PDF ever to go away.

  14. poohbear

    PDF uber HTML

    If I remember correctly, back in the 90s, Adobe was trying very hard to have PDF adopted as the standard for WWW. Thankfully HTML won out.

    1. Allonymous Coward
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: PDF uber HTML

      I vaguely remember that too. IIRC back around Acrobat 4-ish I was reading the (PDF, natch) help file and it was going on about the advantages of PDF over HTML - formatting accuracy, multiple pages per file etc probably.

      Icon, because I was just a little bit sick on my keyboard remembering that.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had to copy data from pdf format into xml

    It was so gratifying when I finally convinced the subject expert that giving me the original of her report was a good idea because I could guarantee every number was copied correctly thanks to copying and pasting the lot to Excel, saving as csv and writing a simple little script.

  16. Bavaria Blu
    Windows

    PDF will only be used for archiving documents in future

    If I think of what I find PDFs being used for these days, only the need to archive documents stops PDF from becoming obsolete. Cinema or theatre tickets, airline tickets are both going to be superseded by apps or a 2D barcode sent by email. Utility bills / bank statements, tax returns are all usefully downloadable in PDF. Some big corporate websites seem to offer a downloadable version of their web pages as PDF, perhaps that would useful 10 years ago before browsers could save as PDF.

    I remember seeing an advert for a competitor product to Acrobat in a US MacWorld in about 1993 - there was a bloated and rotund man in a leotard (mocking an Acrobat) splattered in mud as if he had fallen down during a circus routine. Can anyone name it? Google doesn't help my nostalgic trip down memory lane!

  17. Giovani Tapini

    Ahh, the memories

    File format arbitrage was not limited to Adobe as my now addled brain starts to recall.

    in those days everywhere had at loads of different and incompatible word processors and publishing suites.

  18. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

    PDF Forms

    Drop the submit functions. Just allowing Acrobat Reader to fill out the form, save it and print/email it helps a lot of folks. With email or web-based upload*, there is ZERO need to send the form contents from within a PDF reader.

    * Yes, us readers of El Reg know that FTP not only exists but still has some uses. Most lusers never knew about FTP (thinking email was the only pre-web internet app that mattered; they don't know/care about telnet either except in movies) and many of the others think FTP is essentially dead.

  19. richardcox13
    Boffin

    Jobs Didn't Introduce Typography to Computers

    The Mac did in 1985 make limited typography available to those few who could afford a Mac. But typography had been available long before that and in cheaper form.

    For a start both troff and TeX seriously predate the Mac or Lisa.

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: Jobs Didn't Introduce Typography to Computers

      The pdf format has replaced the dvi format used by Stone Age Latex, prior to the modern GUI interfaces that make Latex almost useable.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Jobs Didn't Introduce Typography to Computers

        The pdf format has replaced the dvi format used by Stone Age Latex

        So PDF can seamlessly render to any output at any resolution now?

        Arguably ps could replace dvi

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jobs Didn't Introduce Typography to Computers

      > The Mac did in 1985 make limited typography available to those few who could afford a Mac.

      I guess the author was referring to the NeXT's display system.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Jobs Didn't Introduce Typography to Computers

        I guess the author was referring to the NeXT's display system.

        He specifically mentions the LaserWriter in the same paragraph.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Jobs Didn't Introduce Typography to Computers

      Yes. The line about "Steve Jobs introduced typography into computing" is complete rubbish.

      TeX was released in 1978, so a good 7 years before Steve Jobs and the LaserWriter. Even the first version of PostScript was only released in 1982.

      troff was just one descendant of CTSS RUNOFF, from 1964. Arguably RUNOFF didn't do much in the way of "typography", but it did lay out text. troff appeared a couple of years before TeX (circa 1976) and did quite a lot of typesetting.

      Perhaps the "Apple fanboi legend" and some paywall-protected Forbes page aren't ideal sources.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Jobs Didn't Introduce Typography to Computers

        >Yes. The line about "Steve Jobs introduced typography into computing" is complete rubbish.

