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Interactive PDFs


Interactive PDFs

So, my management has been reading about Acrobat XI and how you can create interactive PDFs (embed Flash Player compatible videos, audio, buttons, and forms). Simple question: Is any of that possible with PE (any version)? Sounds like it's easy to add a video (for example) to an existing PDF manually with Acrobat XI, but we'd want it to happen within PE (or some FO processor, for that matter). Anyone done anything like this?

Dave Hintz

I think this touches on an interesting schism – Arbortext software is designed to create PDFs for print. Nowadays it is quite common that the intent of the PDF is for screen viewing (hence the flash videos and so on).

As things stand right now, there are not many options for doing this with Arbortext software. We have messed around with things like adding PostScript comments as a passthru then post-processing the PostScript before distilling it, but I wouldn't say that is painless. Doing something similar programmatically in the PDF is also possible but you would need to either do it on the desktop with Acrobat or use Adobe LiveCycle on a server (Adobe Acrobat licensing forbids its use as an automated server or service).

BTW the most recent Antenna House release (6.1) says it supports video now, but I have no idea how (or how well) that feature works.


Embedding interactive content into PDF is certainly on our roadmap for APP and eventually Styler (we need the foundation first). I would be very interested in hearing about use cases and requirement for this functionality. Perhaps using the Ideas area on the Community pages? You can mail me directly too if you wish.
For example:

* Is it enough to use the controls provided by the embedded player? Or would users expect to control multimedia from custom buttons on the page or hyperlinks in the content?

* What type of content (file types) would users want to embed?

* How would that content appear in print or Editor or preview? How would users select 'poster frames'?
Providing information will certainly help refine the requirements for this functionality

Simon Taylor
Product Manager
Parametric Technology (UK) Ltd

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-----End Original Message-----

We have been creating PDF for years, but really the PDF is just another name for paper. The main use of the PDF is to queue it to a printer and get paper, or to "flip pages" on screen with the only other functionality being functioning links. The idea of producing PDF with videos is a new concept for our customer. They still don't like using PDF because they can't do "change tracking" and red-ink markup like they can with MS Word, although the latest versions of even Acrobat Reader are pretty good with this. However, the time is coming...

Yes, I see that both Antenna House and Renderx support videos and other active content.

I've put down 10 "wish list" items here to try and get the ball rolling 🙂

1. Built-in controls would be perfect for a first release of this feature.
2. Content would be in popular formats, probably MPEG1,2,4/h.264. Given Windows dominance I would also expect to see the WMV formats appear regularly. We don't see much of WebM/VP8 or Theora.
3. Subtitles (captions) may be required.
4. If you're going to the trouble to add video support, may as well support picture-less video eg. audio-only tracks. This is of interest in certain communities.
5. In Editor you would want to be able to play the video, pause it, scrub it. You would have an option to select a given frame as the "poster frame". If a poster frame had not been selected then Arbortext would automatically do it (eg. wind fwd 1/3 into the video and look for the first frame which is not an entirely plain colour or midway through a fade in/out).
6. Alternatively, the markup may indicated alternative forms of a video. One of the alternative forms would be a static image used as the poster frame.
7. Arbortext APIs should be extended to support video features.
8. Video should work across all currently supported outputs: web, EPUB, PDF, etc.
9. It should be possible to either embed the video in its entirety or embed only the poster frame and stream the video from a delivery server. (Noting that the delivery server URL may need to be dynamically assigned during the composition process)
10. Bonus points: embedding of PPT slide decks .. ala

I would expect to see more of WebM, as it's an HTML5 friendly format.

Thanks Gareth
Did you start a thread on the Ideas part of the PTC Community? Has anyone else got input for me?

Hi Simon--

I think we talked about this in June, but we've had requests for similar features. Gareth more than covers the requirements, so if he's happy, we'll be happy too. 🙂 (Actually, we could live without all the whiz-bang Editor UI stuff--if we could just specify a link to a video file and have it show up in the PDF as viewable content, and specify a static graphic as the poster frame, that would be 90% of the battle right there.)

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