The PDF format finally reaches 2.0 release

Long after Adobe gave up ownership of Portable Document Format (PDF), the group behind the format is finishing up a revision. It is expected to be available in 2017.

Twenty-three years after Adobe Systems introduced the Portable Document Format (PDF), the format is finally getting a significant makeover. The new release will be available some time next year. So, what can expect after all this time? 

PDF was designed as a way to make formatted documents, such as contracts, available as electronic images without requiring them to be printed. What started as merely a static image when introduced in 1993 has grown into an industry standard that is modifyable, so people can PDF-fill forms on their computers, and capable of being generated by a wide variety of applications.

A BPI Network report called "Dealing With Document Deluge and Danger" (available as a PDF, of course) states some 2.5 trillion PDFs are generated every year, and about 90 percent of survey respondents describe themselves and their co-workers as "PDF-dependent." So, PDF has become integral in the lives of many people and businesses. 

Adobe turned over ownership of the PDF specification to the International Organization for Standardization in 2008, which is probably why it's taken so long for a new version. There's no better way to hamstring a standard than to turn it over to a standards body (see USB, SATA, PCI). PDF 2.0 was supposed to be released in 2013, and there is a video from 2013 that talks about the effort to create PDF 2.0, with plans to publish the standard in 2015. 

The Mad File Format Science blog states, "The biggest task right now is removing ambiguities. … The specification’s language will shift from describing conforming readers and writers to describing a valid file."

Included in PDF 2.0

Some features of PDF 2.0:

  • Rich media annotation, which was developed by Adobe. Currently, audio and video are separated from 3D, so they cannot be combined. With the integration into a single annotation, you can now combine audio, video and 3D.
  • The integration of Adobe Navigators, which was based on Flash, but the PDF 2.0 version does not use Flash. 
  • A new, simplified tagging model
  • A new extension system for other tags
  • Geospatial data for 2D and 3D
  • Measurement properties in 3D and 2D
  • Improvements to digital signatures, using a European standard called PAdES

The ISO PDF committee had a Sept. 30 deadline for accepting other suggested enhancements for PDF 2.0, which will be discussed at the next meeting in late November. With luck, that will finalize the spec for a 2017 release.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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