Collaborating in geospatial context since 2000!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New TerraGo Blog

After a pretty good run -- more than five years! -- we're closing down the GeoPDF blog and moving over to the TerraGo blog. The first post is rounding up folks to join us for webinar wherein we discuss deploying assets with TerraGo GeoPDF.

Comments have been disabled here. If you have something to say, please come say it at the new site!

Friday, July 30, 2010

(Geo)PDF is open and is more than graphics

I just got back from an interesting GeoWeb 2010 in Vancouver, BC. There I was asked why we picked PDF and not something "open" like SVG?

There are two problems with this question. I'll defer the "open" question and deal with the more insidious one: the conflation of PDF with simple graphics formats like SVG. By simple, I don't mean uncomplicated, just that they're only focused on one thing: graphics. PDF is better thought of as a document-centric container format, which includes in its definition a powerful page description syntax. It also defines ways of making annotations, adding interactive features, organizing pages and other document structure, embedding metadata related to the document, page contents, and almost any other element contained within a PDF file.

All of these elements are specified by an ISO standard: ISO 32000. Adobe made special arrangements with ISO to be allowed to freely distribute the draft specification that was adopted by ISO. You can find it on the all things PDF spec page, along with their latest extensions. Before it was a de jure open standard, it had always been a de facto open standard. Adobe made the spec open years ago. I've been referring to it since 2000. If you would like to read that sentence with a reverberating baritone "The Year 2000", feel free.

PDF is open under almost any reasonable definition of the word, I'd say.

TerraGo adopted PDF as the container format for GeoPDF products, because it *was* a de facto open standard for the delivery of interactive documents. By adding interactive features that guided people through a workflow, or allowed them to navigate through one more efficiently, TerraGo turned a collection of interactive document into an application.

When TerraGo creates a map book or other a GeoPDF compostiting application that brings down layers from ArcGIS Server and smushes it into a GeoPDF in the field, we're building applications -- not just pictures and images -- and we're building them on completely open standards, best practices, and published methods. No user or work-flow data is hidden in proprietary data structures in a GeoPDF product.

GeoPDF, while not a format, implies open. There is nothing to prevent someone from implementing software and applications that consume GeoPDF products and every byte of user data they contain without *any* reverse engineering. It's all right there!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, TerraGo!

TerraGo turns five today. Has it really been five years? Wow! TerraGo has very much transcended being "the GeoPDF guys", but I guess we're still that, too. GeoPDF will continue to evolve, and there is some exciting stuff on the horizon. I'm particularly interested in how to embed secure applications to help guide people through work-flows and manage ad hoc data collection. You know, I think that on-the-fly application configuration would be a racket worth getting in on...

Monday, May 17, 2010

IETF releases "Requirements for a Location-by-Reference Mechanism"

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) released Requirements for a Location-by-Reference Mechanism, or RFC 5808. Place, or unambiguous identification of location, can get complicated quickly, especially when things like security and context come creeping into the equation.

Being able to identify a place in space and time in a (mostly) context free form seems to be of value to me. If I leave my Namiki M90 in my desk at the office, I can ascribe several locations descriptions to it: where I left it, in my drawer, at the office, etc. It's actual location could be used equally well to describe other things: where I left it, my drawer, the office, etc. Time is important, too, since I am prone to pick it up, move it around, write letters, etc. Also, what if an earthquake shifts my desk 3 meters to the West Southwest? What about reuse? Expiry? Confidentiality? Interesting stuff!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Publisher for GeoMedia 5.0 Released

It's been a long time coming, but I'm happy to say that we've pushed Publisher for GeoMedia 5.0 out the door. Hot dang! I won't here repeat what's in the press release. One of the cool things about the product doesn't have anything to do with geo, but rather printing. We've had a provision for mapping RGB values to CMYK for color separation, but we've added some tweaks. Before you had to hack an XML file and do some acrobatics to encode the numerical values, but now there is a editor that does that for you, along with a simplified syntax in the XML for the Emacs set.