        Whilst dismissing this we shouldn't overlook Xerox, with XNS, and the Xerox print language that John Warnock and Chuck Geschke worked on before founding Adobe...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a great PDF user or expert....

    ....but what annoys me about the Adobe reader is that it's massive (above 100MB (IIRC)) - just to view a file!?

    I remember playing about with other readers with varying degrees of success, but being rather impressed with Samutra(?) only being a couple of MB.

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: Not a great PDF user or expert....

      Try the free Nitro pdf, if you can find it. Google knows, you know.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Not a great PDF user or expert....

      sumatra pdf reader perhaps ?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not a great PDF user or expert....

      but what annoys me about the Adobe reader is that it's massive (above 100MB (IIRC)) - just to view a file!?

      https://mozilla.github.io/pdf.js/

      Adobe were never known for code quality or efficiency.

  21. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Pint

    I find PDF highly useful

    PDF generated using pdflatex works a treat for me. I can send my pdf slides, or poster design, or article anywhere and they look (and print) just fine. Try running a powerpoint presentation with equations in it on some PC at a conference. All too often some font is missing and the equations are completely messed up. Presenting a pdf file instead using any PDF reader works fine every time. I can add basic animations using the pdfanim package in slide if I want to. LaTeX may not be the tool of choice for many, but for me it is ideal, and allowing export to PDF rather than DVI files means I can share my work with others easily.

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: I find PDF highly useful

      I also find pdf very useful: in many voluntary organisations. If you send a Word document, someone with an old version tells you they can't handle .docx files. If you send a membership list as an Excel file (the traditional cheap database) they ask you for some other format, pdf or csv.

      Email is, of course, HTML based; but with Microsoft HTML thingies that help to reconstruct Word documents but are ignored by other software.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I find PDF highly useful

        I sent a PDF version of a resume to one software company and was asked to send a word doc instead.

        Because they have a virus scanner for word docs ......

        1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          Re: I find PDF highly useful

          Considering I just ran into a .pdf with malware embedded, I'd bounce pdf's here as well. One of my tripwires caught it, thankfully.

      2. frank ly Silver badge

        Re: I find PDF highly useful

        "Email is, of course, HTML based; ..."

        I set my email client to block all HTML content. If you can't type it or attach it, I won't look at it.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: I find PDF highly useful

          "I set my email client to block all HTML content. If you can't type it or attach it, I won't look at it."

          You realise that, technically, the HTML content *is* an attachment?

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: I find PDF highly useful

        "Email is, of course, HTML based"

        You were doing well up to this point. HTML email is an abhorrent waste of bandwidth and spawn of the marketing brethren (see icon).

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I find PDF highly useful

        > Email is, of course, HTML based;

        AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Simone

    Open format !!

    Forget the forms and other nonsense. The basic PDF functionality is a standard and has not changed for years. I don't think people realise how useful this is for keeping archives of useful information. Reference information that does not go stale after a few months, or is useful for historical analysis. Having a page 17 that always contains the same information makes it a lot simpler to refer to something in a document in PDF format than in something that reflows.

    Adding a PDF output printer driver to a device allows (nearly) any software to create an electronic version of whatever it is showing that (usually) stays the same and can be opened years later. How many government organisations, and similar, publish 'stuff' in Word? How many can still be opened today? The UK National Archives have been investigating keeping old technology and software so some of their material can still be referenced in the future (I think I remember this).

    If we want things that can be read for a long time to come, is there anything as robust as PDF? Why do we need Adobe Reader, when there is a lot of other reader software available?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Open format !!

      > If we want things that can be read for a long time to come, is there anything as robust as PDF?

      Clay tablets.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Open format !!

      If we want things that can be read for a long time to come, is there anything as robust as PDF?

      Digital document preservation and archiving is a large and very active field. As with any such, the guesses non-specialists make about it are not likely to be particularly accurate or useful.

      There's a decent short introduction to the subject by David Anderson in the December 2015 issue (58.12) of CACM. Anderson mentions the #nodigitaldarkage discussions on Twitter that were sparked by Vint Cerf's "Digital Dark Age" arguments, and such projects as POCOS and E-ARK. Interested readers may also want to investigate historical efforts such as Acid-Free Bits or the long debates about human-readable versus machine-readable formats, and so forth.

