Portable Document Format (PDF); the Evolution of a Format and its History

Before PDF, it was a lot difficult to interpret data from various formats on a different device. All of the operating systems were based on different formats. To eliminate this problem, John Warnock and his team come together on a project named ‘Camelot’. The goal of this project was to create a uniform format which can be accessed on any operating system. The very idea of a singular format that worked on any system was formed for the advancement of business technology. This kind of format indicated that the offices would go digital and the document would be stored in such format instead of paper.

The first PDF; IPS

The first format was mentioned at Seybold conference in San Jose in 1991. At this time it was named IPS i.e. Interchange PostScript. It was officially announced at Comdex Fall in 1992 and received a best of Comdex award. The tools by Adobe, which were used to create or view PDF files and Acrobat, were launched in 1993. It was, at first, of no use for the publishing market since it already featured bookmarks or internal link with RGB as the only supported color space. The name of the original project was replaced by Carousel, the future Acrobat software. This name remained and was taken as a file format type in Macintosh.

PDF 1.1

Acrobat 2 was introduced to the market in November 1994. It supported the format which added support for external links, article threads, security features, independent color space, and notes. Acrobat 2 was also improved, including a new architecture of Acrobat Exchange to support plug-ins in and PDF file searching feature. After its launch, this new and improved PDF file format was promoted ad popularized by the Adobe itself as well as the US government which distributed their forms and papers digitally in PDF files. Adobe started shipping its product in the year 1995. At the same time, they also introduced PDF file support in many of their products like Framemaker 5.0.

PDF 1.2; time of the Press Market

Acrobat 3 along with PDF 1.2 was launched in 1996. This included many features for the press community and greatly enhanced the Adobe software. It included features such as OPI 1.3 and CMYK color space support as well as spot color maintenance. At this time, the internet was also improving and popular. Adobe saw this as an opportunity to take the market and released a plug-in to view PDF files in Netscape browser. On the other side, Acrobat 3 was improved with a lot of extensions for the prepress community throughout 1997 and 1998 like plug-ins for Pitstop and Checkup from Enfocus software and Crackerjacks from Lanatanarips.

PDF/X-1 and PDF 1.3

Based on PDF 1.2, a reliable and standard format was launched by the prepress community in 1998, known as PDF/X-1. It included extra and improved features such as the ability to blind transfers and fonts as well as embedding high-resolution image.

In 1999, Adobe introduced PDF 1.3 along with Acrobat 4. They were designed according to the modern prepress technology and requirement so as to cope up with the market. It included OPI 2.0 specifications, new color space known as DeviceN as well as annotations. Page size support was improved along with integration with Microsoft Office. This made it easier to work with adobe acrobat and the software was seen as user-friendly rather than confusing.

PDF 1.4; an illustrative partner

In mid-2000, it was the first time that Adobe release PDF version 1.4 with Illustrator 9 and not Acrobat. Illustrator 9 came with the unique feature of supporting PDF 1.4 and transparency, although full specs were not revealed about PDF 1.4 at the time.

PDF 1.4 was properly released with Acrobat 5 in 2001 and its full specifications were shown. Along with transparency support, improved file security and printing quality were also seen in the new version. JavaScript support was also added in the version. A new step towards the advancement of digital papers was taken by the company. ‘Tagged PDF’ was introduced in this version which means detailed information defining the actual document can be a part of the PDF.

PDF of the future

The year 2003, PDF 1.5 is launched which comes with improved features like image compression, layer support and enhanced tagged PDF.

Two years late, in 2005, Adobe gives PDF 1.6 which had some improved as well as new features like PDF container file, file embedding support, new 3D embed support, as well as some enhancements to old features.

PDF 1.7 was much of an improvement over the previous version with few new features. One improvement of PDF 1.7 was becoming ISO-standard, which happened in 2008.

Since PDF had now become part of ISO, Adobe could not release a new version of PDF Thus, it stuck with Acrobat and its extension. This extension acted as an improvement to PDF 1.7.However, ISO is planning to release PDF 2.0 with minor adjustments to PDF 1.7 and some new features of its own.

At FreeFileConvert, we support conversion of PDF files into various formats, so you can always use our online converter if there’s a need to change the format of your PDF files.

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