Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Aussie Government Gives PDF the Thumbs Down

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the how-was-this-study-published? dept.

Software 179

littlekorea writes "The central IT office of the Australian Government has advised its agencies to offer alternatives to Adobe's Portable Document Format to ensure folks with impaired vision are able to consume information on the Web. A Government-funded study found that PDFs can present themselves as image-only files to screen readers, rendering the information contained within them unreadable for the vision impaired."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

A subset of PDF files? (1)

0olong (876791) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401112)

Couldn't they have just required that the text portions of a PDF files are actually text?

Re:A subset of PDF files? (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401136)

Given the number of times government officials around the world have failed to understand the difference between removing text in a PDF and replacing it with black and just covering the text over with black, they'd probably get it wrong about half the time even with best intentions.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401458)

This is the dumbest government ever. If there's text, there is TEXT. It's about people who MAKE the content.

Aussies IT Directors Retarded (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401960)

Remember the Sydney Olympic Games website being non-readable?
Did they learn anything? Nooooo.

And many .gov.au sites still depend on IE6 - they are frozen to a defunct standard, and applications standardized around 17' in LCD monitor resolution.

The Australian AG's office nearly mostly password protects and bitmaps all its corro to it clients
for the sole reason to make things harder. Brain dead.

This is forgetting all the very real and stark security holes associated PDF's and ADOBE.

Now some have gone a step further and sharepointed things.

The ANAO (Audit Office) should simply go around and give Dept's 'F' for disability considerations, and substandard policy setting.

Re:Aussies IT Directors Retarded (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402904)

PDF is not in itself a security hole... Adobe's reader on the other hand has many, and the problem is made worse by the apparent monoculture - many people think pdf is a proprietary format and that only the adobe tools are capable of reading it... I have even seen mac users download and install adobe reader because they think its required, had they simply attempted to open the pdf file in the first place they would have found that OSX ships with a much better PDF reader out of the box.

When anything has 90%+ marketshare it becomes a target for hackers, IE has been beaten down so is far less attractive so now people target flash and acrobat.

We really need user education, get enough people using alternative PDF readers and no single program will have enough marketshare to attract so much hostile attention.

Re:Aussies IT Directors Retarded (1)

ynohoo (234463) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402940)

So where is the free PDF editor? Never mind, there isn't one.

Who wants dead tree format anyway? Most times I follow a link and discover the content is PDF, I give it a pass. If you want to publish on the web, use HTML.

Re:Aussies IT Directors Retarded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34403018)

Which part of the word "reader" in the GP's post did you not understand? Where did you get the "free" part from? There are lots of alternatives to Acrobat, even for editing, but they are either free of easy.

Re:Aussies IT Directors Retarded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34403384)

OpenOffice.org (or LibreOffice for that matter) can output PDF, pdfLaTeX, even free "Desktop Publishing" editors like Scribus. Research before making silly claims.

Re:Aussies IT Directors Retarded (2, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403422)

Are you talking about modifying existing pdf files, or simply creating new ones?

OpenOffice/LibreOffice has a PDF Import extension which does a pretty good job of editing, i also found via a very quick google search a pdfedit program on sourceforge - http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfedit/ [sourceforge.net]

As for creating pdf files, there are countless programs for doing that, openoffice, pdflatex, virtually anything that can print to postscript combined with ps2pdf etc etc etc.

Sure, HTML is preferable to PDF for web content, but PDF is a pretty good format when used appropriately.

Re:Aussies IT Directors Retarded (2, Insightful)

VolciMaster (821873) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403554)

Most times I follow a link and discover the content is PDF, I give it a pass. If you want to publish on the web, use HTML.

And if you *truly* want to ensure it *always* looks the same *everywhere*, you use PDF

Re:Aussies IT Directors Retarded (1)

juasko (1720212) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403758)

Ever used OSX?

Re:Aussies IT Directors Retarded (1)

snugge (229110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403126)

With current laptop resolutions (usually so called "HD"), a 5 year old 17" monitor is not that bad....

