[linux-elitists] What's wrong with PDF

Michael Still mikal@stillhq.com
Tue Nov 11 02:46:14 PST 2003

On Tue, 11 Nov 2003, Ben Finney wrote:

> (Michael, please respect my Mail-Followup-To header.  I'm subscribed to
> the list.)

No problemo. I don't read the full headers before replying, and it would 
appear my MUA doesn't respect your header.
> On 10-Nov-2003, Michael Still wrote:
> > On Mon, 10 Nov 2003, Ben Finney wrote:
> > > [PDF compression is] only as seamless as the tool provides.  Since
> > > you are fine with needing special tools to read the document, why
> > > not compress using gzip and avoid all the other hassles of PDF?
> > 
> > Because the world is not solely populated with elitists, and at some
> > point solutions need to take into account the average, computer
> > semi-literate, user.
> Uh.  And this is an argument for formats that need special tools to read
> them, how?

Fundamentally, even format which isn't text needs a special tool to read 
if you're a muggins user. Where would you like us to draw the line?


> However, since the context was a document detailing an operating system
> standard for filesystem layout, I don't think the audience of "computer
> semi-literate" is really relevant.

I was more responding to Rick's 
PDF-sucks-and-all-graphic-designers-should-die general gyst that this 
specific instance. I apologise for not making that clearer. My point was 
that there is a time and a place for PDF files.

> > PDF fills a demand.
> A demand for compression?  That's the only advantage you've offered so
> far.  It's been explained how plain text is at least equal, and
> generally superior, to PDF in this respect.

I didn't realised this had morphed into a general discussion of the PDF 
format. I was countering a specific point from Rick.

Of course plain text compresses better than a compressed PDF. That's not 
my point. My point is that a PDF seamlessly compresses text to something 
often smaller than the uncompressed plain text, whilst still being easer 
for the average user to read. Incidentally, flate is one of the 
compression options, and the most commonly used one.

Anyways, on the this specific document front, you need to consider that a 
bunch of non-technical business people also care about standards like 

> > That demand wouldn't exist if the majority of the world thought plain
> > text was suffient.
> Straw man.  Nobody is saying plain text is the only way to go; just that
> PDF isn't.

Ignoring the specific example in this case, because we seem to have moved 
on from there, I can't think of a better format for documents which care a 
lot about representation of the information (for example legal documents). 
HTML sure as hell doesn't cut the mustard.




Michael Still (mikal@stillhq.com) | "All my life I've had one dream,
http://www.stillhq.com            |  to achieve my many goals"
UTC + 11                          |    -- Homer Simpson

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