GeoMedia is a suite of products for doing all things geo from the friendly people of Intergraph. Back when I was still slinging code for TerraGo, I wrote a low-level library for munging PostScript that was integrated into what was at the time called Map2PDF for GeoMedia and Map2PDF for Digital Cartographic Studio (DCS). We announced those products in April 2006... Anyway, I mention the PostScript to point out that Publisher for GeoMedia uses Adobe Distiller to create the ultimate GeoPDF file. Distiller can be tweaked to produce optimized PDF files with different properties and features. Distiller is a utility for converting PostScript to PDF and ships with Acrobat. This peek behind the scenes offers insight to my round-about methods for demonstrating what we do, but my love affair with PostScript goes back long, long before GeoPDF.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

GeoPDF is not a Format

The name of this blog is GeoPDF. The word GeoPDF has its roots in PDF which is itself is an acronym for Portable Document Format. PDF is defined by an ISO specification. Words like "format" and "specification" might make one think that GeoPDF is a malamanteau of sorts or a perverse play on GeoTIFF. In some sense, the latter is partially correct. GeoPDF has its history in application delivery whereas GeoTIFF has a background in data interoperability. What is GeoPDF? With all due respect to Magritte:
The Treachery of GeoPDF
I like to think of an aspect of GeoPDF -- and PDF -- as an application delivery platform. GeoPDF is the platform on which to build GeoApps. There will be a day when the CamelCased suffixing of Geo to everything will be so redundant as to make no sense, but that day has not arrived. So, on we go with the suffixing. A GeoApp is an application that treats geospatial information as first-class citizens and co-equals of all of the business logic components. But that is for a different post...

Today, GeoPDF is a registered trademark of TerraGo. It's used to brand the mapping products (and GeoApps!) created by TerraGo software. Whether the GeoPDF trademark can withstand xeroxification or genericide of the marketplace remains to be seen. If everybody on the planet uses the word GeoPDF 11 times a day to refer to the geospatial file they mucking with at the time, my job is done and I really won't care if it's generic or not. I imagine a lot of other wonderful things would have had to have happened for that to go down as well.

Today, if a file is created by TerraGo software, it is a GeoPDF file. If it is not created by TerraGo software, it is not a GeoPDF file. This is definitional and the position of TerraGo. I'm not going to defend or debate the rightness or the good-ideaness of the situation in this post, although I welcome comment and debate. GeoPDF encompasses a variety of geospatial encoding flavors, including that described by the OGC best practice as well as Adobe's supplement to ISO 32000. If the georegistration is encoded using OGC, that file is not necessarily GeoPDF. If the georegistration is encoded using Adobe's encoding, that file is not necessarily not GeoPDF. Encoding is irrelevant to GeoPDFness.

GeoPDF is not a format, but it is based on publicly documented format standards and industry best practices. GeoPDF is not defined by its georegistration, but GeoPDF necessarily requires georegistration. GeoPDF is not a data interop or exchange technology, but it certainly can be used for interop if care is taken for those purposes. More on this latter point in a subsequent post.

GeoPDF® is a trademark, but that is of (almost) least interest to me.

As always, the stuff I write here is not the official word-o-TerraGo, but my opinion. I have attempted to describe the official position, but this is not an official position document. Just trying to fill in between the lines...

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Links Restored!

We recently upgraded the TerraGo website, and in the process lost a file cache to which we linked from this site. The links are now restored. LMK if you find things differently.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Origins of GeoPDF: Getting the Data Out There

Many, many moons ago, I worked on a project where we worked to get data out of the engineering groups into the hands of the maintenance groups within and across a conglomerate of telcos. I'm not sure that I can name names even to this day, so I won't. The secrecy never made a lick of sense to me even having considered it from a variety of perspectives, but a customer's confidence is inviolable. ANYWAY, I came across A Room with a Viewer by John Audley that illustrates the environment in which we were working and how people were approaching the problem and the remarkable efforts folks took to whittle away at the problem. We went with normalizing all of the engineering content to PDF and constructing map books by hyperlinking adjacencies, bookmarking street intersections, etc. We even "productized" what we did into somehting called LGIView, as mentioned in a previous post. It wasn't long before people were asking, "Hey! Wouldn't it be neat if we could read out coordinates?" As the picture shows, coordinates made it into LGIView...

