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You're Either With The PDFs or Against Them!

There have been thousands of things I've written and said that could be construed as divisive, but never in a million years would I have thought that a few comments of mine about PDF files in a Wired article would generate such an onslaught of angry email. You would think I attacked the Pope. I had no idea there was such a strong, devoted, contigent of PDF apologists out there. The last time I got email laced with such fervor was when I wrote disparaging remarks about furries. Draw your own conclusions.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference You're Either With The PDFs or Against Them!:

» Hacking the Report from The American Mind
I downloaded the PDF version of the Sep. 11 report, but it sits on my computer untouched. I'm waiting for... [Read More]

» Blogs are talking about: PDFs from Sit Down and Relax Weblog
A Small Victory's Michelle Catalano was quoted in a Wired article, where she commented about Adobe's Portable Document Format, more commonly known as PDFs, in the publishing of the 9/11 Commission Report. "I hate PDF," said Catalano. "You can't refer... [Read More]


Some people...!

One thing that's helped me to make peace with PDF, allowing some semblance not of peace, but at least detente, is this great little program I downloaded that somehow speeds up the browser plug-in version of Adobe Acrobat Reader's file access.

One of the things I hate about PDFs is when I click on a link that I expect to be an HTML document, but is actually a PDF, and my browser freezes up for 15 seconds while Acrobat Reader loads up with all the speed and grace of a bulldozer.

Unfortunately, I can't remember where I found this program or what it's called, exactly, but perhaps someone else will.

Oh, I neglected to add what it does - basically, the program somehow makes PDFs load about as quickly as an HTML page. I suspect it's something like pre-loading the elements of Acrobat plug-in that take so long when you first launch your browser.

I don't mind PDF's so much. I do own an old copy of Acrobat, though, so I can clip stuff from the article with relative ease for the old blockquote trick on my blog.

And I find that it doesn't run very slowly on my computer, though I know it does on others.

Good grief, have we gone over the edge? File format passion? I have OCD, and began life as a selective-pacifier geek in 1951, but I never imagined computer technology would become so popular as an escape from reality.

I remember something similar when I was Googling around for information about tags vs. tags. People sound like they could actually murder each other over it.

Oops! Alt tags vs. title tags, that is. Very vicious arguments.

PDFs do indeed suck ass.

The furries ref pretty much locks it down for me.

As someone who generates tens of thousands of the little buggers every day, I will say PDF files rock.

For some things.

When used properly.

My suggestion is to attack The Pope, count the angry e-mails, and compare the two totals.

I hate PDFs.

Everyone that claims that Microsoft makes nothing but over-gizmoed bloatware never seems to have any beef with Adobe. Why is that?

OK,I just read the Wired story,and I I am getting this right,there are people out there who have rabid disagreement with your opinion on friggin PDF?I think the comparison to furries is too kind on your part.

Actually, if you've ever tried to print from an outside printing vendor prior to the advent of PDFs, you would understand what a huge timesaver they are (and headache saver).

What seems to be the beef of most of you (if I'm reading correctly) is that you're trying to load pdfs in a Web browser. PDFs are meant to be viewed from a local machine using a pdf viewer (Apple's Preview is the quickest in my experience).

Take, for instance, the front page of the New York Times. Prior to the pdf, the best you could hope for would be a jpeg image of the page, which - while showing the basic layout - wouldn't give you the ability to zoom in and read the actual text (unless it was a huge file). The pdf version lets you not only see the overall page, but also the printed text.

The other problem with pdfs is when people upload pdfs that are set with print specifications (which generate file sizes in the megabytes) for web purposes when they should use screen specifications (which would generate file sizes in the 100s of kilobytes).

But that's not a problem with the format - rather with the operator.

Take, for instance, the front page of the New York Times. Prior to the pdf, the best you could hope for would be a jpeg image of the page...

Well, no, you could have PostScript files. But they're much larger than PDF's. And frequently they would break, sometimes viewable but not printable, more rarely printable but not viewable.

Those of you frustrated with web pages which turn out to be PDFs --- surely you can set your browser so that it asks you before launches Acrobat?

Using Opera (IE? Pshaw!), it is set so that if a pdf link is clicked, it asks whether you want to download the file or open Acrobat (Reader) and then read it--which, if you choose the latter, will open Reader separately. Opens rather quickly.

I say, get rid of IE (except for those few web pages that really need IE to open properly) and get Opera instead. Pages open quicker, are tabbed, and you can quash every popup you desire.

Sorry if this sounds like a commercial.


What are people so upset about? You said "I hate PDF" not "PDF Sucks" or some other broad generalization.

You have every right to hate PDF if you so choose.

P.S. Thanks for the text version of the 9/11 report. That'll save me 10 bucks for sure.

Text is fine if you don't care about format, layout, etc. Email for example.

For web sites, sure HTML or whatever the current mutation is today. No problem.

But for anything else PDF is it. The only trans-platform document format that preserves layout, isn't WORD, and isn't impossible to transmit. HTML??? Try storing a modern web site page some time. Now, THAT'S ugly.

PDF Sucks. Big-time. It's horrid, it's awful, it just sucks.

Note that almost the only people who praise it are content producers. It makes their life easier. It makes everyone else's life harder. But hey, they got their docs published, and they got to have total control over the layout, and that's all that counts.


