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PDFs revisited: solutions to the Webspace slog

webwatch

Nobody likes them: the US Department of Justice, Jakob Neilsen, readers, colleagues, me. 'Them' being online PDF files - more precisely, web information in the form of PDF documents.

So there you are Googling away, trawling the Web for information. Aha, you click on an entry. But you miss the 'PDF file' note at the beginning. You now have no option but to wait for Acrobat Reader to slowly list all the patents it owns and then eventually upload the file. You are in a totally inflexible environment in which you can't copy tasty bits (which is how you would normally work) and you wait ages to scroll down to the bit which might, just might, be interesting. But probably won't be.

The fact that PDF files are totally inflexible is, of course, a great virtue in certain environments when you want files to remain secure or unchanged - such as legal documents. But if you put stuff on the web for people to use, and that includes regs and standards, you obviously won't use PDFs. Even if idiots do exactly that.

In fact, to a determined hacker PDFs are no more secure on a website than ordinary files, because there is software that helps here.

There is ScanSoft's plug-in converter from PDF to Word and other Microsoft applications, called PDF Converter - at www. scansoft. com/pdfconverter, or Amazon for around $40 (£22) - and IntraPDF - at www. intrapdf. com for $50 (£27) or so - which does PDF-toHTML conversions. There is the free PdfEdit995 from www. pdf995. com, which we hope to review soon, and there is the shareware ABC Amber PDF Convertor at www. thebeatlesforever. com/ processtext/abcpdf. html, but I haven't yet found a converter that plugs into Internet Explorer. Please let me know if you find one.

Let me say that PDF files are fine for press releases because they can include relevant images at a size you can read with the text - I won't tell you how many image attachments don't get looked at simply because the process is so tediously uncertain and slow.

sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com

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