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June 15, 2006


Speaking of PDFs, I've always felt that PDF is a bulky, inefficient, RAM hogging and bandwidth-consuming file format. I just hate it when I click on links that open PDF documents that are simply exported Word files which could easily be coded into HTML or something else that my browser can read without launching a new application or plug-in. I believe PDFs are used far too often because it's seen as easier to rip a PDF than copy and paste the text into a CMS or an HTML document.

Here's an example of a PDF file found in the CAE section of, the text of which should be entered into the website's CMS instead of left in this PDF format. There's nothing essential in this PDF file that couldn't be reproduced for native viewing in a browser.

Press releases are also notorious for being uploaded to the web in PDF format, but on the positive side for ASAE & The Center, kudos to Chris Vest and the rest of the PR staff at ASAE for taking the time to make their press releases browser-friendly.

As a web user, there are only two times I want a PDF instead of something that shows up natively in my browser:

1. The document is primarily intended to be printed by the user, not viewed on a screen. Examples: handbooks, toolkits and forms that need a signature.
2. The document is a graphics-intensive virtual brochure, but not something that was simply ripped from a print design layout. It should be purposed and laid out to specifically for on-screen viewing. That means it shouldn't be laid out portrait, you shouldn't be using a font smaller than about 11 points, and there should probably be hyperlinks, stuff to zoom in on, and other dynamic content within the PDF.

If it's not one of these two things, don't be lazy: Take the extra step and get that text coded into an HTML file or into your CMS. I'm sure there are a very few other instances when a PDF is more appropriate than the alternative. Any ideas?


1 comment:

Nathan Larson said...

Yeah, I hate waiting for Acrobat to load every time I want to view a PDF file. It's almost as bad as Java was, back in the old days when it took about 30 seconds "Loading Java..."