Re:A subset of PDF files? (0)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401138)

Yeah, that's like asking alternatives to websites because the text could be inside a graphic file.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401618)

Nope, it's more like telling your webmasters not to put graphical text banners on the company website.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (2, Insightful)

TCDown (1788954) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402264)

I don't understand the comparrison between websites and PDF's? Graphical text banners, or images that contain text, are perfectly acceptable under WCAG, as long as alt text or long descriptions are used correctly. And if a PDF is correctly created then text can easily be read by a screen reader.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402930)

The problem is as usual, one of incompetence and ignorance.

Incompetent users create websites without appropriate alt tags, and those same users create PDF files which are also incorrectly created...

Ignorant users then view these files and don't notice, or don't care, that they have not been created correctly.

Because only a very small minority of users actually do bother to check, they simply get ignored.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (2, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403402)

No, that would be analogous to allowing PDF, but requiring the text portions actually be text.

And that would actually be reasonable.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (2, Insightful)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403520)

Working as a web developer for the Canadian gov't, we had some similar rules for content. Mainly, you always had to provide it in the most accessible form possible. This usually meant HTML > PDF > Office Document. However, it was always on a best effort/convenience basis. So, if you posted PowerPoint slides, you also had to post the PDF versions, since making a PDF version was dead simple. However, we certainly weren't required to go all out and make a usable HTML version as well.

We also offered many things (eg. transcription or translation) on an "as requested" basis, since technically we were suppose to offer them, but realistically we didn't have the budget to do it for everything. This worked well.

I think just flat out banning PDFs is stupid. Require accessibility (best-effort), but allow for wiggle room. Yeah, it would be great if all PDFs had real text in them, but if the choice for some gov't agency is to either post an inaccessible version of the document or post nothing at all (because the time/cost required to make it accessible is too high), then they should be able to post the inaccessible version.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (3, Insightful)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401178)

Yes, but what easier way for a bureaucrat than: printing the document, inserting into a scanner (err.. document center) and ... voila, job done.

Learn how to operate another program? Spend from the budget for another set of licenses? (the horror)... start to use Open Office or the like?

Re:A subset of PDF files? (1, Informative)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402964)

Last time I checked Adobe reader had built-in OCR and text-to-speech even in the free Acrobat Reader. The IT director was just plain lazy, or there's some lobbying.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34403038)

Last time I checked Adobe reader had built-in OCR and text-to-speech even in the free Acrobat Reader. The IT director was just plain lazy, or there's some lobbying.

Who exactly is to use the OCR or text-to-speech? The bureaucrat (/IT director) or the vision-impaired person?

OCR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401196)

Morons. Regardless of the destination file format, if you scan something it will be inaccessible unless some special processing is done (OCR).

Acrobat sucks, but PDF is actually a decent format (if you have a decent reader [wikipedia.org] )
And it helps if the PDF authors aren't incompetent.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (4, Informative)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401230)

ISO already has created the standardized PDF/X subsets [wikipedia.org] used widely in the publishing industry. They lack support for extra features like scripting and other extensions.

The main problem with PDF for document archives is that it is a presentation format and doesn't adequately preserve text structure since everything is broken down into lines of text or individually placed glyphs. Analysis of a page layout can only bring back so much. There are better ways to store data that offer more versatility.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (2, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401332)

XML to the rescue!

Oh, noes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401972)

That would just shift the burden from blind people not being able to read the document (which is bad) to even more people becoming blind by reading through grotty XML (which might be considered as worse).

Re:Oh, noes! (1)

Marble1972 (1518251) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402604)

I like ;)

Re:Oh, noes! (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402980)

Yeah, it's not like regular browsers could display XHTML.

Wooosh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34403184)

Actually, $(SUBJECT) says it all.

