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Re: [Axiom-developer] PDF/A and pamphlet support on MathAction

From: michel . lavaud
Subject: Re: [Axiom-developer] PDF/A and pamphlet support on MathAction
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2005 03:01:45 +0200

On 9 Oct 2005 at 1:20, Bill Page wrote:

> > The pdf format is proprietary _and_ fully documented - as
> > is the Word format. And what Microsoft did, Adobe can do
> > it: that is, he can decide some day to change the pdf format
> > in a way incompatible with previous versions (as MS did for
> > Word) ...
> I think this comparison to WORD is at best inaccurate. Even
> Richard Stallman - defender of free software - was willing
> to accept PDF format email attachments as early as 2002.
> In his recommended response to the receipt of an email
> with a WORD attachment he wrote:
> "You sent the attachment in Microsoft Word format, a secret
> proprietary format, so I cannot read it. If you send me
> the plain text, HTML, or PDF, then I could read it."

Well, I think this criticism of Stallmann is pointless for Windows users, 
obsolete for
Linux, Macintosh, Solaris and BSD users, and at best misleading for all e-mail 
users ;-)

- It is pointless for Windows users, because Microsoft provides freely a viewer 
of Word
documents, aka Adobe's Acrobat Reader for pdf documents.

- It is obsolete for Linux, Mac, Solaris and BSD users, because Open Office is 
"able to
read and write Microsoft Office files. This allows users to open and save Word, 
and PowerPoint files on their preferred platform incl. Windows, Linux and 
Solaris", as
can be read on OOo site, cf.

- It is misleading for all e-mail users, because the main problem with Word
attachments is not that some people cannot read them (even RS can read them 
now, if
he wants), but the possibility that they vehiculate viruses. And the same is 
true for html,
pdf and several other types of attachments. It would have been more useful for 
to say "avoid Word and html and pdf attachments because they can bring you 
instead of "avoid Word attachments because I cannot read it".

As for the the parallel between pdf documents and Word documents : the 
format of Word documents is rtf format, which is publicly available on the web. 
example, version 1.5 can be obtained for ex. at the url :

and version 1.6 is available (since 1999, according to MS site) for ex. at

The rtf specs were used in versions of Word up to 2000, and the latest versions 
XML, according to MS site. Therefore, I still think that comparing pdf to Word, 
as for
the potential danger in using them, is not "at best inaccurate". There is a 
analogy between pdf documents and Word documents : both use a proprietary and
fully documented format, and their editors both provide a free viewer for the 
written in their proprietary formats. And presenting the adoption of pdf/a by 
the ISO as
an argument in favor of pdf is a sophism ;-)  Rigorously speaking, its adoption 
ought to
be considered as an official recognition that using pdf poses severe problems 
archiving document (as I explained in my preceding mail).

> > The most critical community against pdf lately were not
> > scientists but lawyers, because of Enron and other affairs,
> > that generated "tons" of electronic documents, and they
> > fear that these documents could become unreadable in
> > the long term. The problem of defining an A-pdf format
> > (Archival-pdf) was resurrected on this occasion.
> Apparently this movement was successful. :)
> So I think C Y is right. At least now there is a version
> of PDF that is no longer proprietary.

No, PDF/A is not a version of PDF, it is _based on_ a specific version of pdf. 
Pdf is still
proprietary, as far as I know. Or did you see any declaration of Adobe saying 
they will
adopt pdf/a as the new version of pdf ?

> It seems that PDF has
> recently been accepted as a standard by the International
> Standards Organization.

No, once again, it is not pdf that has been accepted as a standard by the ISO.

> "This document will ensure that a PDF document will be
> rendered as it was created 50 years from now regardless
> of the reader used," said Betsy Fanning, director of
> standards and content for AIIM,

A contrario, this suggests that present pdf documents could be incorrectly 
within 50 years, which I agree completely since it was exactly my point. The 
problem with pdf/a is that users of pdf must be convinced of the danger of 
using pdf for
archiving purposes. Otherwise, they will continue to use the version that 
proposes the
largest number of possibilities, and their documents will be sooner or later 

Best wishes,

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