Monday, August 23, 2004

Pesky Deficient Files

Monday, August 23, 2004

...is what Adobe would name their proprietary PDF format if they were honest. The Portable Document Format is designed to provide the means to consistently display images and text in a frozen state. It's essentially a presentation format which doesn't lend itself well to tampering by anyone other than the original author. This makes it a strange choice for the online distribution of application forms because in order to fill them in, you first have to print them out and post them to your prospective employer, the inland revenue or wherever. PDF files aren't even convenient for this purpose since you are required to install a cumbersome document reader before being able to view them. What's so wrong with using a word processor to create interactive documents?

Shareware and freeware repositories are home to a modest range of so-called PDF 'editing' and 'conversion' tools. Quite frankly describing them as such is a blatant violation of the Trades Description Act as they are woefully inept at editing or converting PDF documents. I've witnessed them all mutilate the simplest of monochrome graphics and randomly scatter the most straightforward blocks of text.

In my experience the only reliable way to edit a PDF file without mangling the contents is to first open it in Adobe Photoshop and save it as a more accessible graphics format like .gif or .jpg. Adding text is then simply a matter of using the text tool (the icon with a capital A on it) to drag a frame around the area in which you wish to insert text and typing into it (or pasting from another document). After filling the box with text you then have the option to move it around the screen or resize it using your cursor. If you only intend to add basic text to a document you might like to switch to a more nimble, light weight graphics tool like MS Paint; using Photoshop for this purpose would be like driving a Ferrari in first gear. This is far from a perfect solution for more complex PDF documents, but does allow you to add text to simple forms so that they can be submitted as email attachments.

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