Speakers at the Technical Conference Europe 2013: Interview with Francois Fernandès

What are Adobe’s DVA and levigo's “PDF Formal Syntax” all about?

Over the next few weeks we would like to introduce our speakers on the Technical Conference Europe 2013, their presentation’s topics and their personal view on the world of PDF and related ISO standards. So we prepared some little interviews with the speakers for the conference.

Today’s interview: Francois Fernandès

Portrait Francois Fernandes

Francois Fernandès studied computer science and economics at the Reutlingen University. Then he started as a developer and consultant at levigo solutions GmbH where he had his first contact with PDF in 2005 – some months before the first PDF/A release.

He is the product manager for the jadice web toolkit, a HTML5 and JavaScript document viewer, with support for formats like PDF, AFP/MO:DCA, TIFF and others.

Instead of using the typical “Hello World” program, he learned the Java programming language by implementing a PDF parser.

What is the main focus of your presentation, and what would you like attendees to take home from it? How is your presentation “Validating PDF – DVA and beyond” relevant to attendees and their PDF-related development work?

The ISO committee around the PDF standards is about to search for a “formal representation” of the allowed elements within PDF documents. And there is a huge number of legal elements. We’re talking about all possible dictionaries with numerous kinds of values within. All those dictionaries and their contents are described in the standards (ISO 32000-1, ISO 19005-1, etc.) but there is no technical (or “formal”) representation of these definitions.

This is what Adobe’s DVA and our “PDF Formal Syntax” is all about: Describing all possible types in both a machine and human consumable language. Hopefully, one day, there will be such a language including some “default sets” that formally describe what a PDF-1.7, PDF-2.0 or PDF/A-1 may contain. If there are such sets and a well-defined formal language, there will be many possibilities to profit: Generating code for loading and/or writing, validating PDFs, or even generating customizable documentation like “this dictionary is represented as the C++-Class XYZ”. Building and visualizing differences between PDF-versions can be automated, allowing an easy overview of what has technically changed between two versions of the PDF standard.

What would you like to take home from the conference? Which presentations will you definitely attend at the conference?

I will definitely attend “Introduction to PDF 2.0″ as I’m curious to see what the next big version step in PDF will be and “Colour Management for PDF developers” as colour management has always been a major pain for my PDF development work.

We are celebrating 20 years of PDF this year: What’s your personal history with PDF, and where, when and how did you meet?

My personal history with PDF started in 2005, some months before the official release of ISO 19005-1 (PDF/A-1). I started working for levigo solutions GmbH and my task was to write PDF document viewing logic in pure Java. The only problem: I didn’t have any knowledge about Java, nor about the PDF standard itself – besides using PDFs. So my first Java program wasn’t the typical “Hello World!” program, instead it was a PDF lexer/parser. And I still keep the very first screenshot of my first successfully parsed PDF document.

Looking at PDF today: How would you like the format’s character or its application in the real world see improved?

As I have been working in the area of long term preservation, I’d love to see further adoption of PDF/A. PDF/A is the only real option for having “future-proof” documents that are safe and worth archiving. The adoption is already pretty good, which is also a result of the PDF Association’s good work, but it could still be improved.

About PDF Association

Founded in 2006 as the PDF/A Competence Center, the PDF Association exists to promote the adoption and implementation of International Standards for PDF technology.

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