  23. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a soft spot for PDF

    It's down near the swamp by the willow tree...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    PDF is clunky.

    It really took off for me when it was added for free in several apps. It sucked, but it was usable.

    Before that, it sucked even harder. Once upon a time, a certain company that I worked for, lost the original Word .DOC with 5.000 pages worth of documentation, that needed to be revised. However, they had a PDF of it. No program would be able to get that PDF and save as a Word DOC... and they were planning to use a pool of 10 secretaries to type everything AGAIN.

    However, I had an OCR program that could read PDF files instead of a scanner as source and recognize them back to Word documents, despite losing some formatting, failing to recognize pictures... back in the early 2000's. (Omnipage could do that on version 12, I guess.)

    It took several minutes to recognize each page and save them to a single DOC file (the program created temporary BITMAP VERSIONS OF EACH PAGE, consuming several MB of hard drive scratch disk causing the computer to crap itself every 150 pages)... but it worked.

    5.000 word docs, 72 hours, and 40 memory leak crashes later, in a Pentium II with windows 98, the thing could be revised and copy-pasted. One secretary shed a tear when I showed her every page in its lonely word doc, with a few errors, but saving days of work for her.

    All of that because you can't convert a PDF back to anything else. Sure, using an OCR is cheating but you needed to get the job done. Screw copyrights.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: PDF is clunky.

      pdftotext - available on a unix machine near you.

      PDF isn't designed to convert back into text, in the same way that gcode isn't easy to turn back into a Solidworks model

    2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: PDF is clunky.

      All of that because you can't convert a PDF back to anything else.

      Well, you couldn't in 1998. Now there are tons of free and low-cost tools that can convert PDF content into numerous other formats.

      Screw copyrights.

      Including the copyrights that protected the product for which you had 5K pages of documentation? Or just copyrights that belong to someone else?

    3. e_is_real_i_isnt

      Re: PDF is clunky.

      You are right - Omnipage has always sucked. Blaming PDF for the problem is like blaming cars for crashing. The "F" is for format - a format that allows a huge flexibility to the user of same, including making it difficult to extract information if they so choose. If your organization had a tough time extracting the info, then it's your organization that was at fault for making extraction difficult.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: PDF is clunky.

        "If your organization had a tough time extracting the info, then it's your organization that was at fault for making extraction difficult."

        They may have done it because they were frightened of someone extracting the text from it.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: PDF is clunky.

      "Once upon a time, a certain company that I worked for, lost the original Word .DOC with 5.000 pages worth of documentation"

      No backups? Careless. And why put 5,000 pages into a single document?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: PDF is clunky.

        Whatever reason they may have had for losing the document, their mistakes were not the point. The point is that PDF files, although they are lauded as being useful on any platform, frequently lack the feature of making their content available if you don't want to just look at them. Some PDFs have text that can be extracted, but the number that don't is higher than the number that do. If I want to use the contents for some reason, be that copying and pasting code, quoting accurately, or sending data over something where text is more convenient*, PDFs frequently won't work. Sometimes, this is done for security, because I suppose it would be harder to violate copyright with something where copy and paste are made impossible, but usually it's down to someone messing something up or being a control freak because I should view this document in the font they like. With any text-based format, you have the freedom to make it useful by converting it to any format that would work well. The greatest risk is that it won't look as nice on the other end. With a PDF, the message seems to be that you are not allowed to do anything that the original document-writer didn't think of allowing you to do.

        *Recently, I wanted to give someone some of the documentation for a system they were using. The only problem was that they were on the other side of an e-mail exchange. I can't send the PDF file because it's 48 mb and there's a limit on attachment size. This file was sent to me, so I don't have a link to it online. I could post it somewhere and let them download it, sure, but copying and pasting the ten-item instruction list would really have been more convenient.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: PDF is clunky.

