RealTime IT News

PDF Format Shifting to XML

Following through on Adobe System's move to shift to an XML architecture, the company Tuesday unwrapped its plans to storm the nascent market for XML form creation with new form design software that will allow users to deploy forms in Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) or in an XML Data Package (XDP) as desired.

The new software, which Adobe plans to combine with its server solutions, is intended to provide tools that will make forms more flexible and efficient for industries like financial services and manufacturing, as well as public sector organizations.

Like InfoPath, a similar technology from Microsoft which is expected to hit the market ahead of Adobe's effort, the company said the new software will support organizations with the ability to define business logic and incorporate both existing and user-defined schemas. User-defined schemas allow organizations to create XML vocabularies specific to the needs of their verticals, or to adhere to cross-industry standards.

The software will allow users to deploy forms in PDF. They can then be processed as PDF files, as is the current norm, or be delivered as an XDP which can be processed as XML. Adobe noted that because XDPs consist of XML files that contain XML form data, XML form templates, PDF documents and other XML information, they can easily be integrated with enterprise applications through XML tools and Web services.

"Thanks to XML, the distinction between enterprise documents and enterprise forms has irreversibly blurred," said Tim Hickernell, vice president of META Group. "By leveraging the power of XML to build more intelligent documents, companies are now challenged to design enterprise forms that are flexible enough to allow maximum reuse of corporate data across enterprise systems, as well as across traditional enterprise documents."

By allowing PDFs to be processed as XML, Adobe hopes to streamline organizations' internal operations. For instance, a financial institution can use the technology to make loan applications available online. Anyone with a free Acrobat Reader can download the form, fill it in, and submit the form electronically to the institution. The file can then be integrated directly into the institution's existing loan processing system.

"Until now, organizations have been struggling with integrating data and documents into business processes to effectively and efficiently manage information flow," said Ivan Koon, senior vice president of the ePaper Business Unit at Adobe. "The new form design software will give our customers the power and flexibility to create sophisticated, intelligent forms that capture business critical information for enterprise systems, while ensuring that the information can be shared or reused in business processes inside and outside the firewall."

Adobe said the form designer will be combined with the Adobe Form Server, Adobe Workflow Server, Adobe Document Server and the free Adobe Reader to create an infrastructure for integrating enterprise applications and document workflows throughout an organization. The company plans to make its form designer available for beta testing during the fourth quarter of 2003.

Meanwhile, Adobe isn't the only one working to integrate PDF and XML. The open source OpenOffice.org Project, which is developing an office productivity suite to compete with Microsoft's Office, has issued OpenOffice.org 1.1 Release Candidate 1, which signifies the 1.1 version of the suite is close to final release. As previously reported by internetnews.com, OpenOffice.org 1.1 features the ability to export the suite's native XML documents as PDF. The RC1 version enhances both the suite's PDF export support and support for mailing a document as PDF. It also supports export to Macromedia Flash, DocBook, and PDA file formats.

In addition it adds the ability to update existing OpenOffice.org 1.0.x single user installations, integrated Bitstream Vera fonts, support for Microsoft Excel 95 and older form controls, built-in proofing tools and hyphenation for a number of languages, and better Microsoft Office filters.

RC1 comes two months after the beta 2 release.