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The Evolution of PDF: Part 3

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Table of Contents

Essentially in Part 2 of this series, Acrobat 5 opened the flood gates to mass adoption of the PDF standard. In this, our final part of the series we continue with the PDF rise to fame and how they were able to pack further enhancements into PDF which may have not been necessary to the users.

PDF 1.5 and Acrobat 6

Adobe released Acrobat 6 in April 2003. It began shipping in May 2003. Acrobat 6 was codenamed ‘Newport’ internally. The new Acrobat 6 also included a new PDF version, 1.5.

PDF 1.5 introduces a lot of new features that will likely take quite a while before they are implemented or supported in applications. This is the new stuff.

  • Improved compression and caching techniques, including object streams and JPEG 2000 compression
  • Layer support
  • Support for tagged PDFs has been improved

Acrobat software actually has more benefits than the PDF format.

Adobe Reader was renamed Acrobat Reader. It now includes the Adobe eBook Reader functions. This application is unfortunately growing and has a file size that may be over 1000 times greater than the average PDF document of an office type.

Acrobat Professional, the professional version of Acrobat 6, you will find a multitude of new features.

  • Preflight integration
  • PDF Optimizer
  • Guides and rulers
  • Tickets for jobs
  • Support for PDF/X
  • Separation output and a separation preview
  • Transparency Flattener
  • Layers
  • Measurement and magnifying tools
  • New user interfaces that closely match other Adobe applications

2005: PDF revised. Again.

Adobe began shipping Acrobat 7 in January 2005 (original codename: Vegas). It also supported a new version of PDF. The following enhancements are available in PDF 1.6:

  • NChannel extends the DeviceN mechanism to define spot colors in a document. It is compatible with DeviceN backwards and allows for more precise handling of color blending through the addition of dot gain information and color mixing information.
  • Improved encryption algorithms
  • Some minor improvements to annotations or tagging
  • OpenType fonts are now able to be embedded directly in the PDF. They no longer need to be embedded as TrueType or PostScript Type 1 fonts.
  • PDF 1.6 files can also be used as a type of ‘container file format’ by allowing the ability to embed files in a PDF.
  • The main new feature is the ability of embedding 3D data. This feature was initially only for architects and CAD-CAM users. A colleague of mine showed me a PDF that he had created with ArtiosCAD. This is a packaging design software. A PDF allows you to view a box from every angle, as well as check the layout of images and bar codes. This is when I realized that this technique could also be used for graphic arts, especially for those working in packaging and display.
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PDF 1.7 – Adobe ISO Standard

The most exciting PDF-version ever released was PDF 1.7. It offered improved security and commenting support. 3D support was also improved with the ability to comment on 3D-objects as well as more detailed control over 3D animations. The PDF 1.7 file can contain default printer settings, such as paper selection, number of copies, scaling ,…. You can find the full specs .

Adobe Acrobat 8, codenamed Atlas, was released in October 2006. It introduced a new feature. Instead of using PDF1.7 as the default file format, it uses PDF 1.6. It is now easier to save older PDF versions of documents. Adobe has acknowledged that not everyone needs the most recent PDF version to do their jobs. You can use PDF 1.3 or 1.4. The new features include better support for PDF/A and more organized menus & toolbars. You can also save forms in Adobe Reader 8. Another nice feature is the fact that the preflight engine can handle multiple corrections (called fix ups). The biggest benefit is the improved performance of Intel Macs, according to most people. Some people dislike the new user interface.

A unique feature of PDF 1.7 is that it was made an official ISO-standard (ISO 32000-1 :2008) in January 2008. On July 1, the official specifications were made public.

Acrobat 9 converts to PDF 1.7 “Adobe Extension Level Three”

Adobe could not introduce a new PDF format 1.8 because the ISO-organisation controls the PDF-standard. Acrobat 9 code-named ‘Nova’ was released in June 2008. However, the PDF file format allows for extensions. This is data that may be of value to one application, but can be ignored by other software. These extensions are called Adobe Extension Level 3 and can be added to Acrobat 9 PDF files. This extension allows you to embed geospatial information in PDF files. This is useful for maps. The Acrobat 9 SDK has not yet been released so I do not know what Extension Level 3 features it offers.

