2 Replies Latest reply on Aug 16, 2012 1:58 PM by Dov Isaacs

    Is Word about to edit PDFs?

    [Jongware] Most Valuable Participant

      "In addition to providing updated support for the Open XML and ODF standards, the new Office adds exciting new features around PDF files as well. With this release, Microsoft introduces the option, which we call PDF Reflow, to open PDF files as editable office documents."

      -- http://blogs.office.com/b/office-next/archive/2012/08/13/the-new-office-expands-file-forma t-options.aspx


      Exciting? Uh, let's say "perhaps".


      On the one hand, Adobe never claimed PDF is a file format meant, or even suitable, for editing. It's an *end product*, despite the odd confused end-user believing that "if you can create it you should be able to edit it". For some reason they also usually target InDesign as "it should be able to edit PDFs!!" (A similar argument could be that since ID both can import and export PNG images, it should be able to edit them as well.)


      On the other hand: maybe *because* Adobe believes in this policy, it never produced a "PDF Editor" of its own, and hence the array of others' utilities and tools to do just that, ranging from "extracting all mages" (it used to be an Acrobat feature, but not anymore in X it is--besides, it also never worked with monochrome bitmaps!) to high end professional software such as Enfocus Pitstop. Not to forget RecoSoft's PDFtoID.


      So it certainly seems there is a demand.


      Yes, I would like to be able to reliably copy formatted text out of any PDF. Yes, it would be nice to clean up an illustration every now and then, without going through the crutch-and-sellotape construction called "Edit Object".


      But no: I don't believe for a second it's possible to edit any PDF, copy any text, change any font. There are too much legacy constructions in a PDF to allow this in its current structure. Re-writing the PDF standard to allow this would be a pretty major undertaking, comparable to (and probably demanding) creating a total new file format. In fact this is actually out of the question, since the PDF format as-is has been frozen since it became an ISO standard. Besides, an enhanced format could only work for new files, and your old PDFs would still not be magically editable.


      So, one has to ask: what makes Microsoft think they can pull it off? My personal Best Guess would be they can't, in any repeatable and reliable way, for any (yes: *any*) PDF. Jus' maybe with ones created by their own software; and possibly even only on PDFs that were created with this magical new version of Office to begin with!


      (It leads to lots of follow-up question anyway. What *can* you do? Create a PDF out of Excel, edit its text with Word, re-open in Excel to adjust some calculations?)

        • 1. Re: Is Word about to edit PDFs?
          Bo LeBeau Level 4

          Jongware, at the bottom of the page you linked to it says:


          “With this functionality, you can transform your PDFs back into fully editable Word documents, rehydrating headings, bulleted/numbered lists, tables, footnotes, etc. by analyzing the contents of the PDF file.” The goal is not to make Word into a PDF reader or PDF editor. The goal is to help you to bring the contents of PDF files back into an editable format using Word 2013.


          It sounds like it is using a PDF to Word convert to extract elements and placing them in a new Word doc so people can edit them and then, I assume, make a new PDF.


          Has anyone used a PDF to Word converter?

          I'm assuming this will work best with rather simple PDFs. Of course we can look forward to the black text being converted into rich black text that we will have to then correct before sending to print. I shudder to think what else might be changed with PDF elements with this" workflow".


          And the comments from secretaries "What do you mean, you can't edit my PDF? I can edit it in MS Word!"  grrr...

          • 2. Re: Is Word about to edit PDFs?
            Dov Isaacs Adobe Employee

            There is absolutely no way that any Microsoft application program would be able to fully edit any arbitrary PDF content.




            The Microsoft imaging model is a tiny subset of that of PDF. For example, PDF supports 16 different transparency blend modes and Microsoft supports only one (the normal mode - even drop shadows with Microsoft are different, Adobe drop shadows are done via the multiply blend mode which Microsoft doesn't support). What is Microsoft going to do with gradients that it doesn't support or color modes that it doesn't support? What you get with such PDF editing or conversion is an approximation of the PDF content.


            Be forewarned! (By the way, this is exactly why Illustrator and InDesign don't claim to be PDF editors. They don't support the absolute complete PDF imaging model and they support a hell of a lot more of that imaging model than Microsoft does in its Office products.)


                      - Dov