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  1. #1
    Platinum Lounger
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    Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    This may well be a staggeringly naive question <img src=/S/confused.gif border=0 alt=confused width=15 height=20> , but I was wondering idly why all the Office components (usually Word, in fact) apparently need to produce their output to a Postscript printer file, before this is reprocessed by some converter program (for example, Adobe Acrobat Distiller, if you're very rich) to create a PDF file.

    Is this because Postscript is a well-defined, non-proprietary, standard which does not change very much (unlike HP PCL3 => PCL6, for example)?

    An easy question for those well up in these matters, to be sure <img src=/S/exclamation.gif border=0 alt=exclamation width=15 height=15>
    <font face="Script MT Bold"><font color=blue><big><big>John</big></big></font color=blue></font face=script>

    Ita, esto, quidcumque...

  2. #2
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    PostScript was developed by Adobe almost 20 years ago as a platform-independent way of describing documents, so they used it as the basis for PDF. In fact, the working title for PDF in 1991 was IPS (Interchange PostScript).

  3. #3
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    Yes, I suppose the first word in the phrases "Adobe Postscript" and "Adobe Acrobat" should have given me some sort of a clue! <img src=/S/newbrain.gif border=0 alt=newbrain width=21 height=22>
    <font face="Script MT Bold"><font color=blue><big><big>John</big></big></font color=blue></font face=script>

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  4. #4
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    You do not need to create a Postscript file.
    If you have the full Acrobat product, you just print to the Acrobat Distiller printer and a PDF file is produced.

    I would guess that some 3rd party PDF creating programs have the same capability.

    If one needs to use PDF, the the price of the full Acrobat product is not high.

    Currently, full Acrobat 5 can be purchased from, say, www.buy.com for about $214(US).
    Upgrade version is about $87(US) from buy.com. I paid $84.84 (including shipping) in Jan 2002 from Provantage.

    There are two versions of Acrobat 6 (due out next month), Standard and Professional, so the choice is more complicated.

  5. #5
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    Am I not correct in thinking that an intermediate (and possibly internal) step in the operation of Adobe Distiller is in fact a PostScript file, which is then converted into a PDF file?

    I thought Adobe Acrobat 6 (Standard and Professional) had been announced a couple of weeks ago?

    One of the cheapest UK PC stores (Dabs) has v5 for
    <font face="Script MT Bold"><font color=blue><big><big>John</big></big></font color=blue></font face=script>

    Ita, esto, quidcumque...

  6. #6
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    I believe that Distiller does internally first convert to Postscript, but that's just an artifact of the way Distiller was designed.
    It was likely the quickest way Adobe could get Distiller to the market, given that they already had the code for converting to Postscript.
    Creating PDF from a canonical form such as Postscript eases the task.

    Acrobat 6 was announced, but various web sites state that it won't be available until 16 May 2003.
    If I do get Acrobat 6, won't be until after I build my next PC, hopefully, within the next few months.
    However, I'll try to keep alert for special introductory deals.

    Software is often more expensive outside the USA. In most cases, needlessly so.

    PDF is one of the few critters for which I would NOT buy a non-Adobe product.

    Why?

    I believe that the most important thing is to produce PDF that can be read by Acrobat Reader.

    For that purpose, I would buy ONLY an Adobe PDF writer, as that, hopefully, has the best chance of being compatible with Acrobat Reader.

    Why?

    Because I have read 2 of the past 3 PDF specs. PDF is inadequately documented and I would not want to have to worry about misinterpretations by 3rd parties.

    I use PDF often.
    I distribute contracts, invoices, etc. in PDF.
    Folkes should get out of the habit of distributing raw Word, Excel, etc. files, except when it is necessary to have the recipient update such files.

    Acrobat Elements does not include the document security features.

    P.S.
    Thanx for the link to the comparison page, I was going to look for that soon.

  7. #7
    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    This is truly nuts:
    <hr>Acrobat Elements is available only through licensing with a minimum of 1,000 seats per order.<hr>
    I think the third party "print to PDF" industry will be somewhat worried about losing these big accounts, but they offer a lot more functionality than an Office-specific plug-in.

  8. #8
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    > I believe that Distiller does internally first convert to Postscript, but that's just an artifact of the way Distiller was designed.

    It is more than internally.

    If you print to Distiller then you print to a Postscript file which is then post-processed to create the PDF. Distiller only converts PS to PDF. You can even choose to keep the PS file after the process has completed.