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Adobe may continue to add new features to PDF with such extensions to increase the value of Acrobat’s new releases. Some of these extensions may be included in new ISO-certified PDF versions. Other companies may also request changes or do the same. Although the PDF standard will evolve, more companies and organizations can participate and committees work slower, there won’t be a new version of PDF every 18 months.

Although I haven’t used Acrobat 9 for a while, this thread at the b4print forum suggests that the Professional version is a great product for professional users.

  • Acrobat 9 Professional provides excellent support for industry standards like PDF/X-4, and GWG.
  • You can embed multiple files or data types in a Portfolio. This is similar to a ZIP File. This method of bundling data is not yet widely used.
  • Acrobat 9 has all the tools you need for common problems. Here are some examples:
    • Touch Up Text Tool now supports word wrapping (even though it’s still a hit and miss affair).
    • The Crop Tool allows you to define the ArtBox or BleedBox, CropBox or TrimBox.
    • The ‘Convert colors’ tool is faster and more powerful. It seems to have fewer problems with transparent objects.
    • You can remove all objects outside of the page (CropBox), or trim the area (TrimBox) by using the “Examine Document” menu option.
  • “Output preview” can simulate the effects of different press conditions.
  • The application appears to run faster on Macs.
  • Keep in mind that ‘Overprint Preview” is set to ‘Only PDF/x files’ by default. This setting can be changed to ‘Always’ for more reliability, but it will slow down the application. For more information, visit this blog .
  • There are many features that can be used to target other markets than print. This includes support for AES256 encryption.

Acrobat X & PDF/VT

Acrobat X started shipping in late 2010.

  • Major overhaul of the Acrobat and Reader user interfaces.
  • The Portfolio function has been greatly expanded, allowing users embed audio, video and other rich media files into a PDF Portfolio.
  • Adobe has implemented a Protected mode for version 10, in response to all security flaws found in Reader and Acrobat. This “sandboxing” technique will reduce the chance of infecting PDF files by limiting access to an application within its own execution environment.
  • Adobe Acrobat X & Reader X are 32-bit applications, but they can be run on 64-bit systems.
  • The document comparison function has been improved to make it easier for you to import multiple PDF versions and compare the differences.
  • Adobe has launched a new version of Acrobat X Suite that includes Photoshop CS5.
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Adobe didn’t create any AcrobatX-specific extensions for the PDF file format. They did publish the specifications of PDF 1.7 extension Level 5 in 2009. These specifications included some new functions for Acrobat 9.1.

The official ISO standard for PDF/VT was published in the fall 2010. It is ISO 16612-2. PDF/VT is an enhanced version of the PDF file format. It is designed for variable data printing (VDP), in a wide range of environments. This includes desktop printing and digital production presses. The Variable, and Transact are the V and T in PDF/VT.

Acrobat XI

Adobe began shipping Acrobat XI in October 2012. This version was focused on PDF editing and integrated clouds services. The new Edit Text and Images tools allow users to update text directly in PDF. They can automatically wrap paragraph text, search and substitute words in PDF files, crop, adjust, and replace images. You can export files to Microsoft PowerPoint. This update added tablet support and improved interoperability with Windows 7/8.

PDF 2.0

The ISO-committee has completed work on specifications for PDF 2.0 (ISO 32000-2). The standard is expected to be published in mid-2017. This standard will reportedly be minor improvements to the PDF 1.7 specifications. According to me, PDF 2.0 will not include any ideas from Mars. Mars was an Adobe project that focused on using XML for internal data within PDF documents. The primary advantage of using XML for internal data in PDF files is that programmers can use the many XML-tools available to create and process PDF files. PDF 2.0 will include improved transparency, spot colors definitions and output intentions.

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