Portable & Editable: PDF + ODT

This is a little tidbit of information that I’ve recently come across that I think is really cool. I’m sharing it because I want to see more people use it.

For many years now (longer than I’ve been using computers in a productive way) PDF files have been the de-facto standard for creating portable documents that look good. By and large this has worked but the down side has been that Adobe charge a lot of money for their editing software and PDF files are not meant to be editable. This is all fine and good if you don’t want your documents to be edited but that isn’t always the case.

When someone wants to distribute a document for editing they tend to use one of various closed document formats, which is fine if you have the same editor as the author but pretty clumsy if you don’t. Sometimes the person viewing the document can’t see it at all till they download and install another piece of software.

OpenOffice.org has a great new solution to this: Hybrid PDF+ODT files. The current OOo has a very nice PDF export functionality out of the box. It is one of the best implementations I have seen, much better than many of the PDF printer apps my employer has brought in the past. If you install the PDF Reader addon you get a new option in the PDF Export function: Hybrid File.

When you write one of these Hybrid Files you get a larger PDF than normal. This is because its a fairly large cludge: the original ODT format information is embedded in the PDF in ways that wont change the display of the document in PDF viewers. The magic happens when you open the PDF in OOo, you get the original editable PDF with all the original formatting and so on.

I’m enjoying this situation enough that I’m thinking about making it our internal document format. It’s viewable anywhere and we only need to keep a single file making folders much neater.

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2 responses to “Portable & Editable: PDF + ODT

  1. thats pretty good… alternatively you could all learn how to use adobe editing software hahaha

  2. Yeah, but adobe’s tools are rather expensive :(

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