PDF 1.5 & Acrobat 6 – More choice for already confused users
In April 2003, Adobe announced Acrobat 6 which started shipping late May. The internal codename for Acrobat 6 was ‘Newport’. As usual, the new version of Acrobat also brought along a new version of PDF, version 1.5.
PDF 1.5 brings along a number of new features to will probably take a pretty long time before they get implemented or supported in applications. The new stuff includes.
- Improved compression techniques including object streams & JPEG 2000 compression
- Support for layers
- Improved support for tagged PDF
The Acrobat software itself actually offers far more immediate advantages than the new PDF file format.
Acrobat Reader got renamed Adobe Reader and now also includes the functions of the Adobe eBook Reader. Unfortunately this application has also grown and now has a file size that is perhaps over 1000 times larger than most office type PDF documents that people want to look at.
Acrobat Professional is the high-end version of Acrobat 6, geared towards prepress use. It offers a plethora of new features.
- Integrated preflighting
- PDF Optimizer
- Rulers and guides
- Job tickets
- PDF/X support
- Separation output & a separation preview
- Transparency flattener
- Measurement & magnifying tools
- A new user interfaces which closer resembles other Adobe applications
2005: another year, another PDF revision
In January 2005 Adobe started shipping Acrobat 7 (original code name: Vegas). Of course it offered support for a new PDF flavor. PDF 1.6 offers the following improvements:
- NChannel is an extension of the DeviceN mechanism for defining spot colors in a PDF document. It is backward compatible with DeviceN and enables more accurate handling of color blending by including additional dot gain and color mixing information.
- Improved encryption algorithms
- Some minor enhancements to annotations and tagging
- OpenType fonts can be embedded directly into the PDF, they no longer have to be embedded as either TrueType or PostScript Type 1 fonts.
- PDF 1.6 files can be used as a kind of ‘container’ file format by offering the possibility to embed files into a PDF.
- The major new feature is the ability to embed 3D data. At first I though this feature would only be interesting for architects or the CAD-CAM crowd. Then a colleague showed me a PDF he had created using ArtiosCAD, a design application for packaging. Within a PDF you can look at a box from all angles, check the graphic design and the positioning of images or bar codes. That’s when I understood that this technique can also be useful for graphic arts, specifically for people working in packaging or display.
PDF 1.7 – Adobe goes ISO
Probably the most ‘unexciting’ PDF-version to ever be released, PDF 1.7 contained improved support for commenting and security. Support for 3D also got improved, with the possibility to add comments to 3D-objects and more elaborate control over 3D animations. A PDF 1.7 file can include default printer settings such as paper selection, the number of copies, scaling,… You can download the full specs here.
Adobe Acrobat 8, code name Atlas and made available in October 2006, introduced one interesting new feature: instead of using PDF 1.7 as its default file format, it sticks to PDF 1.6. It has also become easier to save documents as an older PDF version. This is probably Adobe’s acknowledgment that most people don’t need the latest PDF release to get things done. For printing and prepress, PDF 1.3 or PDF 1.4 are just fine. Other new features include improved support for PDF/A, better organized menus & toolbars and the ability to save forms in Adobe Reader 8. The fact that the preflight engine can also handle a number of corrections (called fix-ups) is another nice touch. Most people seem to think the enhanced performance, especially on Intel Macs is the biggest advantage. Some people don’t like the new user interface.
One interesting development with PDF 1.7 is the fact that it became an official ISO-standard (ISO 32000-1:2008) in January 2008. The official specs were released on 1 July. James King from Adobe posted some interesting background information about this on his blog.