It often happens that a technology that conquers the whole world does not meet the recognition of consumers at the first stages. When it reaches its peak of popularity, people look back to find out the heroes who invented it. And to their surprise, they discover that this technology had to work its way to the user through initial indifference. So it was with the PDF solution, offered to a mass audience in 1993.
Today, PDF is the worldwide leader among various file formats with a huge user base and a strong confident future. All types of PDFs are in demand in the electronic document management of business companies and government agencies alike. And the history of the creation of this format is very instructive for those who dare to offer something new in a crowded and highly competitive market.
Today, digitalization processes seem natural and irreversible. However, in the early 1990s, the current level of digitization of documents could only be dreamed of. But John Warnock, one of Adobe’s co-founders, envisioned just that. Gathering a great team of professional developers, he worked on the creation of a new file format inspired by high ideals:
- Create PDF as a technology that will allow all users to see the file exactly as it was intended by its authors, regardless of which operating system, program, or device it is opened on.
- Contribute to environmental protection and sustainable practices by eliminating the need for offices to print all documents.
- Make PDF the tool that will help convert all books and documents to digital format, saving them for posterity.
This dream was realized, and on June 15, 1993, the new project was presented to the public. However, it was met with a very cold reception due to several factors:
- High competition because all the leading operating systems such as Windows, Mac, MS DOS, and UNIX already had well-promoted native file formats.
- The PDF tool, proposed initially, had its imperfections, such as the inability to use external hyperlinks, the large size of files, the need to install a special application to open PDF, etc.
- The Adobe Acrobat program that offered to create PDF file or even just view it was originally paid and cost $50.
Apparently anticipating the great mission that PDF services had to fulfill in the future, the developers decided to take a decisive step. To popularize and spread the format, they made the Acrobat Reader file viewer free of charge, although to edit PDF, a paid subscription to a more advanced version was needed.
Also, by 1994, the problem with hyperlinks was solved, it became possible to protect content, comment on it, etc. These improvements in the PDF generator became a turning point and made it possible to more openly declare to the whole world the benefits of different types of PDFs.
There are 3 main types of PDF file that differ depending on the accessibility/inaccessibility of the information contained in them:
- Digitally created PDFs are the easiest to read, even for visually impaired people. All elements in such a file are created digitally, and you can easily merge PDF with any other text, rearrange blocks, change fonts, and more.
- Scanned PDFs are copies of pages from other documents, books, magazines, etc. You can still combine PDF with other files, but you will no longer be able to insert the desired text in the middle of the scanned page or otherwise edit it.
- Searchable PDFs are a kind of synthesis of the two previous types since they are created from scanned PDFs using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology.
The history of the creation of PDF teaches how not to give up and continue to improve your project despite the indifference of the market and the abundance of competitors. If you really have something that will make things much easier for other people, keep looking for ways to reach the minds and hearts of consumers. The developers of PDF did this with the help of e-signature integration, extensive options to convert PDF, free basic file operations, etc. Find the right solution, and you will see how indifference in the eyes of consumers changes into a spark of interest and involvement.
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