Every so often, I’ve heard a few of my techie friends rail against Adobe’s Acrobat PDF technology. When ever they’ve gone off, I’ve just chocked it up to them being a purist when it comes to file technology. I’ve used the PDF for years as a way to send invoices to my clients and it works wonderfully. I’ve never had a problem with them and kind of saw them as a standard in corporate America. However, my love affair ended rather abruptly the other day once I tried to work with one.
I know that the Acrobat PDF format is designed for publishing. The end goal of any PDF is to be printed, yet if you look at Adobe’s advertising, you’d get the impression that it can do more. Heck, even the name of the extension leads you to believe that it’s versatile – Portable Document Format. Hmmm, portable document format huh? Sounds like I should be able to do more with it than just print don’t you think? Where is all this seething animosity coming from? Allow me to explain.
Holly was entering the Nashville Star contest. It’s a reality based television show that airs on the USA Networks channel. It’s similar to American Idol, but it’s geared towards country music and the singer/songwriter. The idea is that the person who wins can actually write a song and not just sing covers. Anyway, the point is that the application for this contest is on the web and in PDF format. When I downloaded and opened it up, I found it to be 17 pages long. That’s a long form to have to fill out by hand, so I figured I’d help Holly fill it out by typing in the answers and then printing it out. Wrong!
Had the producers of the show made the document a PDF Form (not that it’s an easy process mind you), I could have easily filled it out and printed it, but they did not. I don’t think the lack of foresight from the author should be a reason to penalized the end user. Keep in mind, I’m using the full version of Adobe Acrobat, not just the Reader. You’d think that I would have full control of the document since I paid for the full version of the program, but that is simply not the case. I found that I could enter some text, but it placed a box around the text making it look idiotic, not to mention the fact that entering this text was akin to using a painting program.
You may be thinking that the fact that I couldn’t edit the document as a good thing. When I send a client a contract, or an invoice, I don’t want them editing the document, but was I really editing? I was simply trying to fill out a form, not edit the original document. Color it a different color, or make it italics, but give the user something feasible to work with. There isn’t even a print preview feature for pete’s sake!
In the end I yielded and Holly and I filled out the form by hand. Two and a half hours later, the form was complete, but my anger and this stupid program had yet to subside. Will I continue to use the PDF format, yes because for printing purposes it is still a good solution, but if someone ever sends me a form to fill out in this format, you better watch out. Hell hath no fury like a spurned techie. 😉