Archive for January, 2008

January 28, 2008

ISO 32000 — Document management — Portable document format — PDF 1.7

The title of this article is the official name of the ISO standard based upon PDF 1.7 which, for all purposes, now exists. The International working group meeting in Orlando, held last week (January 21-23, 2008), was able to successfully resolve all 205 comments to the 32000 Draft International Standard (DIS) document. Even the French, with their expert calling into the meeting on a conference call, have agreed to the edited comment resolutions and, as I reported earlier, changed their vote to positive. That makes it unanimous.

The remaining tasks are primarily mine and the editing staff of ISO in Switzerland.  I have two tasks to perform: 1) make a final version of the document that records the resolution to each of the comments and 2) make the final edits to the DIS that the comment resolutions dictate. I hope to finish this in a week or two and then it is up to the Swiss editors to polish it off and get it published on the ISO website as an official document. (They have a reputation for taking months to do this. Maybe we can get them into a more excited mood for this effort.)

This whole process was started less than one year ago when Adobe announced that, with the cooperation of AIIM and ANSI, we would submit PDF 1.7 to become a public ISO standard. Doing such a complicated standard in one year is extraordinary, but it worked so well for two reasons: 1) PDF was a well accepted and well documented existing de facto standard and 2) we developed some basic principles to guide the work and help with decision making.

As we began to make decisions, answer questions and move forward, it became clear to me that the standards process that Adobe had been following and the standards process that AIIM/ANSI/ISO follow are quite different. For the standards organizations the carefully written standards document is supreme. It defines the standard. While Adobe’s PDF 1.7 Reference document is intended to do that same thing it isn’t quite so clear. For example, if the billions of files in existence today all contain a construct that has A=1 and the Adobe document says they should have A=2 the document must be changed. That is, the existing files triumph the documentation. It would be of no value to have a specification that does not cover the existing files. So, one focus I put forth at each opportunity, was that the primary objective of the new ISO PDF 1.7 standard was to document the existing files.

In fact, PDF has been a de facto standard based upon three things: the billions of existing files, the thousand of software offerings that create and process those files, and the Adobe PDF 1.7 Reference. And we decided that the order of preference to resolve any differences was in that order, files, software and then documentation. That is definitely not the standards approach where the document is supreme. So as we examined the Adobe PDF 1.7 Reference and turned it into the ISO 32000 draft we adopted what we called this "three legged stool" approach base upon prioritizing the three contributors to the existing standard. If we could capture the most correct interpretation in each area according to those criteria we could produce an ISO document that was (more) supreme and could be acceptable as the definitive word for what a PDF file contains. Of course, the Adode PDF 1.7 Reference proved to be fine for 99.9% of the definition.

Most people, after thinking about this three legged stool metaphor came to agree that documenting the existing files should take priority.

The reason I mention this is I have repeatedly found that most work needs some guiding principles to follow. When making decisions between alternatives, especially when each is very reasonable, established project principles can usually make the decision obvious. If you do not establish such principle early, and make them well known, you find yourself reinventing them and discussing them with each decision. If you do it once at first and get agreement, then they can be applied when needed.

This proved true when the ISO 32000 draft was created and it proved true during last week’s review of the ballot comments.

So except for the editing work facing me in the next week or so, I am very relaxed because this long (almost) year is about over. It has been quite an experience for me and I sure hope it has been the right action for both the industry and Adobe to have taken. As I said in an earlier blog, the big thing now is to get enough interested people involved in the ISO 32000 working group to allow the public to be as good a shepard of PDF as Adobe has been in the past. Please get involved by contacting AIIM in the US or your national standards organization affiliated with ISO.

This is my personal blog and my view of things. But I must emphasize that this has been a team effort within Adobe and here are the names of the key players that I worked closely with: Leonard Rosenthol, Ed Taft, Nora Calvillo, Dave McAllister, Isak
Tenenboym, Mike Ossesia, Kathy Stone, Sandra Lee-Doersam and Cheryl Shimamoto. Any time you make a list like this you run the risk of leaving someone off the list who should be there––my early apology. Betsy Fanning from AIIM has been a great boss as the secretariat for TC 171 and this effort. There are many more people who made contributions but these are the ones I worked most closely with on the technical aspects of moving PDF 1.7 to ISO.

Contact me at:

9:32 AM Permalink
January 17, 2008

Now Unanimous!

This is a great day! This is about the program that Adobe, AIIM, and ANSI put together just less than one year ago to move PDF 1.7 under public control as an ISO standard. We submitted the suggestion to ISO and they agreed. A lot has happened since then and I have written several previous articles (here and here) about what was happening in this blog.

Well today the French Standards committee which was the only country committee to submit a negative vote on our recent ballot has reviewed my responses to their comments and decided that if those changes in the specification are made they will change their vote to positive. That will make it unanimous!

Let me say all this a little more carefully.  In one of my previous blogs I noted that the results of the ISO Draft International Standard (DIS) ballot for PDF 1.7 due December 2, 2007 was 13 in favor and 1 opposed (the French).  The ballots also had room for editing comments against the DIS and 205 came in including a bunch from the French. Next week (Jan. 21-23, 2008) in Orlando, Florida, the International committee (TC 171/SC 2) will meet to decide which edits, if any, need to be made to the DIS document before it can be published as the official ISO 32000 standard.

After the ballot ended in December, as the acting technical project leader, I drafted responses to all the comments so we would have a starting point for the discussion next week in Orlando. The Secretariat of ISO TC 171/SC 2 sent the comments that the French made back to them, together with my recommendations, asking if they would change their vote to positive if we followed my recommendations.  (Knowing the Secretariat I assume there was some very diplomatic exchanges that took place as well.) And I just now got word that they decided that the suggested resolution to their comments would be good enough.  Whew!

Now we have to get everyone (14 countries) together next week and go over all the comments and make sure all the countries are comfortable with the suggested treatment or decide on a new treatment. I did recommend rejecting quite a few of the comments as being misunderstandings or out of scope, including some that the French made.

I have talked about my responses to the 205 comments. They are mine as the acting project editor but I must confess that I got a lot of help from PDF experts in drafting them especially a great team of experts within Adobe. So they are only mine in the sense of being responsible. I would single out Ed Taft and Leonard Rosenthol as having been invaluable colleagues in this work.

I am confident that the committee will be able to amiably resolve all 205 comments and we can then send the edited version off to Switzerland to become a published ISO standard. 

If the French would have stuck with their negative vote, then we would have to do pretty much the same thing except wait for two months after the edited document is produced and then sent out as a Final Draft International Standard (FDIS). Then the votes would be either thumbs up or thumbs down with no edits possible. Seems like a wasted 2 months in any case, but now we will not have to do that.  Thanks to the French!

Wish me luck next week.



6:50 PM Permalink