So the two major bitches seem to be user induced (don't know how to adjust their machines to handle them better) and that those bastard content producers would have the unmitigated gaul to favor a horrendous crime against humanity simply because it's easy for them to use and it allows them (this is the most scandalous part) actual CONTROL over their content layout.

what.a.buncha.maroons (gratuitous BB ref)

Wish I had more spare time to waste on such a pointless exercise...

PDFs are the pimple on the ass of electronic documents. Grotesque and full of puss. (Although oddly pleasing to squeeze...go figure.)

TeX was (and is) multi-platform, long before .pdf came along. One of the great features is that a .tex document doesn't have to have hypenation included as text; TeX hypenates correctly when it prints, which makes searching much easier.

What I object to is the "only .pdf" thing that many sites have; it renders documents not usable for many other things, such as searching.

Thanks for the text version, Michele, I'll go get it now, if it's still there!

I ... well maybe not hate pdf but dislike pdfs. Part of it is because Acrobat reader v6 has turned into a bloat monster (while unfortunately also adding some useful features as well.)

The browser plugin for Firefox and for IE are simply atrocities worthy of a grand jury investigation. The standalone reader is tolerable.

I think PDFs are great for short, widely disseminated documentation that the creator wishes to protect from being altered in any way. It's great for marketing pieces (i.e. on michaelmoorehatesamerica.com there is a flier in PDF form - perfect)

But for longer documents, it's just hard to search for pertinent info...

Personally, I only find PDFs truly useful for getting stuff printed, and marginally at that. They're annoying to read on a screen and Acrobat Reader is sluggish on both my work PC and my Mac at home. (Both are relatively new models.)

Semi/OT Mac Rant.

Why is it, that under OSX (which has native built-in PDF support for both output and viewing), using Safari, I can't look at a PDF in the #! browser?

Honestly, people. WTF. Saving to disk and opening in Preview? What are they smoking in Cupertino?

Back on topic: I am, also, disturbed by the idea of people being angry about comments about PDF. I can't imagine a position on PDF more strong than mild like or dislike.

As someone above said, it depends on what you are using Acrobat for.

For emailing and archiving documents, it is the best (non-geek) choice for most of us. I can 't tell you how many times I have gotten an Official document of some sort, sent in Word format! Lessee, a word here, a word there, print it with the signature...and voila, I own the world! On the other hand, a .pdf is essentially unchangable (again, for non-geek types), and is a much smaller file. I can save a .pdf, and print it anytime I want, without worrying that some nimrod has been playing with it.

BTW, a nifty little utility is Acrobat Distiller...basically a .pdf converter that you 'print' files with. Very handy for creating a document in a normal word processor, then quickly turning it into a non-editable file.

And most virus and network filters won't block a .pdf like they will HTML or .doc documents. If you do anything with the Defense Department networks, you know how frustrating trying to slip certain file types through can be.

I'm a graphic designer in the real world. I use PDFs as part of my print flow and they do, indeed, rock. They work beautifully for that original intent. In fact, I only use EPS files for jobs that have color requirements that PDFs don't handle to my satisfaction.

They also work reasonably well for soft proofs for clients.

PDF Uber Alles!

Or something like that.

Engineering spec sheets are all in PDF now. It used to be they'd use HTML or GIFs, but the latter cannot easily be stored locally for easy reference, and sufferes also from the tiny-print problem on many monitors (which ASV also suffers from, BTW), and the latter is just impossible to scale.

There are things in PDF I would fix (such as having viewer side defaults override the creator's viewing preferences), and the later Adobe startup bloat. But PDF makes my life much easier AS A USER of technical documents. If creators get a benefit also, so much the better.

I could have lived with TeX, but like most UNIX-world software it never made it in the real world and Acrobat did.

"FURRIES"???? You did not mean 'Furbies', did you. The talking odd looking whatevers that are the 'pet rocks' of modern America. Sorta like Barbie Dolls who've been abducted by aliens? I knew someone quite taken with these critters, she being aged 62 and semi-crazy. Owned about 50. One supposes that there is plenty of room in America for crazies.

Well, no, you could have PostScript files. But they're much larger than PDF's. And frequently they would break, sometimes viewable but not printable, more rarely printable but not viewable.

Actually, PostScript files SUCKED BIG TIME. And no one in their right mind would have posted a postscript file as a download for general consumption.

PDF. We hates it, yes we does, O yes preciousss...

Show me a PDF aficionado, and I'll show you a Graphic Designer. Motto: Cheney the contents or the data, we're So Imaginative and Innovative we put little pointy serifs on the ends of the lines separating the paragraphs, and it's gonna print out the same on every output device from the NYT's offset presses to Og with his stone chisel, and ain't that layout COOL? The pinouts are wrong, the voltage levels specified will blow up Cupertino, and there's no way to tell if the thing's 2mm square or won't fit in a Hummer, but By God The Layout Works!

Same with CSS, maybe a little less intense. Yes, it's a good thing I wasn't the one assigned to tap Berners-Lee on the shoulder with a sword; I might have been tempted to swing just a little sideways, in compensation for a design that goes to tremendous lengths to suppress indentation of paragraphs, but dammit, Web pages done the old-fashioned way with tables and ampersand-nbsp load in a quarter the time, render properly on most anything down to text mode -- and the words say the same thing. Artists. Effum.

Ric Locke

bottom line: the large majority of users disklike or hate pdf files. so, as a content producer, regardless of how big of a hard-on you get making the damn things, if users don't want them you should just quit making them!

.pdf is great if you want to hide your information in a format that will keep anyone from ever wanting to look at it again. Think of it as a very cheap encryption tool and you will learn to love it!