July 15, 2002-- Newsletter #189

By Joe Burns



Goodies to Go (tm)
July 15, 2002--Newsletter #189

This newsletter is part of the internet.com network.
http://www.internet.com
 


 
Goodies Thoughts - About Adobe's PDF files

This week it's all about Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files. If you've done much surfing at all, I'm sure that you've come across more than a few PDF files. I'd also be willing to bet that almost everyone that reads this newsletter has at least Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on their computer.

 

So, what exactly is a PDF file?

 

Well, PDF stands for Portable Document Format ... now there is a straight-forward descriptive name. The file type is intended to be completely cross-platform, cross-browser, cross-everything compatible.

 

The idea was to create a file type that was easily portable between all types of environments. In order to make it work, Adobe had to create a format that could easily be displayed both with and without a browser. They also had to make it possible for anyone to be able to view the documents. By creating Acrobat and Acrobat Reader, they made it possible for both the designer and the end-user to get what they needed. The designers would have Acrobat available to create PDF documents (where Adobe would make their money) and Acrobat Reader available for free to the end-user (this would create demand for their Acrobat product).

 

So, do I need to buy Acrobat in order to create PDF files?

 

No, not really. There are other packages available that allow you to create a document and directly export it to PDF format. Pagemaker and QuarkXPress are two of the most popular page layout packages that will export directly to PDF.

 

However, if you need to take advantage of all of the bells and whistles that Acrobat has available, you will probably need to breakdown and get the full version. The full version will allow you to set levels of security, manipulate bookmarks, add web links, import HTML pages and other handy little features.

 

Now, while many of the features that Adobe offers are very nice, they are not absolutely necessary. Unless you are creating a professional document like an e-book, brochure or something along those lines, you probably won't have a need for all of the Acrobat extras. In many cases, a simple design package like those mentioned above will give you more than enough control over page layout and exporting to PDF.

 

So, what's the big deal? What are the benefits?

 

There are actually a few very key benefits to the PDF format:

 

Portability - Like it says in the name, portability is the cornerstone of the technology. Acrobat files have the ability to be more easily viewed in more environments than any other file type.

 

Design Control - Unlike so many other file type choices like HTML, PDF files will display the same in different environments. You don't have to worry about how it will look in Internet Explorer 5.0 versus Netscape 4.72, for example.

 

Self-contained - PDF files have text, images and font information embedded in the files themselves. This is a benefit in two ways. First, being that images are embedded, the user doesn't have to worry about downloading and keeping track of images and graphics separately. Secondly, since fonts are embedded in the files you don't have to wonder whether the end-user has a specific font installed on their machine.

 

Universally Accepted - While it is possible to distribute almost any file type via the web, PDF files are the most widely accepted. Since the Acrobat Reader is a free downloadable piece of software, virtually anyone that wants to view a given PDF document has the ability to do so. If, for example, you chose to distribute a document in Microsoft Word format, you would be relying on each user owning a compatible copy of Microsoft Word. While the odds may be with you, it is certainly no guarantee that the end-user will be able to view your document.

 

So, what are the drawbacks?

 

Well, fortunately for Adobe, there aren't that many. The biggest drawback is the fact that it's going to cost you a nice chunk of change to get set-up. Odds are you are going to have to invest in some sort of design software that exports to PDF format and/or get the full version of Acrobat. Unfortunately, all of the low-cost and no-cost online services that used to be available just a few years ago have faded away.

 

Security can also be a concern. While PDF files do have a built-in security scheme, it is by no means fool-proof. Acrobat allows you to place controls on printing, content editing, content extraction, etc. You can also add password protection to any document as well. Those are all great controls but there is no truly secure way to keep people from saving to their hard drives a PDF document that you make available online. Even though you may completely restrict a document, it is still quite easy to save a file to the hard drive from the browser menu controls. So, don't count on any PDF that you place online to be "uncopyable". Like HTML and most any other web file formats, PDF files can easily be saved and redistributed.

 

PDF's are not highly interactive. While they do have built-in support for simple form elements, they are not good solutions for any highly complex information gathering. Not to mention, setting up form elements in Acrobat can be quite cumbersome. The focus of PDF files is more on the navigation and presentation of the document.

