PDF creators, extractors, and editors tested

PDF Full Wash Cycle

© Lead Image © tiero, alexwhite, 123RF.com

© Lead Image © tiero, alexwhite, 123RF.com

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PDF is always a good choice say some people. As a test, we produced PDF files only to maltreat them with several open source programs. Some of the editors and extractors do a very good job, but others fail completely.

Adobe designed the Portable Document Format (PDF) as a layout-preserving transport format for final documents; PDF files cannot be easily edited later on – apart from using standard notation and comment features. The manufacturer, however, does offer a proprietary, commercial editor for Mac and Windows that gives users a restricted ability to delete and move items and correct typos in text.

Because Adobe has disclosed the PDF specification, some tools have fortunately emerged, including some for Linux, that can open PDF files, extract items from them, or even postprocess the files. This only works satisfactorily if the author has set the numerous export settings wisely and uses a program that creates a standards-compliant PDF.

To find out whether, and how well, the tools harmonize, we launched a test on Ubuntu 13.10. Using Inkscape, LibreOffice Writer, and Scribus, the Linux Magazine test team first designed several test documents that they then exported as PDF files with the default settings in each case (see the box "Test Documents").

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