Not all PDF’s are created equal

If might seem like PDF’s are all the same. That’s their evil plan! You’re supposed to think that.Lost in files

But, the PDF specification is pretty broad and allows for some pretty radical differences in the way they are constructed. It’s a great framework for developers wishing to create software to consistently display documents across many platforms. That’s what the Portable Document Format (PDF) is for! Very useful.

The specification is also very big: The ISO 32000-1:2008 Standard document for PDF covers over 700 pages… and that’s just for Part 1! Adobe’s PDF Reference for v1.7 is over 1,300 pages. The specification is purposefully broad to leave developers with many options to accomplish the goal. Its also a great gift to insomniacs.

That’s good, and bad.

It’s good because it gives developers leeway to experiment, and employ their talents creatively without being put in too much of a box.

Its bad because on occasion, someone goes to extremes – or off the rails entirely. Or gets too creative (yes, that’s possible).

We see this periodically ourselves. The tools built into our Dash DDX Document Management software are very PDF-orient. And they handle the vast majority of all PDF’s with poise and grace. But we do occasionally encounter a PDF created by some off-brand software that can cause us problems. This is pretty rare – maybe 1 in many thousands. But it does happen.

So before you run off and buy the cheapest PDF creator you can find – or a start to use a free tool – we suggest you test the output with some of the other tools you use. Acrobat is really pretty good at being resilient. But not all of us enjoy the enormous development budgets that wash up on Adobe’s shores every day.

Just try it first. Odds are that you’re in good shape. When you’re after a good long term document management solution, but better safe than sorry.