The demise of Flashpaper sends a warning to developers

Do not base key functionality of your software on closed, third-party libraries - you never know what the future holds.

When Adobe purchased Marcomedia the writing was on the wall for Flashpaper from the outset. Flashpaper was Macromedia's alternative to Adobe PDF for paper-based documents on the Internet. Unlike PDF which requires a dedicated reader application (e.g. Adobe Reader), Flashpaper turns print documents into easily consumable Flash animations. Not only is Flash just as (or even more) ubiquitous as PDF, it integrates better with a user's web-experience. Consequently from Adobe's perspective letting Flashpaper live on as a potentially superior competitor to PDF on the web just did not make sense. Yet whilst this axe has been dangling above Flashpaper's head for quite some time, Adobe has only recently made it official; Flashpaper is dead, long live PDF.

This long coming announcement was a kick in the guts for businesses that have built their products on top of Flashpaper or use it for internal purposes. One bright point was that Scribd took the demise of Flashpaper as an opportunity to establish a competing product called iPaper. Whilst iPaper has some very interesting features (like integrated Google Adwords), it cannot operate 'within the firewall' on documents that are too sensitive for public release. Also iPaper's hosted architecture precludes it from being embedded into third party, redistributable applications.

Why Autodesk should 'Open' DWF

Beyond the Paper's Scott Sheppard recently pointed to McDwiff as the first partial example of a Mac-based DWF viewer. Unfortunately for the DWF starved Mac community McDwiff is simply a wrapper around a WebKit browser window pointed directly at Autodesk's own Project Freewheel web service. It fails to qualify as a true desktop application for a number of crucial reasons:

  1. It does not (yet) add functionality beyond what is present in the Web-based Freewheel viewer.
  2. DWF files must be first uploaded to the Autodesk web service.
  3. There is no off-line mode or local caching to improve performance.
  4. The lifespan of the software is entirely dependent on the existence of the host service.

Note: These limitations are not the developers fault as they have obviously only just initiated the project. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.

Adobe releases PDF standard for ISO certification

On the 29th January Adobe announced it will be seeking ISO certification for the PDF 1.7 standard. Up until this point many vendors have been able to implement the PDF standard based solely on trust that Adobe will not significantly change the format and break their respective implementations. If PDF gains ISO certification then this will ensure any vendor can develop for and use the standard in the knowledge that it will not change and be 100% interoperable with other implementations of the same standard.

This is good news for governments and business as it means once certified PDF will become a permanent, unencumbered format. These characteristics will enable organisations to use PDF as an archiving medium for 2-dimensional digital documents with the confidence that no single company can dictate or control the use of the format. This is important because in the past companies like Microsoft have unduly effected the industry with their monopolistic control over formats (as evidenced by the infamous Halloween Memo).

Great little tip from MacWorld


My OSX Printer Services
Most of the tips found in MacWorld are fairly dull but this one about setting up PDF Services is pretty cool. It turns out in OSX 10.4 the Save as PDF button is customizable so you do not have to follow the instructions in this article, just click on the Save as PDF button and then select Customize from the menu. It would be nice if you could chain commands together in this menu so with one click you could compress, encypt and save receipts to a designated folder.