Nevertheless, I'm sick of the heavy pandemia of XMLitis our craft is going through.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (1)

u17 (1730558) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403708)

You might think this is funny, but I encourage you to try out strings file.pdf | less on a couple of pdf files. Turns out there actually is xml embedded inside some pdf files:

<</Subtype/XML/Length 3643/Type/Metadata>>stream
<?xpacket begin="
" id="W5M0MpCehiHzreSzNTczkc9d"?>
<x:xmpmeta xmlns:x="adobe:ns:meta/" x:xmptk="Adobe XMP Core 4.0-c316 44.253921, Sun Oct 01 2006 17:08:23">
<rdf:RDF xmlns:rdf="http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#">
<rdf:Description rdf:about=""
xmlns:xap="http://ns.adobe.com/xap/1.0/">
[...]

Re:A subset of PDF files? (1)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402242)

There is also the PDF/A standard, which is designed for exactly this purpose. It's a subset of the PDF spec for long term archiving of documents and it disallows a lot of things like scripting, similar to PDF/X.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PDF/A [wikipedia.org]

Re:A subset of PDF files? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401260)

Adobe does not use the operating system functions to render the text, I guess that's the root of the problem.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403526)

Is that a problem of the pdf format or a problem of one specific pdf reader?

Re:A subset of PDF files? (1)

Wingit (98136) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401582)

Yes! I don't always want the slow rendering of a pdf. I want content. One format of convenience for the publisher should work for those of us that want the content. I avoid pdf files on a regular basis because a simple html file will work for many things. The overhead and long pause for a less-than-usable pdf is silly much of the time.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (3, Insightful)

Kizor (863772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402020)

I expect they could require that all they wanted, and it still wouldn't happen.

If my usability manuals are to be believed, people have neglected the safeties of nuclear reactors because those things are a chore and do nothing anyway. If you don't want your users to do something, then you design your system so that they never get the option.

Re:A subset of PDF files? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403418)

Which is not at all a reason to not allow PDFs.

After all, if people aren't going to follow the rules anyway, what makes them think banning PDFs will prevent government agencies from using PDFs? If the rules will actually be enforced, why not simply add a rule that the PDF in question be accessible?

Re:A subset of PDF files? (1)

node_chomsky (1830014) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402968)

Since when did anyone described as a 'government official' find a graceful solution to problem?

southern hemisphere note! (3, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401134)

A thumbs down in the southern hemisphere is the same as a thumbs up in the northern hemisphere, as long as you name the file bruce.pdf. It saves confusion.

Re:southern hemisphere note! (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401170)

as long as you name the file bruce.pdf. It saves confusion

This one? [paperinside.com]

So can any format (1, Troll)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401144)

So can a webpage, or a word document.

I suppose a pure text file cannot, but at the expense of other meta-data. Why not require PDFs to have word position OCR done (part of Acrobat Pro, so hardly a chore), and keep info like page number and position on page for scans. For non-scans it would take effort to destroy the text data.

Hell, even in ASCII I could use something like figlets to generate large letters (for easy reading), and destroy assessibility.

This sounds like bozo official had a scanned hard-copy in PDF, ran into trouble, and blamed the format (even though it would offer a good way to handle the situation built in) rather than the other bozo that scanned it, and didn't use the built in OCR function. I'm pretty sure these people would do the same with HTML, OOXML or ODF; it's not the formats fault.

Re:So can any format (3, Informative)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401314)

No it doesn't sound like a bozo official since that style of pdf was specifically excluded from the user study they ran.

You could of course skim the report and know that, but I guess that would mean you couldn't launch into meaningless rants.

Of ocurse if you did that you'd know the report is available in PDF format which I guess would just launch you on a different meaningless rant.

PDF Format is like ATM Machine and PIN Number (1)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402244)

Portable Document Format... Format.

Re:PDF Format is like ATM Machine and PIN Number (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403440)

Yes, welcome to English.

Re:So can any format (3, Informative)

Barny (103770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401656)

You do know that in Australia it is law that a company make their website accessible for vision impaired if at all possible.

