Wednesday, September 23, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

PDF Liquid Mode

Adobe (Hacker News):

Building on this continued momentum, today we’re excited to unveil Liquid Mode — the first step in a multi-year vision to fundamentally change the way people consume digital documents, and how organizations extract document intelligence to gain a competitive advantage. Leveraging the power of Adobe Sensei — our cutting-edge AI framework — to understand the structure of PDFs, we have begun to reimagine how people read and interact with digital documents, starting with reinventing mobile productivity beyond the 8.5x11 page.

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Manifesting the future of PDF, Liquid Mode delivers a breakthrough reading experience that enables a much easier way to read documents on mobile.

Harry McCracken:

In its initial form, Liquid Mode is a first pass at a long-term challenge. It doesn’t yet support some of the most familiar types of PDFs, such as forms, slideshows, scans, and files that are over 10 MB or 200 pages. It also rejected the PDFs I’d made using iOS’s screenshot feature, perhaps because they were too complex. Still, when it worked, it achieved the formerly impossible: It made reading a PDF on a phone . . . actually pretty pleasant.

[…]

The company flirted with the idea of creating an all-new format that was “much richer, much better,” and not necessarily compatible with PDF as we know it. “We did some engineering work,” Parasnis says. But it quickly concluded that PDF’s compatibility and pervasiveness were such powerful assets that breaking them on purpose would be a mistake.

[…]

Which brings up another question: Will all those folks who read PDFs in non-Adobe software ever get the chance to view them in Liquid Mode? For now, the feature is exclusive to Adobe’s Reader app[…]

The core problem is that PDF stores text based on how it’s laid out rather than based on the logical sequence of characters. So Adobe has to use AI to try to recover the original structure.

3 Comments

The idea is awesome, and may be great for simple documents typed up in Word that are just paragraphs and easily reflowed. But in many workflows, including mine, documents like that I can easily publish as web pages that don't need Acrobat liquid mode. The only PDFs I create are digital representations of printed content that generally has intricate design, columns, art, photos, etc. Many times the graphic elements are intentionally positioned in a way that only makes sense if it stays that way. A liquid layout adjustment would destroy it.

George McKinlay

Try using a screenreader on an unstructured or poorly structured PDF document, especially forms. Horrendous experience, and Adobe gets zero points for VoiceOver support in Acrobat. Texts, especially if you’re want to read it aloud are better as EPUB. Putting lipstick on a…

"The core problem is that PDF stores text based on how it’s laid out rather than based on the logical sequence of characters. So Adobe has to use AI to try to recover the original structure."

The content can be tagged to give a reading order for screen-readers – this could be used to guide a liquid mode reflow. The tagging has to be done by the content creator, whether that's in InDesign before export, or in Acrobat itself. However, there's always a however... From my experience with clients who want me to create accessible PDFs, budgets rarely extend to doing this properly and are more a box-ticking effort with a couple of alt-tags here and there

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