Collaborating in geospatial context since 2000!

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!