Mark Stephens Mark Stephens has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and has diversified into HTML5, SVG and JavaFX. He also enjoys speaking at conferences and has been a Speaker at user groups, Business of Software, Seybold and JavaOne conferences. He has a very dry sense of humor and an MA in Medieval History for which he has not yet found a practical use.

PDF file format

1 min read

I am sure that even the developers at Adobe are surprised at the some of the uses made of the PDF file format. As a cross-platform format providing a high quality presentation format with a wealth of programs to suit all budgets and requirements, the PDF file format has been very successful.  But it is also a format with huge potential…

Most users never get beyond using PDF files as an excellent way to distribute content with the ability to ensure it looks the way you intended it, and it can be secured. But Adobe also built in a whole range of interactive features, allowing the user to create interactive documents which can even contain audio-visual material and launch other programs.

It never ceases to amaze us how creative some of our customers have become with the PDF file format. Many of them use the PDF file format internally with our viewer – you would not know they are using PDFs, except for the quality of the screen display and the superfast ‘saveAsPDF’ option. In particular, I would like to share two really interesting examples with you. What I find really interesting is that people with great skills in areas other than coding have been able to use the PDF as a means to build on their own skills and experiences and produce something truly remarkable.

Jarnal is a pretty amazing, free notetaking/whitepad application. It was written by David K. Levine (an economics professor) and is hosted on his site alongside some Economics papers I will not even try to understand. I can at least appreciate how good his Java program is and you can try it yourself at his website .

IBegin is a series of music files to teach Wind instruments to beginners.  It uses the ability of a PDF file to play sound and link to other programs to provide a virtual music teacher. It shows you what to do, accompanies you and even shows you how to put the instrument together. It was developed by a professional musician, Bob Hayden-Gilbert as a way to transform music teaching for beginners. If it had been around when I was learning, maybe I would have managed to scrape more than a pass in my music exams – I would have certainly enjoyed practising far more.

So keep your eyes open, because there a are lots of unsung uses of the PDF format out there. And if you are looking for a way to turn all your knowledge and ability in a subject into something without a lot of coding, maybe you should investigate Adobe’s PDF file format…  

Mark Stephens Mark Stephens has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and has diversified into HTML5, SVG and JavaFX. He also enjoys speaking at conferences and has been a Speaker at user groups, Business of Software, Seybold and JavaOne conferences. He has a very dry sense of humor and an MA in Medieval History for which he has not yet found a practical use.

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