The worlds portable document format continues to go from strength to strength, with more specifications, more files, more users, more implementations and more developers worldwide. Lets review!
Google Trends data offers a crude measurement of interest. The results are difficult to analyze for a variety of reasons, but the fact that even against all other topics, PDF continues to grow as a proportion of search terms is at least interesting. It's not easy to find other common-use technology terms with such a graph. Even iPhone and Android don't have them. (For fun, here's iPhone, Android and PDF together.)
No-one can say for sure how many PDF documents exist in the world. At the recent 2015 PDF Technical Conference, Phil Ydens, Adobe Systems VP of Engineering, had some interesting data and back-of-the-envelope estimates to share:
Phil reported cloud storage providers as saying:
See Phils keynote address, along with the other presentations from the 2015 PDF Technical Conference.
Over 2015 Ive seen at least 15 new PDF technology vendors join the marketplace. Some are using open-source software, others are meeting specialized needs in a variety of areas. There are several new end user tools allowing editing of PDF documents; one of the more difficult tasks for any interactive PDF processor. Like PDF itself, they are all over the place, servicing every part of the global economy that uses documents. All these things point to the essential health of the PDF ecosystem.
Over 2015 weve seen a number of new organizations join the PDF Association, from small companies such as PSPDFKit, Investintech and Snowbound Software to much larger organizations such as Hewlett-Packard, DocuSign and EMC. PDF Association TWGs and Competence Centers are growing in number and attendance; the PDF/UA Competence Center will soon post a draft of its current work-effort, a formal Best Practices Guide for Tagged PDF.
PDF Association members have played a major role in helping to improve ISO 32000-2. From feature-requests to clarifications to simple typos, the volume of comments from PDF Association members on the two Drafts issues so far has been impressive.
Although progress on PDF 2.0 is slow (as Im reminded almost everyday), its going to be worth it! Not only is PDF 2.0 simply tighter, there are many powerful new features and important improvements in dozens of existing features.
Developers will have to read beyond the headlines to understand the full power of what PDF 2.0 is bringing to the PDF ecosystem. In many cases some radical new capabilities are a function of combinations of existing and updated features. One of my personal favorites: the intersection between tagged PDF and the new Associated Files feature introduced with PDF/A-3 in 2012.
In PDF 2.0 the new AF (and affiliated AFRelationship) key in a structure element dictionary allows a writer to associate an embedded file with a specific structure element in the documents logical structure. Standardized relationships for such an association include: source, data and alternative, among others. Imagine the possibilities! This feature makes it possible for consuming software to provide access to MathML, source images, alternative content, data tables, extended descriptions and much more, without losing the context of the page.
In partnership with the Open Preservation Foundation, the PDF Association helped found the veraPDF consortium, now approximately at the mid-point in development of a comprehensive PDF/A validator as funded by the European Union.
The PDF/raster project is a collaboration with the TWAIN Group to provide image file format guidelines that can be implemented across a wide range of imaging devices. The PDF Association has created a TWG in which our members are collaborating with the TWAIN Group to develop and enhance their document.
The coming year means more PDF files, more PDF creators supporting PDF/UA, more applications leveraging PDF/A-3, and of course, more competitors in the PDF technology space. That space is growing, and its going to grow even faster with PDF 2.0.
The industry has been waiting patiently for PDF 2.0 for a long time. Specifically, the longest time between any two versions of the PDF specification. This time, however, its different. PDF 2.0 is the result of deep collaboration between developers from over a dozen countries representing widely divergent areas of interest.
The reality is that PDF 2.0 most likely wont ship in 2016. Although an FDIS is possible at the May meeting in Ghent, Belgium, the ISO committee expects ISO 32000-2 to reach FDIS at the November 2016 meeting in Sydney, Australia, and go to publication shortly thereafter, in early 2017.
PDF 2.0 is a great opportunity for our industry to show off what makes us different - the power of flexibility and interoperability together. With new subset standards for PDF/UA, PDF/A and PDF/E due to be based on PDF 2.0, we are confident that developers and users alike will agree that PDF 2.0 will have been worth waiting for.
The PDF Association is considering several options for promoting awareness of PDF 2.0 and the opportunities it provides. We are considering several interesting options for events in 2016 to bring even more attention to our favorite file format.
As always, our members are invited to get in touch with us to discuss their thoughts about how the PDF Association can help drive the marketplace in adoption and utilization of ISO standardized PDF technology.
The staff of the PDF Association are dedicated to delivering the information, services and value members have come to expect. Staff members of the PDF Association include: Alexandra Oettler (Editor), Betsy Fanning (Standards Director), Duff Johnson (Chief Executive Officer), Matthias Wagner (CFO & Operations Director), Peter Wyatt (Chief Technology Officer), Thomas Zellmann (PDF Evangelist).