Writing for the Web: A Primer for Librarians

by Eric H. Schnell

Portable Document Format (PDF)

The adoption of the Portable Document File (PDF) format in the development of Web sites continues to grow. Many of the resources being made available from the Government Printing Office (GPO) and the Superintendent of Documents (SUDOC) are being distributed in PDF. In addition, many journal publishers are beginning to utilize PDF to distribute their subscriptions electronically. One such venture is Academic Press' IDEAL service.

The primary advantage PDF offers Web creators is that it allows documents created within any desktop publishing package to be viewed in the original typeset design. PDF documents retain their original look and feel - complete with text, graphics, photos, and color - on Macintosh, Windows, or UNIX computers. PDF allows Web authors to regain control over typefaces and fonts within documents, something which takes extra coding with HTML.

The primary tool used to write PDF documents is Adobe Acrobat 3.0. (Warning: The Adobe sites tend to be slow late in the day.) This product enables the Web author to "print" files from common applications such as word processors and spreadsheets into PDF. They can even be scanned in using Adobe Capture. These two products make the creation of PDF files a fairly easy task. PDF files are then saved with the MIME extension of .pdf

In order to view PDF documents the patron needs to have a product called Acrobat Reader in addition to their Web browser. This product is available free of charge for all computing platforms. The advantage of newer plug-in versions of Acrobat is the integration within a Web browser allows PDF files to be viewed seamlessly within the browser window. The newer versions of this software also allow the patron to begin viewing the first pages of document as it continues to download.

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Page Updated: Thursday, 31-Dec-98