From time to time we all get a bit grumpy with computers not behaving exactly the way we want. Fortunately, unlike Sutherland Lyall, we don't sit down immediately afterwards to write a column for AJ.
His column 'Webwatch' (AJ 15.1.04 and 22.1.04) presents a badly researched and inaccurate view of PDF format and its uses in the construction industry. It is a useful tool that has already become an integral part of the construction process. So let's set the record straight on a few items that he mentions:
l'Nobody likes them' - what does he mean? CABE, most councils and government departments, many product manufacturers and, most importantly, CIS Online provide documentation on the internet as PDF documents. We exchange documentation with all of the other consultants we work with in PDF format and have never yet received a complaint;
l'PDF files are totally inflexible' - eh? With the free reader, you can open, read, print and cut and paste, if allowed when the document is authored. Documents can also be password protected to allow various levels of access. If, like most practices I have come across, you own a copy of the full version of Acrobat, you can perform all of these authoring functions and comment, highlight and annotate other PDF documents. Better still, you can synchronise comments from several versions of the same document. It is hardly the fault of the product if the author does not select the appropriate security settings;
l'To a determined hacker, PDFs are no more secure on a website than ordinary documents' - well, in fairness, to a determined typist the same is true, but that aside, is he suggesting we should be incorporating other parties' intellectual property into our documentation?
lHe also refers to a US Department of Justice report from 2000. This is just sloppy journalism. In 2000, Acrobat and PDF were at version 3. We now have version 6, which is a fundamentally different product. Most importantly, screen reader functionality has been significantly improved with each release.
The shame of these articles is that alongside the authoritative journalism that readers are accustomed to in AJ, Sutherland Lyall is out of touch with the real state of technology and its use in the construction industry.
Maybe it's time for an upgrade.
Robert Klaschka, Markland Klaschka, London