Plain text? (2, Interesting)

inflex (123318) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401152)

Other than plain text, are there really many other alternatives which don't endure levels of difficulty. Only other options I can see out there at the moment are ePub, simplified HTML or RTF - but of course then they all fall short of the possibly desired 'fancy formatting'.

As someone will likely also mention, why not just mandate that the PDF contents are actually text, as opposed to images (which is annoying to anyone!).

So the problem is fancy formatting. (5, Insightful)

robbak (775424) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401366)

And the rest of us say "Get rid of it". We do not access government documents to be blown away by their totally rad page style. We access them for information, and extracting the information from the glumph that encases it is sometimes hard for the best of us.

html all the way. Any formatting you cannot fit in a simple stylsheet can get left out.

Re:So the problem is fancy formatting. (1, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402860)

Congratulations, you have jut declared that you do not wish to be able to download forms over the internet.

Re:So the problem is fancy formatting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34403380)

And the rest of us say "Get rid of it". We do not access government documents to be blown away by their totally rad page style. We access them for information, and extracting the information from the glumph that encases it is sometimes hard for the best of us.

html all the way. Any formatting you cannot fit in a simple stylsheet can get left out.

Whoa, does your government somehow not use standardized printed forms? Mine seems to exist primarily to churn those out!

What government is this, and how can I move there?

Re:Plain text? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34403688)

As someone will likely also mention, why not just mandate that the PDF contents are actually text, as opposed to images (which is annoying to anyone!).

I work at a government agency where the people in charge of the effort to scan millions of pages of records don't even know what OCR is. Every single damn document in the whole system is just a PDF JPG. It's fucking awesome looking through two or three million records for something with no ability to search text.

Throwing out the baby with the bath water (2, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401156)

That is the case with badly done PDFs where pages are rendered as images. PDFs done via the office plugin or Openoffice or any other proper authoring package at the default settings have the text present and the fonts embedded instead so should work fin as far as accessibility.

How about enforcing some computer literacy on document publishers instead?

Re:Throwing out the baby with the bath water (4, Informative)

robbak (775424) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401386)

Not necessarily. PDF does not preserve text flow. It breaks up paragraphs into lines (or less if kerning has been altered), and places them accurately on the page. If you have a multi-column layout, then a pdf-to-text algorithm (first step in screen reading) is likely to put column-2-line-1 between column-1-lines-{1 and 2}. Best of luck sorting that out.

Re:Throwing out the baby with the bath water (4, Informative)

peppepz (1311345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402792)

Not necessarily. PDF does not preserve text flow. It breaks up paragraphs into lines (or less if kerning has been altered), and places them accurately on the page.

This is not true. PDF is capable of preserving text flow if the document contains such information. See this as an example [hoboes.com] : if you open it in acrobat reader and move the text cursor using the down arrow, you'll see it travel correctly among columns and paragraphs.
No page description format will help if the page has been generated in a broken way: for instance, try extracting text from the tables of an html page generated by javascript.

If you have a multi-column layout, then a pdf-to-text algorithm (first step in screen reading) is likely to put column-2-line-1 between column-1-lines-{1 and 2}. Best of luck sorting that out.

In this case it is the pdf-to-text algorithm to be broken, and should be fixed.

Really? (0)

Anonymous Squonk (128339) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401174)

As there are a bunch of tools that can convert a PDF to an audio file [google.com] , I find it hard to believe that there are no screen readers that can handle a PDF file.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401254)

perhaps if you actually read the article you would understand. it is not reading the PDF file, it is reading ones tthat have been specifically done as image only. please point to which of your tools there will read a picture to the person?

Re:Really? (3, Interesting)

robbak (775424) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401396)

Also consider pdfs with complex page layouts. Deciphering the text flow from them is often hard for eyeballs, let alone computers.
2 columns is enough to throw out many screen readers.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401592)

The PDF format has the ability to store the logical structure of the document. Called a "Tagged PDF" it contains tags specifying the structure of the document eg paragraphs, headings, tables, columns, lists etc. It allows the document to be reflowed to fit different size screens, and better support accessibility software. It may be the case that text to speech software does not have good support for tagged PDF or that most of the PDFs on the Internet are untagged. But the PDF format itself is not the problem.