          "Sometimes, this is done for security, because I suppose it would be harder to violate copyright with something where copy and paste are made impossible, but usually it's down to someone messing something up or being a control freak because I should view this document in the font they like."

          In general I find that PDFs generated from a word processing document copy and paste just fine. If they don't then it's most likely a deliberate act. But being able to control the presentation in this way is the purpose of PDF. If people have taken advantage of that it's a little unreasonable to blame the format for that. They didn't want you to take the text out. That may rebound on them later but if so it's a problem of their own making.

          PDFs generated from a scan are a different kettle of snakes. At best they've been OCRed into something very approximately resembling the text. At worst you have to hope you can find an OCR program that can deal with the font and the condition of the document that was scanned. If the original was a printed book you have to hope it was early in the print run.

          1. Scott 29

            Re: PDF is clunky.

            I have to mention ABBYY finereader. Seems nobody else does. It used to be bundled with Fujitsu SnapScan.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PDF is clunky.

      > All of that because you can't convert a PDF back to anything else.

      If that is a requirement, you can embed the original file that was used to produce the PDF in the PDF itself, just as one does for many a format.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    precision bum

    "a precise document that looks, prints and behaves the same on any platform on any device"

    LMFAO

  27. decoherence
    Facepalm

    What page was that on?

    I love it when the publisher thoughtfully includes page numbers, then manages to prepend a title page and a blank or two. Page 17? You'll find it on page 19.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: What page was that on?

      "You'll find it on page 19."

      Only 2 away? Downloads of C19th books from archive.org or Google books can be way, way more out than that. With the occasional plate that didn't have a page number. And that's only vol 1 when the page numbering continues into multiple volumes. With luck the OCR isn't too bad and you can search for the actual page number.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: What page was that on?

        I once worked for the London branch of a US company. We would get long technical documents from head office in the US, and print them on A4 paper. So the page numbers got steadily out of step.

        This was 1998-99, when we techies did not have the software to turn .doc to .pdf. One very useful trick of pdf is that it can print US letter size pages on A4, or vice-versa, thus preserving page numbers and layouts.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First Rate

    What a great and informative article.

  29. David Fetrow

    Sun Microsystems also used Display Postscript

    Sun supported (but few used natively) Display Postscript in their windowing system back in the day.

    1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

      Re: Sun Microsystems also used Display Postscript

      DEC / Compaq did too for CDE on VMS and Tru64.

      Which came in handy when the OS documentation was available in Postscript format.

  30. brotherelf
    Boffin

    A beast of many things...

    I've had need (or nerd, rather) to look at the specs at some point, and there's so many bewildering things in there... base95 (because why waste characters?), a freaking filesystem, because that's really what PDF is... I want to say there's special support for barcode-ish things in there, too, but I've not found it looking at the PDF1.7 ISO document.

    I can see how they were convinced it would be a great step towards low-paper office workflows, if you go all in, all the way.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: A beast of many things...

      a freaking filesystem, because that's really what PDF is

      When you want to flatten complex documents into a single file, you're probably going to end up with a compound file format of some sort. Open Document Format is a compound file format - it's just a zip archive, in fact. OOXML and XPS are compound file formats. EPUB is a compound file format.

      The alternative is a single non-compound format that encompasses all the types of data you might want. That's worse: it's more cumbersome to define, document, implement, etc. With a compound file format, it's trivial to build toolchains that operate on only some parts of the entire document - the explode / filter / implode pattern.

      HTML and its siblings can get away with not being compound because they present a de facto remote filesystem to the user agent. They don't try to flatten everything into a single byte-stream blob.

  31. Daniel M

    Winners write the history books

    There is no mention here of Novell Envoy (1995), which I had, as part of PerfectOffice, and used. A free downloadable viewer (which no one had) and the ability to package the viewer together with the .ENV file as an .EXE, which was quickly to become an unacceptable attachment in several systems as did a similar emission from OmniForm.

    Perhaps none of these competitors threatened -- or will ever threaten? -- the economic success of Adobe, but they must have had some influence.

