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Don’t like PDF? You’re not the only one…

14 Jan 2009 | | 2 Comments

Along with Jakob Nielson (back in June of 2001), the guys at bMighty don’t think too much of PDF when it’s not being used for printing… in their eyes, PDF is a obsolete paper metaphor, not suited to the fluidity, navigation and scalability of the Web. Their “short list of reasons why PDFs suck” (for online use) is as follows:

  1. You get pestered to upgrade to the latest release of Acrobat Reader. What a waste of time. Can anyone actually tell the difference between one release and the next?
  2. They take too long to load, much longer than standard HTML, even on a fast connection.
  3. When they finally do load, they always seem to pop up in the wrong size. I want to see my documents at 100%, not 72% and not 172%.
  4. Cutting and pasting is much more difficult than with an HTML page. Often there are weird fonts that don’t translate well, or other nonstandard behavior.
  5. They have page breaks. What’s up with a page break in an online document?
  6. Sometimes they’re in 2-column format, which means you’re scrolling up and back on the screen to read them.
  7. They can be used for spam. No, really.
  8. The only good PDF is a printed PDF.

Of course, while the bMighty comments are way-over-the-top/bait,  I do generally prefer to download the PDF files that I encounter on the web to my desktop (and I don’t really print – seriously, my printer has no ink, intentionally). That said, I have found that my phone bill works well as an online PDF, especially if I’m only intending to view it momentarily.

What about you?

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  • Rowan Hanna said:

    This argument never gets old does it? I’ll take the bait. 🙂

    It’s not a question of PDF versus HTML for the web. You don’t see anyone offering up a PDF file in lieu of a HTML site, do you? Nope, you see a HTML site, with the occasional PDF available for download where appropriate (product brochures, data-sheets, user manuals, etc). Viewing PDFs in the browser is optional, it is not required. There is a reason why the Internet browser add-on PDF Download has been downloaded over 11 million times — people prefer to view PDFs on their desktop.

    I wonder if these bMighty guys think that you should download a HTML page (and all the associated pages, images and stylesheets) to your desktop whenever you want to view a “document” offline?

  • Vijay said:

    What’s the alternative they propose when I want to read a particular web page (or a whole lot of them) offline, or to keep a record. Some sites don’t allow me to print or are too messed up – these I selectively copy (ctrl+c) into MS Word and then save that as PDF.
    My printer doesn’t have any ink either only because I haven’t ‘printed’ a page in, literally, months. Even for jotting down notes and comments, I don’t have to print as I use pdfAnnotator (Acrobat is too clumsy for small jobs).
    PDF is not perfect (what is?), it is often infuriating due its slow speed and a rare inability to process certain pages but it has no substitute. Strange enough, some pages don’t show up in the Adobe reader but they do in 3rd party readers such as FoxIt.

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