Re:Really? (2, Insightful)

Barny (103770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401702)

Yes it is, these shouldn't be features, it should be simple for a text-speech program to follow without having some tacked on standard that you now have to expect everyone to follow.

The layout should compliment the data, not vice versa. If you have to think for one second "will my document be able to be accessed by vision impaired" then that is one second more than it should be, if you type three columns of text in a continuous flow, it should be able to read it back as such without having to go over it later and mark it up.

In other news (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401208)

The Australian government requires all computer monitors have a braille touchscreen added in case a blind person wants to use one.

This is ridiculous. (0, Troll)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401216)

The file format is not to blame. Morons who scan text-based documents into PDF files, saving each page as an image are to blame. Even in 1995 or so, when I was first exposed to OCR technology, it worked "fairly well." Anyone converting text to PDF by scanning pages in as images these days is a complete moron, and a huge variety of applications now support exporting text-based documents directly to PDF format with full text search and indexing capabilities intact, along with fancy formatting like gasp italics, bold script, superscript, subscript, numbers, fairly complex mathematical expressions, etc. Hell, images can even be embedded in PDF docs that are largely textual content (holy wow, the technology!), along with alternate text and hyperlinks. In other words, "WTFMATE."

Re:This is ridiculous. (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401342)

Why no try looking at the study before jumping to your conclusion?

Re:This is ridiculous. (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401410)

Why are you assuming I didn't review the study? I did, and again, the conclusions are deeply flawed. The appropriate course of action would be to instantiate improved policies for the production of documents that appear in PDF format for general consumption. Once again, the file format itself is not the problem.

Re:This is ridiculous. (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403378)

Because the case you stated was the one the explicitely excluded so either you didn't review it or you are just trying to confuse things on purpose.

Security (1)

atomicstrawberry (955148) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401220)

Possiblly not a bad thing given the vast amount of security flaws and exploits that PDF has been hit with, especially over the last few years.

Re:Security (-1, Troll)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401292)

For purposes of this particular discussion, I don't give a rip about security vulnerabilities from exploits in PDFs. We're talking about the accessibility of content that by all rights should be easily accessible to the vision impaired. On that note, it is firmly the fault of absolute morons (who are, in my experience, in the minority of content producers, by the way) who elect to convert text-based documents to PDF docs consisting of nothing more than one rendered image per page of content. It's actually beyond moronic, and I would formally reprimand anyone I found doing it with anything that was destined for even semi-public consumption. Above all else, it largely eliminates accessibility for everyone, including folks like myself who might idly attempt to search such PDFs for a specific term, and wind up screwed, because the idiot who created the document couldn't be bothered with operating an elementary piece of OCR software or gasp seeing if there was an alternate origin format that could likely be exported to a full-text-indexed PDF document with three clicks of the mouse.

Re:Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401320)

Paragraphs, please.

Re:Security (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401340)

Wow, the GP response occupies maybe 6x2 inches on my MBP display, and that's with the browser window occupying perhaps only 3/5 of the horizontal space available on the LCD. I think perhaps the issue lies with your particular parsing of the content.

PDF has its merits (1)

tsj5j (1159013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401258)

I really like PDF's ability to retain the font and display of the document without worrying about fonts and the application.
Since I have to distribute documents that are read on a variety of systems, including Linux, OSX, iPhone/Pad and Windows, PDF really beats all other alternatives in compatibility.

Adobe should really work on creating a text/image-only version of PDF without their fancy password protecting features and what-not.
If they don't, perhaps an open source group can take on the challenge.