Arcane trivia: MPLR = Mechanized Plant Location Records. If you knew that, LMK!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Collaboration with Adobe Acrobat and Reader with PDF Naughty Bits

In an earlier post, I discussed some aspects of Adobe's collaboration infrastructure built on top of Acrobat and Reader. It's probably worth talking about some of the details of how this works without the GeoPDF geoconflation. I try to think about how things work, so I'll describe things from that perspective. Let's start with the PDF file.

A PDF file has provisions to store, among other things, two aspects of an electronic document: document content and document structure. For its paper analog, content would be what's printed on the pages and structure would be the order of the pages. Being electronic (why does "electronic" sound dated? maybe "digital" would be better...), PDF can accommodate more bells and whistles than can be placed in a paper book or letter or map or memorandum or summons or fatwa or proclamation or manifesto or whatever: things like interactive bookmarks, hyperlinks, and metadata. In addition to content and structure, PDF has a provision to store annotations. PDF annotations are analogous to sticky notes: they stick on top of the content at a particular location, but are not part of the content. Although perhaps not as ubiquitous as sticky notes, the PDF analog is much more flexible. PDF provides for a variety of annotations, including geometries like polylines and polygons, stamps, clouds, callouts, measurments, interactive 3D, videos, etc. Annotations are not content. They are, in the internals of the PDF file entirely distinct. Addition, removal, and modification of annotations don't modify the PDF content, just as putting a sticky note on that TPS report doesn't change its contents. Yeeeaaahhhh.....
A PDF annotation
FIG: An Adobe PDF Annotation in Action.

Most annotations can be placed on PDF files out of the box by Adobe Acrobat. Some annotations, like 3D annotations, have to be placed with Acrobat Pro or Pro Extended. Adobe Reader usually cannot modify a PDF file. That's why they call it Reader, and not Modifier, Manipulator, Monkeyer, Munger, or Acrobat. However, Adobe hides little permission bits inside the PDF file that when flipped enable hidden markup tools in Reader and grant permission to use them. In business speak, this is one ways how Adobe "monetizes" Reader. There are two ways to flip those bits: Adobe Acrobat Pro or LiveCycle. The Acrobat method is intended for small work groups and LiveCycle is intended for enterprise work flows.

So, if you want you or someone you love to mark up a PDF file in Adobe Reader, you'll need to have that file enabled for comments by Adobe software. If you don't want to hassle with comment enabling, use Acrobat. Those are the options.

Toolbar is hosted by Acrobat and Reader and plays by the rules dictated by its host environment. If you can't use Adobe's markup tools, you won't be able to use TerraGo's. But that's not the whole story... ready for some geoconflation? Good!

Just as Adobe uses comment enabling to monetize their free Reader, TerraGo uses GeoMark enabling to monetize its free toolbar. Current Publisher and Composer products GeoMark enable by default, but that's only enough to grant TerraGo permssions -- Adobe permissions are required, too. TerraGo Composer can GeoMark enable other geospatial PDF files, such as those created by ESRI ArcMap, Bentley Microstation, and Safe FME.

One thing that's important to note is that this has nothing whatsoever to do with formats, encodings, and openness of standards. TerraGo GeoPDF files are just as open and standards conformant as any other. Just as whether you can markup a PDF file in Reader has nothing to do with the openness of ISO 32000, whether you can access functionality in Toolbar has nothing to do with the openness of the OGC best practice or Adobe's proposed geospatial extensions. Toolbar understands both and Publisher and Composer encode both. Toolbar functionality is tied to permission, not format.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Geotrans 3.0 Released by NGA

Geotrans 3.0 has been released. Geotrans was the coordinate conversion library used in the first implementation of the GeoPDF Toolbar. I think we used 2.2.3 for the first go around. If you don't know what Geotrans is, it's a coordinate conversion calculator, batch tool, and library. More at the Geotrans homepage.