    StuartR

  9. #9
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    Howard

    That's an interesting account of why you think it's necessary to buy Adobe! <img src=/S/ranton.gif border=0 alt=ranton width=66 height=37> Rather a close parallel with the Microsoft Undocumented APIs 'scandal' of a few years ago, or going back even further, to the time when IBM insisted that only IBM-brand punched cards would work reliably in IBM card-readers and sorters! The abbreviation then used about this was FUD - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

    Either Portable Document Format is a proprietary format or it's in the public domain, and correctly and fully documented. There should be no nasty or unexplained features, so that there is what us British chaps call "a level playing-field", enabling companies other than Adobe to produce software to do the same job and get the same results. <img src=/S/rantoff.gif border=0 alt=rantoff width=66 height=37>

    For non-critical documents, I suppose it doesn't matter unduly, but there might be an important principle at stake? <img src=/S/sad.gif border=0 alt=sad width=15 height=15>
    <font face="Script MT Bold"><font color=blue><big><big>John</big></big></font color=blue></font face=script>

    Ita, esto, quidcumque...

  10. #10
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    Hi John,

    I think you'll find that postscript is what MS Windows uses when sending print tasks to postscript printers and any other postscript device, so it's not just an intermediate step for producing PDFs.

    Cheers
    Cheers,

    Paul Edstein
    [MS MVP - Word]

  11. #11
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    Yes, the PostScript datastream is what is usually used to produce pretty printed output on PostScript printers, but here we're considering it as having a well-defined format suitable for conversion to PDF files.
    <font face="Script MT Bold"><font color=blue><big><big>John</big></big></font color=blue></font face=script>

    Ita, esto, quidcumque...

  12. #12
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    Whether a spec is proprietary or not does not matter.

    There are quite a few proprietary specs that are implemented as de facto standards.
    Also, many of the non-proprietary ANSI/ISO/ECMA/etc. standards, when literally read, are incompletely specified.

    Having been exposed to, and been involved in the writing/reviewing of, many standards, it is my opinion that the PDF spec is not well enough specified so that 3rd parties can go implement the critter in a closet and assure no/few problems dealing with Acrobat Reader.

    In the case of PDF, having read 2 of the 3 PDF specs, I believe that using an Acrobat PDF writer is likely to result in less problems with Acrobat Reader.

  13. #13
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    Howard, I can see your point that the PDF "standard" could be better and more tightly defined, but I'm concerned that the imprecision might perhaps be deliberate, to make it more difficult for anyone other than Adobe to create software which generated and used PDFs. We're not quite at the situation of the early PC BIOS, where Compaq programmers had to live in a closed room with no access to the code of the original IBM PC BIOS so that they could write their own BIOS which duplicated the functions of the IBM version, so that they could not be sued for plagiarism!

    Out of interest, have you come across something called Zinio, which appears to be a web-enabled extension of Acrobat Reader, for use in displaying magazines on your desktop? I first came across it when one of the UK computer magazines, "IT Week", offered this as an alternative to the print version - and from the Zinio website I see that the old "PC Magazine" appears to have changed to that format, having given up the print version entirely.
    <font face="Script MT Bold"><font color=blue><big><big>John</big></big></font color=blue></font face=script>

    Ita, esto, quidcumque...

  14. #14
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    In the case of proprietary specs, there are at least the following issues:

    1. The vendor wishes to hide some details so implementors have to go to them for info, which gives the vendor a lot of control.

    A similar issue arises when developing ANSi?ISO/ECMA/etc standards.

    Sometimes I feel like a dentist, i.e., one has to pull teeth to get info on which to write a standard.

    I can tell you some stories, but I've got better uses for my time.

    2. Proprietary specs sufer from problems, depending on who writes it.

    a. If the actual product developers, they often cannot (or won't) devote the needed time.
    b. If by a less technical writer, there's a serious issue of educating the writer.
    c. If by a more technical writer, the writer has to spend much time getting the poop from the developers.

    3. Relatively few people know how to write an accurate technical spec, even fewer know how to review such a spec, and it's the rare writer who can objectively and effectively review their own writing.

    4. Very few can remove their ego from their writing.

    When writing a proprietary spec, at least everybody's allegedly on the same team as they get their paychecks from the same company.

    All of the above is exacerbated when developing an ANSI/ISO/ECMA/etc/ standard because there are usually conflicting goals, among other things, among committee participants. I could write volumes of stories, but I'd ruther get to bed shortly.

    Anyway, I'm finished with this thread.

    I just wore myself out tonight doing some Powerpoint VBA.
    Alas, there doenot seem to be any Powerpoint VBA books.

    Bye bye to this thread!

  15. #15
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    Re: Why is Postscript the intermediate step to a PDF?

    Just an after thought to this thread. If you are looking for a CHEAP way to produce PDF files from any Windows application, try PDF Print Factory (US$49.95) or PDF Print Factory Pro (US$99.95) from www.fineprint.com. I found them to work flawlessly!! I can produce a perfect PDF file from within any Office program or AutoCAD, or any other Windows based program. It simply works like a printer driver, similar to Acrobat, but for a LOT less money. Mind you, Acrobat provides a lot of editing features to make changes to existing PDF files that the aforementioned programs do not, but if all you're interested in is producing PDFs (even encrypted ones with PDF PrintFactory Pro), then they'll work fine. BTW, they have free trial downloads so you can test them yourself.

    Drew

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