Re:PDF has its merits (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401316)

Many applications can already export directly to PDF on exactly the terms you've described, and there are things like CutePDF [cutepdf.com] that will allow you to "print" from any application to a PDF file with a couple of clicks under Windows. On Mac OS X and Linux platforms, you can typically just save any document as a PDF file, at least from most native apps. The capabilities you're describing are already in place, and there's no need to worry about strictly text and image-based docs you've created falling prey to any sort of vulnerability, at least not in the scope you've described.

What about Flash? Check out this site: (5, Interesting)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401270)

Look at this page [fremontpolice.org] . It's for a local police department in a city that has lots of blind people because of the presence of the California School for the Blind. This is the first page that Google lists for the site. I can't imagine that a screen reader can make anything of the front page and there are no navigation buttons.

Re:What about Flash? Check out this site: (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401336)

No navigation buttons? It's worst than that. Without plug-ins, all you get is a gradient in the background of an otherwise empty page.

Re:What about Flash? Check out this site: (2, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401998)

Nonsense! When I visit that site, I see a HUGE button and some normal, selectable text ("Click here to get the plug-in"). A screenreader would do fine with that. Oh, wait...

Re:What about Flash? Check out this site: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34402362)

The screen reader skipped right past that to this page: http://fremontpolice.org/index.html [fremontpolice.org]
All the image buttons have hover-over text that is read and it is all simple HTML.

It's nice of them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401288)

that they made a PDF version of the report.

What format (2, Insightful)

bigtreeman (565428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401296)

Missing from the statement is what the preferred format is.

I would expect a Microsoft format from our illustrious leaders.

Reads like a fairly dumb statement which is what I always
expect from our government.

Sounds like a lead up to them locking themselves (us) into
using a proprietary, expensive, unusable system.

Who , me , negative ,
yep

Re:What format (1)

headLITE (171240) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401454)

Of course a Word document is better suited. So is anything else that preserves the text itself, as opposed to preserving its rendered form. HTML is pretty good for this too. With PDF it can be hard to even figure out where the next word in a sentence is. It doesn't have anything to do with proprietary or not, there are enough free or open formats that work, it's just that PDF is not one of them.

Re:What format (3, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401710)

I would expect a Microsoft format from our illustrious leaders.

Bingo. Anyone who doesn't see Microsoft's hand in this is hopelessly naive.

think of the blind people (1)

Mordie (1943326) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401490)

The key problem that the majority seem to be overlooking here is that the people affected by this are disabled (mostly the blind). 1 you’re either blind or mostly blind, this is pretty bad, life has already given you the short-end. Screens are designed to be read, this is a fact. 2 your blind and thus probably not they most computer savvy person, your probably getting your friends son to fix this up for you, by installing software meant to fix this. 3 the tools made to help these people are not very well made, most are just providing magnification, or doing text to speech. 4 the office-person that takes a written document , scans it in the office scanner and then puts the result on the web, are not thinking about the poor blind barstard that can see it, its not in their job description.

Death be to Government PDFs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401502)

Finally! Hopefully now we won't have to use those hideous Interactive PDFs [australia.gov.au] that the Electoral Commissions force us to use for digital submissions.

Old School (1)

jeremiahstanley (473105) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401548)

I'm pretty sure that 90% of all documents on the internet need nothing more fancy than RTF encoding or even a very simple set of BBCode tags to be usable. I know PDFs are supposed to have tons of features but why not just be simple and stick with ASCII?

Re:Old School (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401780)

Most documents need tables, this is where BBCode fails.

PDFs preserve page layout (this precious, manually adjusted with spaces and line breaks, page layout). Before reintroducing anything other than MS Word or PDF, one should recondition army of clerks, to care about meaning, not looks of documents.

WTF? (3, Funny)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401692)

What does it matter that they can't read the text? PDFs aren't about content, they are about preserving the layout. At least that is what it seems like to me when I am foolish enough to try and read PDFs on a device with a different number of pixels than the person who made the PDF file.
If the content matters at all, someone should invent a technology that allows text to be tagged somehow with indicators of the MEANING of that portion of text, like 'this is a title', and let the display device render the text according to how the reader can best view it. It sounds crazy, and it may take a few decades to do, but think of the benefits.