This latest version has a significantly overhauled coordinate conversion interface implemented in C++ and the Geotrans application looks like it's all Java all the time for the GUI. There are a few bug fixes in there as well.
Geotrans 3.0 in the house!
This is 3.0 with the dead sexy Unix skin. If you're wondering what the acronym MSP stands for, it's Mensuration Services Program. Also, it's nifty that 90 W 30 N has LA in the GARS coordinate string.

The core library descends from a very modular and portable C implementation. It's been C++ized, but that is mainly for the revamp of the coordinate conversion interfaces. 3.0 ships with source code and source data for those who are into that kind of stuff.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

GeoMarks and Marking up GeoPDF Files with Toolbar

Hrrmm... it's been a while, I see. High time for a new post!

We recently got an email from a customer who, let's say, had some justified questions about our marketing message and how he perceived our products to behave with respect to GeoMarks and markup. The Toolbar provides a set of tools for placing geospatial markups, or GeoMarks, on GeoPDF files. If you have the Toolbar installed in Adobe Acrobat of any flavor, you can markup GeoPDF and other geospatial PDF files such as those created by ArcMap or Microstation that have been GeoMark enabled. GeoMark enabling is essentially permission from TerraGo to use the markup tools in Toolbar. However, TerraGo's is not the only permission needed to mark things up using free tools: there is also Adobe's when using Reader. If a GeoPDF file is to be marked up in Reader with Toolbar, the file must be GeoMark enabled by TerraGo software and enabled for commenting by Adobe software.

GeoMark enabling can happen two ways. First, any GeoPDF file created by recent versions of TerraGo software are automatically GeoMark enabled. Easy enough. Second, TerraGo Composer has the capability to GeoMark enable any supported geospatial PDF file. As mentioned, GeoMark enabled geospatial PDF file can be marked up by the Toolbar in any flavor of Acrobat capable of hosting it. Using Acrobat has many, many advantages over plain Reader because Adobe's comment enabling restricts a variety of modifications and access to the PDF file that could be useful in different workflows. If Reader is required, then PDF files must be comment enabled by Acrobat software. The requirement is not unique to TerraGo's markups -- Adobe's markup tools share similar restrictions.

Adobe's comment enabling can happen in a couple of ways. The first is PDF file can be brought into Adobe Acrobat Pro or Pro Extended. There are two ways to get to the goods:

Commenting->Enable for Commenting and Analysis in Adobe Reader...

Advanced->Extend Features in Adobe Reader...
The other way to enable commenting in Reader is to use Adobe's LiveCycle server.

There are a variety of licensing issues surrounding comment enabling with Acrobat, so I kindly refer you to your friendly neighborhood Adobe account manager to explain the intricacies of their licensing policies.

To summarize:
* to markup any PDF file, use Acrobat
* to markup a PDF file in Reader, it must be comment enabled by Adobe software
* to apply GeoMarks to a geospatial PDF file, use Composer
* to apply GeoMarks to a geospatial PDF file with Toolbar, the file must be GeoMark enabled by TerraGo software
* to apply GeoMarks to a geospatial PDF file with Toolbar in Reader, the PDF file must be both GeoMark enabled and comment enabled

Hope this helps!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

TerraGo Desktop 5.0.2 Patch Available

A bug fix release of TerraGo Desktop -- the free plug-in to Adobe Reader and Acrobat for working with GeoPDF files -- is available at the download page.

Friday, October 02, 2009

US Army Geospatial Center is a MAX Finalist

The US Army Geospatial Center is a 2009 Adobe MAX Finalist in the Public Sector category. From the site:
From the battlefield to the densest urban center, Army warfighters now have instant access to advanced digital topographic and geographic information delivered in PDF. The application was developed using Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro and Acrobat 9 Pro Extended, as well as TerraGo Composer, a plug-in for Acrobat.
Congratulations to Ray Caputo and all of the hard-working folks at the AGC. Please show your support for their efforts by voting at the MAX Finalist site.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tomas Lopes' Presentation Online

Tomas Lopes' webinar is archived. Enjoy! More than 300 folks showed up. I hardly had time to take in any of the presentation because I was typing away at answers to the many questions that came flying in.