Accessible and user-friendly PDFs

Most PDFs will not be downloaded. Most downloaded PDFs never will be open. Most opened PDF documents will not be read. Most PDF documents that have been read go into the recycle bin after they are closed – either virtually or into the real ones for Internet printers. Only optimists and those who understand print believe that Internet users are just waiting to call up the sluggish PDF reader to read their great PDFs.

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Worst Case PDF

PDF files are a constant nuisance, especially for the blind. Since they are almost never accessible, they have to be converted at great expense , and errors often occur. With multi-column texts, the linearization is incorrect, so that the lines of different columns are lined up and the text cannot be understood. Other documents become unreadable when converted into a jumble of characters.

The biggest annoyance is Adobe Reader itself, which becomes more cluttered and unstable with each version without bringing any noticeable benefits to the normal user. The cooperation between Adobe products and blind software is still unsatisfactory after what feels like an eternity.

Accessibility versus usability

Now one must not confuse accessibility with usability. The savvy user gets the content one way or the other. But the truth is that most persons, disabled or not, aren't tech savvy. For example, many persons don't know how to copy text from a PDF.

Now that I've written quite a bit about PDF accessibility , I'd like to address a few more basic questions here to also address the user-friendliness or usability of PDF files.

Where should you use a PDF?

PDF actually makes sense when dealing with large amounts of information that needs to be designed in some way. A blind person doesn't really care what a text looks like, but for a sighted person a pretty design is important. Since many persons have the strange idea that content should look the same on all platforms and that is very complex with HTML and today's technology, a uniform design can only be realized via PDF or even worse Flash.

If a text has many pages, does not contain any immediately important information, the layout is important and the text does not need to be constantly updated, it can be offered as a PDF. In all other cases, an HTML version should always be available.

The PDF should be accessible

OpenOffice or LibreOffice can create accessible PDFs by default . MS Office can also create tagged PDFs with a plugin from 2007 onwards . Tagged PDF means that a structure is placed over the document, similar to HTML. Without this structure, the PDF for the blind looks like continuous text, headings and paragraphs can only be guessed at. In addition, each time the document is opened, a time-consuming process has to be set in motion, which no blind person likes to allow.

The PDF should be named appropriately

Nothing is more annoying than opening all PDF files to learn about the content. Acrobat Reader is not exactly one of the fast programs thanks to its overload. I just assume that most persons would like to have read their effusions. The best way to prevent this is to give the PDF a name like afaifjaöf.pdf. The background is quite simple: many files are stored on the hard disk for later reading and the content of these files should be recognizable without opening the file.

The PDF should be small

The 50 MB PDF file is very slow when downloading DSL or DSL. This may be appropriate for artwork that is required to have high resolution and image quality of 300 DPI or higher. This file is too big for the Internet, it takes a long time to open and work with it. The only way I know of to reduce the size of existing files is with Adobe's professional programs. Otherwise, you can make sure when creating the images to reduce them to fit the screen, i.e. include JPEG with 72 dpi.

The PDF should not contain any information that is not on the website

From a usability perspective, it makes sense to always make important information as easily accessible as possible. That is, the information should be on the website when it is relevant and important. There's nothing wrong with packing them into a PDF as well, but that shouldn't be a priority.

The PDF should NOT be protected

If you don't want to make your PDF accessible, you should at least avoid protecting it with a password. Tech-savvy persons get to the content one way or another, and everyone else gets annoyed that they can't highlight text.

Above all, it will be impossible for the blind to access the content unless they have high technical skills. And many don't have that.

If you want to protect your content from copyists, you shouldn't put it on the Internet, that's a sad truth.

Think about the environment

It is common for Internet printers to print longer documents. It worries me when persons print out hundreds of pages and then put them in a binder or throw them in the bin after a cursory reading. This is particularly bad for presentations, where 100 pages are printed, the content of which would have fit on 5 pages. Cut the nonsense! Print only the pages you need, cram two or four pages onto an A4 page, use duplex printing, or just leave it as is.

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