Adobe Takes PDF Format to Mars

Adobe Systems is giving its ubiquitous Portable Document Format (PDF) a boost with the addition of XML support.

The experimental project from Adobe Labs, code-named Mars, is a plug-in for the Adobe Acrobat Reader and incorporates SVG, PNG, JPG, JPG2000, OpenType, Xpath and XML standards in a new ZIP container. It provides more dynamic content to PDF, which is usually static, and is designed as a two-way street.

Data can go into a PDF and change the document, and data can be extracted from a PDF in XML format for use in other applications, according to Andrew Shebanow, senior computer scientist at Adobe .

“The goal is an XML description of a PDF file that does everything PDF does,” Shebanow told “The benefit is for IT people and developers who have these amazing toolsets for manipulating XML documents. This makes it easier for developers using those toolsets to create PDF files, read those files, extract data, manipulate data, or pull things out of databases and make PDFs.”

So both data extraction and data addition to and from PDF files is the basic idea. When it will see daylight is another matter.

Adobe briefly added this type of functionality to beta versions of PDF 7 and 8, according to Pam Deziel, director of product marketing for Adobe’s Platform business unit, but it didn’t stick.

Like Spry, Mars is an experiment looking for a home, although it’s likely going to be a part of PDF products.

“What it is right now is potentially a feature of an existing product. Acrobat has been around, it’s mature, customers have asked us to investigate technologies for it,” said Deziel.

For now, the company just wants feedback. “Previously, Adobe would say everything has to be buttoned up and included with a formal product release. For various reasons, Mars has not made a formal product release but customers have asked for it. So Labs lets us release a work in progress and get feedback where it’s resonant and what areas need work,” she said.

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