 

So, how do I use a PDF in my web?

 

That is actually quite easy. First, you will want to make your users aware that you use PDF files and that they need to have Acrobat Reader installed on their computer. Secondly, you just link to the file like you would link to any other page in your web:

 

  <A HREF="http://www.myWeb.com/myFile.pdf">

  Read my PDF file</A>

 

So, is PDF worth the effort?

 

That depends on what you want to do. PDF files are great for things like brochures, printable forms, e-books and many commercial applications. If you need complete control over how a document is rendered and need that document to be easily saved and/or redistributed, then Acrobat is probably a good solution. Otherwise, most other instances would best be suited for other solutions like HTML, PHP or ASP.

 

Thanks for reading!

 


Quiz Goodies

How do you make a numbered list in HTML?

 

Read answer below.



Q & A Goodies

Questions are taken from submissions to our Community Mentors. You can ask a Mentor a question by going to http://www.htmlgoodies.com/mentors/.

 

 

Q. I am designing a site that needs to be compatible with Netscape and IE. I'd like to use style sheets. The problem is a page that looks fine in IE 6 becomes badly aligned in Netscape 4.7. Are style sheets compatible across these browsers or will I need to put the font tag throughout the HTML?

 

A. Stylesheets are compatible between browsers, but not 100% compatible, unfortunately. Some style elements are not properly understood by NS 4.x. What I would recommend is trying Netscape 6.x and then I am quite sure that all your CSS problems will be solved, barring some pixel differences between the browsers.
 

*** This question was submitted to our Mentor Community. The answer was provided by Steve Belanger, one of our CSS Mentors.

 

 

Q. OK, what I want is for all the fonts on my site to be changed via a Stylesheet. Can this be done? if so, how?

 

A. You can apply font styles to any HTML element that can contain inline text like <body>, <div>, <p>, and headers.

If you want to change the font styles for that page only, use the following code... insert it somewhere between <head></head>.

  body, p { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;

  font-size: medium; }

Change the fonts and sizes to what you want.
 

*** This question was submitted to our Mentor Community. The answer was provided by Andrea Piernock, one of our CSS Mentors.

 

 

Q. How do I make a link that jumps to a place on the same page?

 

A. In the anchor tag, place the link name after the file name:

  <A HREF="file.html#top">go to top</A>


Place an anchor tag at the target (where you want to jump to):

  <A NAME="top"></A>

 

*** This question was submitted to our Mentor Community. The answer was provided by Eric Ferguson, one of our HTML Mentors.



News Goodies

Talk about an identity crisis ... would you believe that there could be more than one of you running around this world? Well, that would be you and the person posing as you.

Click here to read the article

 

How 'bout that Worldcom team? Accounting irregularities aside, are telecoms suffering from the same fate that killed many .coms?

Click here to read the article

 

Wireless networking (Wi-Fi), is it a fad or a fact of life?

Click here to read the article

 
 
Quiz Answer

  1. Use the <OL> element to let the browser know that you are creating an ordered list. An ordered list simply means that your list is to be displayed in numerical order.

  2. Then you use <LI> element. This element separates each item in your ordered list.

  3. You can also control how the list is displayed by adding attributes to the <OL> element like this: <OL STYLE = "font-family: Arial; font-weight: bold">

Here's an example of an ordered list:

 

  <OL STYLE = "font-family: Arial; font-weight: bold">

    <LI>List Item 1</LI>

    <LI>List Item 2</LI>

    <LI>List Item 3</LI>

  </OL>
 

 

And Remember This . . .

Today marks the day that the provinces of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories entered into the confederation of Canada in 1870.

 

The official Canada Day holiday on July 1 marks the celebration of freedom from British rule. In 1867, the British North America Act was ratified in Parliament. While this Act did not give Canada total independence, it did go a long way towards making the country self-governing.

 

The original 1867 confederation included Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. It wasn't until about three years later that Manitoba and the Northwest Territories were added.


Thanks for reading Goodies to Go!

 

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