[LINK] Aust Gov PDF Accessibility Review

Birch, Jim Jim.Birch at dhhs.tas.gov.au
Mon Oct 12 18:08:33 AEDT 2009

>1. PDF is cool

I disagree, PDFs are for OCDs.

PDF is a format which is designed for printing.  It's very good at that
and is used almost universally within print media industries.  It has
the great advantage that it can be "typeset" so the document won't
change, provided it is constructed properly, like including fonts and
setting up for the "mechanical specifications" of the printing process.
As an example of this, newspapers can receive ad or other copy as PDFs
from numerous sources and, given that those sources know what they are
doing, confidently aggregate them into a printed page.  Agencies need to
have the smarts to use images and designs matched to the printing
process or various nasty edge and Moire artefacts can occur.  Most users
don't have either the skills or software to do this; if they want
quality printing they get a pro to do the design plus handle the
technical stuff.

For screen display however, PDFs don't scale to different screen sizes,
especially down at the phone/handheld level.  You can use a
appropriately designed web page on a phone screen but a PDF is generally
problematic.  Even intermediate size netbook like screens don't handle
many PDFs well, there's too much scrolling.  The use of PDF forms is
completely out of the arc - an online form will do a better job, plus
handle the data collection end.  In addition, PDF files are typically
much bigger where html is able minimise its size by leveraging the
browser/language/css smarts, and as an added bonus html content can be
extracted, reformatted and reused without much trouble. 

The reason PDFs are used on the web has as much to do with an obsessive
need to control the look (and use) of the page by the recipient rather
than any real communication reason.



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