Monday, January 22, 2007

Portable Document Format

At first I praised Adobe considerably for implementing the PDF. I saw it as an end to paper in the world.

An easy way to digitize documents. (Short of saving all your docs as JPEGs, I suppose.)

And you know I really don't know why Adobe didn't just make something that read JPEGs like PDFs, but I suppose this way they can have their own proprietary format.

Anyway. Soon after my praise of PDF I began to learn exactly how limited it was. I could not create a PDF without either paying hundreds of dollars, or getting an illegal copy. Acrobat Reader did just what it sounds like -- it read, it didn't write. I made sure to add Acrobat to my list of apps to get with my new computer.

But Apple sort of got PDF back on track. It supports "Save as PDF..." when you print. Imagine! Being able to print something as a PDF instead of wasting paper! It's like taking the middle man out of the digitization process.

Drawback No. 2: I was unaware, until recently, Adobe didn't really flesh out Acrobat, or the format, as I had hoped. I.e., there's absolutely no way to crop a PDF.

For a prime example, let's use me (well, if you insist). I save PDFs of The Evening Sun, because they make them readily available to us via a server here at work. It's easier, I thought, that clipping newspaper articles every day, glueing them to a piece of paper and then scanning them in to be saved as a PDF. I still have a stack of newspapers at home, but they're my "backup" copies.

Imaqine my sadness when I figured out there was no way to cut out my article from the PDF copy. I mourned my so-called paper-savior format for weeks.

Then, purely by accident, I found Apple had already come to my rescue. On top of being so cool about integrating PDFs into their OS, Apple's Preview (A great way to look at a PDF, JPEG, and any other format you can imagine without havig to load a gigantic app) allows you to select an area of a PDF via crosshairs, and copy that area to the clipboard.

Boom. bridge found. From the clipboard, the story will go to Photoshop, where I can piece it together with the day's masthead and page head (I like to do this, it gives me easy access to the volume number, date and page on which the story ran). I haven't decided if I'll save the whole thing as a PNG or PDF yet, but I figure I can make that decision down the road.

It's still a fair amount of work to archive my clips, but it doesn't involve a scanner (I was also disheartened to learn most scanner's beds are too small to accomodate broadsheet-sized paper, thereby rendering them useless for scanning newspaper articles).

Score another one for Apple. I've had this computer six months, and I'm still figuring stuff out that makes me wonder why I wasn't a Mac user from day one.

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