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"PDF Hacks": More Than Electronic Paper

September 16, 2004

Sebastopol, CA--To most of the world, PDF stands for that rather tiresome format used for documents downloaded from the web. With a reputation for being slow to load and slower to print, hopelessly unsearchable, and all but impossible to cut and paste from, the Portable Document Format doesn't inspire much affection in the average user. But PDF done right is another story. Those who know the ins and outs of this format know that it can be much more than electronic paper. PDF Hacks (O'Reilly, US $24.95) by Sid Steward shows readers how to use a variety of PDF tools--not just Adobe Acrobat--to create, rearrange, customize, and present information as PDF.

"Most books about PDF are really books about Adobe Acrobat, so they are confined to solving all PDF problems using a single, expensive tool," explains Steward. "Meanwhile, people have been developing various tools and libraries for making PDF do exactly what they needed. I wanted to write a book that addressed common PDF problems by dipping into the entire pool of available tools and techniques. I especially wanted to leverage free --as in 'freedom'--software."

PDF Hacks unveils the true promise of Portable Document Format, going way beyond the usual PDF as paged output mechanism. Steward draws from his years of analyzing, extending, authoring, and embellishing PDF documents to present 100 clever hacks--tools, tips, quick-and-dirty or not-so-obvious solutions to common problems. The hacks cover the full range of PDF functionality, from the simple to the more complex. Readers will learn how to manage content in PDF, navigate it, and reuse it as necessary.

"We're beginning to see PDF closely integrated with programs such as Adobe Illustrator or OpenOffice.org and with operating systems such as Mac OS X," Steward notes. "Thanks to Adobe's open PDF specification and various free software projects, PDF has begun to spread widely. As PDF spreads, common questions become more pressing: 'How do I copy a table of data from a PDF page?' And: 'What is the best way to integrate PDF with our web site?' And: 'What do we do now, with all of these PDFs in our archive?' PDF Hacks tackles these questions using newly available programs and techniques."

Ideal for anyone who works with PDF on a regular basis, including web developers, pre-press users, forms creators, and those who generate PDF for distribution, PDF Hacks demonstrates how to:

  • Customize PDF viewers to make reading PDF more comfortable
  • Create PDF files with a variety of tools on a number of platforms
  • Build PDFs with sophisticated navigation and interactive features
  • Integrate PDF files with web sites beyond a simple hyperlink
  • Collect data on your web site with PDF forms
  • Convert incoming faxes to PDF
  • Write scripts that control Acrobat
  • With the right tools, PDF is flexible, compact, interactive, and even searchable; it's the ideal way to present content across multiple platforms. PDF Hacks provides resources that anyone can use to create PDF files that offer a richer, more powerful experience.

    Additional Resources:

    PDF Hacks
    Sid Steward
    ISBN 0-596-00655-1, 277 pages, $34.95 US, $50.95 CA
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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