Re:WTF? (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401910)

If the content matters at all, someone should invent a technology that allows text to be tagged somehow with indicators of the MEANING of that portion of text, like 'this is a title', and let the display device render the text according to how the reader can best view it. It sounds crazy, and it may take a few decades to do, but think of the benefits.

Yes, everyone, this is possibly the richest seam of sarcasm ever discovered on /.

Re:WTF? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34402614)

Ye gods! It reads over 9000 on the sarcasmotron!

not Turing-complete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34403876)

someone should invent a technology that allows text to be tagged somehow with indicators of the MEANING of that portion of text, like 'this is a title', and let the display device render the text according to how the reader can best view it.

Sorry, but SGML already fell by the wayside because it was "too hard" to implement.

Now all we have are pre-printed flash cards (HTML) that do not allow you to indicate most of the possible meanings of a particular portion of text; it would be nice to have the alphabet (SGML) back.

Or, to put it in computer-nerd terms, its as if we replaced our Turning-complete language with one that's not Turning-complete.

OZ gov't is a bunch of whiners (1)

christoofar (451967) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401696)

The Aussie government failed to recommend a standard that supplants PDF in such a way that it handles all the cases one would expect to handle. So what's the point of this exercise that the OZ gov't did other than basically say without words... 'we should publish everything in XML documents since at least those can be parsed to some degree?

You know, there should be an industry-standard sheet of paper (Letter/AF) that meets the JAWS difficulty test, much in the same way there are test HTML pages that test web browser compliance with HTML 1.1/5.0.

Needless to say, blind people already have solutions for reading printed text that is not braille. Print the PDF and then scan it back into OCR-to-speech software. I'm sure someone by now has invented the OCR-capable print driver that eliminates the need to print to paper to reach the step of reading scanned paper.

Create a PDF document that has radially-printed text, "The green fox slept and fellated the brown dog." printed in a straight line, then printed in a spiral, and then printed upside down.

Then for Hebrew and Arabic (RTL languages), the same type of sentence... printed in RTL in various configurations.

Then the newsprint column layout, etc. etc. etc.

Point JAWS at the PDF, or use the PDF reader's built in speech interpretation, and let PDF vendors attain for certified compliance from the accessibility software industry.

Problem solved.

Re:OZ gov't is a bunch of whiners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34401894)

As a vision impared Australian I am pleased to see this ruling come out on their departments not being allowed to use PDF.

I don't wish to wait 5 years until the torture test you mention is done, I want to be able to read what is on the government sites now.

Stupid headline - sorry (1)

BudAaron (1231468) | more than 3 years ago | (#34401832)

Who writes these idiot gloom and doom headlines. I truly hate misleading BS like this!!!!

Death To PDF (1)

z-j-y (1056250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402116)

PDF's main goal is to make sure that a document always *looks* the same(if you have eyes that can look). But what's the point of that? Who cares about the precise graphic layout? Most PDFs that we encounter could have served their purpose better by being HTML documents. For gov documents, it's highly unlikely that they contain complex math equations that require careful layout.

Isn't it ironic (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402196)

Well, now here's a rich story. A story about lack of accessibility...on Slashdot. Surely this site is highly qualified to criticize others.

Re:Isn't it ironic (1)

joelito_pr (931211) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402830)

More qualified than a graphic inside a PDF. And don't call me Shirley.

Not the format (1)

ruf10 (961050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402360)

It's not the format wrong, it's users. We in Poland have the same problem with gov's documents. Those morons write documents in ms word, then print them, then scan the printed document and embed scanned image in PDF. PDF *can* contain and preserve the content as text, with format and layout. the user who choose to misuse it is the problem.

Re:Not the format (1)

fbobraga (1612783) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402470)

Those morons write documents in ms word, then print them, then scan the printed document and embed scanned image in PDF.

