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.

Using the PDF file format for ‘plumbing’ at RandomHouse

1 min read

I was visiting a client (RandomHouse) yesterday and it struck me that PDF is actually very commonly used inhouse to provide other products and services. Although the end user never sees the PDF files, they are critical to the whole setup.

RandomHouse is one of the world’s most successful book publishers, and their material comes from all sorts of sources – multiple versions of Indesign and Quark, other publishing tools, PDF files, OCR Tiff – the list is potentially endless… Then there is archive material of older books much of which needs to be scanned in. All of these can be turned into PDF files which gives one common internal format.

A single file standard which can cope with all these very different sources of content is essential. This allows all content to flow into a single system and be processed by one workflow. And because it is PDF you get access to the text, its co-ordinates and good quality images of the page. Ideal for building some clever widgets.

They have a nifty little site which not only allows users to purchase books but also to preview and search some of the book contents. I have a kindle, an IPod and a Mac but still like to read material, so I think books will remain, just as radio has not been killed off by TV but remained a distinct format with its own advantages.

So I can appreciate being able to search and dip into books online which I can also then obtain to read. Here is an example where you can click on the book, browse pages and search the text. There is not a PDF file to be seen as a user, but the PDF format is behind the scenes allowing it to all work.

Do you have any examples of ‘hidden uses’ of PDF files? 

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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