Monday, September 30, 2013

What makes it a PDF?

Often people will ask "What is a PDF file?" or "How do you View a PDF File?". These lead to a couple of basic answers.

1. A PDF file is a "Portable Document Format (PDF), developed by Adobe Systems, Inc. PDF files maintain the original document formatting for both printing and viewing on a multiple computing platforms, including Windows, UNIX and Mac."2. In order to view a PDF, you need a viewer , either created by Adobe, and available for free download or you can use a viewer created by someone else.You can create a PDF file using software designed for this purpose, such as Solid PDF Creator, Solid Converter PDFor Solid PDF Tools.

In order to be a "PDF" file, the file must be compliant with standards set by Adobe and the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) as set forth by ISO 32000. According to Adobe: "ISO 32000 will continue to be developed with the objective of protecting the integrity and longevity of PDF, providing an open standard for the more than one billion PDF files in existence today."

What does this mean for you?

This means that if you have a file stored on your computer or on a CD today in PDF format, you should be able to view it 10, 20, or more years down the road, exactly as it is. To further ensure this happens, the PDF/A format was also created.

SecurityNot only are PDF files a universal format, but they can have security added so that they can be protected from viewing, printing, copying, editing, etc. There are several levels of encryption available for protecting files. Adobe Acrobat and all of the Solid Documents products allow you to apply custom security settings in your files.

But what about other options? Recently DRM (Digital Rights Management)has become a buzzword.

According to Adobe, DRM Feature(s)” means any control and/or restriction on a PDF document that may include, but not be limited to, access rights, viewing, cutting, copying, pasting, printing, screen capturing, modifying, editing, watermarking, and/or document auditing (anonymous or authenticated), as expressly set forth in the Application.

It is important to be aware that while Adobe continues working with some partners to implement and improve DRM to better assist creators and publishers in protecting their works and still meet the industry standards, there are other programs on the market that promise protection and DRM.

Programs such as CopySafe PDF and LockLizard safeguard offer DRM protection over and above the standard PDF Encryption, while promising to maintain the original format and encryption, but they both require a proprietary viewer and change the .pdf extension to a different format, therefore, they are not really PDF files as they these do not meet the PDF standard and cannot be opened in a standard Adobe PDF Viewer.

If you want quick added security for the short term, these may be good options, however what about longevity? Will these proprietary viewers still exist in 20 years from now on new computing platforms yet to be invented or will they become an obsolete file format such as EFax.Com's .efx files. They originally used this format, then switched to PDF as well, but if you had archived copies of your .efx faxes, you could not open them, and sharing them with anyone else who didn't have Efax installed was useless. Only recently, it appears, did they add a converter to make these into PDF files. Luckily, Efax is a profitable enterprise that is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, so if you have .efx files, you will probably still be able to access them or convert them later.

One of the features of PDF is the ability to make your files searchable. In testing the added DRM features of these products, I found that the searchability of the document was compromised.

Claims that these DRM methods are unbreakable is also a fallacy in that they do protect from basic computer hacking, however if the document is viewed on a screen and a photo can be taken of it, then OCR can be used and the document can still be copied or re-created.

A good rule of thumb: If it doesn't have a .PDF extention on the end, it isn't really a PDF file!