It isn't a exclusivity of Poland: I see it all day long here, in Brazilian gov.

Re:Not the format (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402544)

lol did they miss the plugin that acrobat provides for word

Re:Not the format (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402730)

Yes. It costs money, whereas their photocopier already has a scan to pdf facility.

consume information? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34402426)

iIliterate fscker - people don't consume information.

Not a problem with format (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402782)

My reading of this is not so much that there is something inherently wrong with the PDF format itself, but rather with how it is used. If you are a government agency, producing documents for public consumption, you better know how the hell to produce a PDF with searchable, readable text, and not sequester it to image-only. If you can't get that single concept into your head, it won't matter what fucking format you use.you would think bureaucrats, with their stickler for regulation and procedure, would be able to understand that not every PDF is created equal: some are produced much better than others.

The authors of the report say as much in their summary:

while accessibility of the Portable Document Format is improving, like most tools, it cannot compensate for poor design. Content authors need to design accessibility into their documents from the outset.

And while both the article summary and the report itself stress the need to provide alternate formats alongside (or in place of) PDF, the full report is scant on details or comparative tests of other formats. HTML and RTF seem decent options, as they permit some text formatting options (but are not wedded to them) and are platform-independent. But when you start adding graphics to the mix (as sometimes must happen) their portability tanks. They also cannot prevent the same problem that plagues PDFs: when some dipshit just scans a document and spits out an image-only file.

(PS - would it have killed the submitter and editors to link to the main report page [finance.gov.au] , rather than only to a second-hand link from ITNews Australia?)

Re: Not a problem with format (1)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403632)

you would think bureaucrats, with their stickler for regulation and procedure, would be able to understand that not every PDF is created equal

You answer your own implied question: being sticklers for regulation and procedure means they don't have to, you know, think about what they're doing.

Poorly created PDF files (3, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34402884)

So basically they are saying that *because* it is possible to produce a shoddy PDF file which is basically an image dump, that this is reason enough not to use the format?
By this same reckoning, you could produce a really shoddy HTML page which also consists of images and no text... Virtually any format could be misused in this way.

So what's the alternative? That we all revert back to ASCII text since its incapable of holding graphics?

Personally i hate seeing poorly designed websites or pdf files as i described here, where the text is actually an embedded image (or worse - a flash file) and there is no clickable index etc.
We should probably start naming and shaming pdf creation software, and those who use (or misuse) such tools.

This Just In: Adobe gives the Aussie Govt a big (0)

harrytuttle777 (1720146) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403392)

    ______
  (( ____ \-^ChTrSrFr
  (( _____
  ((_____
  ((____ ----
            / /
          (_((
Thumbs DOWN!

Seriously why do governments feel they need to do this B.S. It sounds like the Aussie government is just as retarded as my U.S. one. I am sure Austrailians feel better now that adobe is required to design a system whereby blind people can see.

The desire to create a world where everybody has equal access to everything is a pipe dream. Blind people will never have equal access to the world in which we live. The reason has something to do with the fact that they are BLIND!. You see blind people can't see. This is probably the quintessential point to being BLIND. I figured this out on my own without a government salary. I also did it being an U.S.ian, and you all know how stupid we are. So does this mean stupid usians are smarter the aussies?

Seriously when can we get julian assage to investigate the Austrailian Government. I can see that it is probably rife with stupidity and undoubtable has some deep dark secrets.

-P.S. I no i mispelled Australian, but i don't care because i am a greedy usian imperialist, and it would go against my nature to not try and commandeer the english language.

Of all the reasons to hate Adobe (1)

VoiceInTheDesert (1613565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34403396)

That's the one they choose? It wasn't the gaping security holes, the incessant patch requests (that are never even 6 steps behind the security holes) or the laborious installation/upgrade process? I'm sorry, I know blind people have it tough on the internet, but this is really the dumbest of the reasons I could imagine you would switch away from a nearly universally accepted format.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?