  32. bobajob12

    Love PDF, not so in love with Acrobat

    PDF is the defacto document standard because it just works for the mass population. Sure, there are the 1% who have more specialized needs, but getting the level of fidelity that PDF provides for the effort (or lack of) that 'print to PDF' provides makes it a lock.

    So, props to Adobe, Warnock and the author for a fun and informative article.

    Now we must turn our attention to Acrobat. Oh, Adobe, you break my heart every time I open your Reader. What did you do with Reader DC? The weird-ass offering of McAfee with every download that makes you look like a skeevy mp3 ripper from a warez site. The kindergarten UI. The tool bar that is un-hideable, eating up a 2-inch wide chunk of my screen for no purpose whatsoever. Whyyyy?

  33. steviebuk Silver badge

    Computerphile has some good stuff...

    ...on PDFs.

    I don't know if links work in comments.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48tFB_sjHgY

    And other stuff relating to type face from Professor Brailsford. He makes it sound interesting.

  34. Sil

    Not a PDF fan at all.

    About 10 years ago, when I was working in marketing/communication, it was one of the most overused and misused file format in the business world.

    People had to convert everything and anything to PDF because it was trendy and expected, although Office file formats where already open, free viewers were already available for the 0,00001 % that didn't work with Office or a program able to open Office documents, and most of all, 100 % of our customers and partners did work with the same software we did: Office, Adobe photoshop/illustrator/indesign /quark xpress.

    PDF caused problems to no end because of compatibility issue, file size, remarquable slowness of viewer.errors while printing on the latest PostScript printers and more.

    And it cost us a lot of money in licenses for a step that basically brought zero economic value.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "most of all, 100 % of our customers and partners did work with the same software we did: Office, Adobe photoshop/illustrator/indesign /quark xpress."

      And what about the consumer, the person who you hoped to read the product? Were there supposed to have a copy of Quark Xpress to read it? If all you were doing was print it you wouldn't need to have gone near PDF.

      If you wanted it to have been read online then if you wanted to ensure they saw what you saw you'd have little option; your reader with Word or Word viewer might not have had the same fonts, or even fonts with the same metrics. Your reader then sees a slightly dishevelled document and forms their view of whoever sent it accordingly: remember that what's communicated is what's received, not what's transmitted.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        I should have added that your "open standard" of Word format is generally regarded as a bit of a kludge. Those who actually want to work with open standards usually prefer ODF.

  35. mark l 2 Silver badge

    We don't need interactive content in PDFs, the PDF format is a great way of distributing 'paper' documents so they can be viewed and printed with the formatting as the original creator intended.

    Having interactive content inside a PDF sounds like a hackers dream for spreading their malware.

    I really hope therefore that no one bothers with version 2 and they stick with the older versions which do what they were intended to do quite well.

  36. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Acrobat Reader Price

    Acrobat Reader may of cost $50 in the day, but virtually no one paid for since it was widely pirated

    like MS word you should never underestimate how much initial uptake was driven by piracy which finally resulted in software becoming de facto standards

  37. bsimon

    Digital signatures

    IMO, digital signature support in PDF is unmatched by any other office file format

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Digital signatures

      > IMO, digital signature support in PDF is unmatched by any other office file format

      LibreOffice does digital signatures just fine *and* since version 5-something that includes support for PGP signatures which PDF does not have.

      While a problem of the implementation and not the format per se, PDF signatures can be a bit of a minefield. The two major reasons are that the signature may refer to only part of the document but there is no clear visual indication of what part exactly (might have changed?) and the other is Acrobat's (?) stupid idea of adding some sort of stamp-like image onto the document itself, which has caused a lot of people to just look for the image and remain completely unaware of the actual signing mechanism.

      As I say, that's not a problem of the actual spec, just shit software out there.

  38. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Restaurants

    I'd also, in passing, give a dishonerable mention to restaurant web sites that download a PDF when you click on their "menu" tab, instead of just opening a menu page with the bloody food list displayed.

    Why? Just why?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Restaurants

      And then there are those who implement 'security' and thus try and prevent you from saving or printing their document. Fortunately, many non-adobe readers just ignore these settings....

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