Addicted to novelty since 2001

PDF Optimization?

Paul Bliss has written a wrong-minded article where-in he argues for a happy future in which companies “can now potentially have [their] entire site reside within the content of a PDF”:

Sure, it was textually available before, but now I can even have compressed video, dynamically generated content and visually appealing content conveniently wrapped up into the web’s only cross-compatible portable platform.

No more worries about having a Flash player installed – that will be incorporated into the PDF reading software. No more worrying about needing Quicktime and Media Player versions of video clips. They’ll all be in Flash.

Later, he actually argues that PDF-based sites would be “awesome” from the user’s perspective.

How much is Adobe paying Mr. Bliss? This is a profoundly idiotic idea. Why?

  • Most users and Web publishers disdain PDFs. They’re awkward to use, slow to open and are a sad excuse for a Web-native format. They work best when used for their original purpose–delivering documents which need to be printed and maintain their original format.
  • Most users disdain most uses of Flash. Splash pages and groovy banners do not excite people. Newer Flash-based applications like Flickr run great in a browser–why would we attempt to run them inside a PDF?
  • The vast majority of Web designers are HTML and CSS jockeys. Why would they throw away those skills in favour of becoming graphic designers or Flash monkeys?

PDF is a necessary evil. Flash is finally growing up into an effective front-end for Web apps. HTML isn’t going anywhere.

6 Responses to “PDF Optimization?”

  1. 'nee

    Ok. First off, Adobe has been feature-bloating Acrobat Reader for years now, and the newest release is buggy and crash-prone. Unless Adobe seriously slims-down Acrobat Reader, well…

    Secondly, Flash is now offering “FlashPaper,” which allows you to publish PDFs in Flash format. And they’re SO. MUCH. FASTER! Flash also doesn’t break the look-and-feel of a site by opening a foreign and discrete application.

    Flash is, however, like blinking text or animated graphics – effective if used in a narrowly defined context, fucking annoying if overused even slightly.

    I use Flash, for instance, because it can communicate outside of the browser session to a database without requiring a page reload, which is incredibly useful and user-friendly. But using Flash simply for its ability to move elements around the page is bad.

    If anything, I’d argue that Flash is the way to go rather than PDFs.

    A combination of judicious Flash and server-side dynamically rendered HTML is the future.

  2. Adam

    Another interesting fact I learned about Acrobat today is that any links within a pdf will not open up in the default browser but in IE instead. This “great feature” doesn’t even appear to have an off switch in any of the preferences/options. I was cursing Adobe most of the afternoon.


    Thanks for pointing out loud and clear why we need to stay with HTML and use PDF only for attachments for download/printing. Acrobat is just so slow.

  4. Brian Jones

    I know that Google indexes PDF files, but how well could any search engine index this next gen PDF content?

    I would imagine though we would probably have the same problem that was one a really big issue on the web (well, probably still is), and that is compatibility between different vendor’s browsers. And for the most part, I see this as an Adobe only initiative.


  5. Darren

    Darren: Indeed. This is a cheap shot, but I note with some irony that despite his site being, he’s not ranked in the top ten for a search for seo for google.

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