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PDF is a tried and tested format for the robust exchange of documents across a wide variety of systems and platforms. The openness of PDF has helped build an ecosystem of various applications and services, both open and closed source, to manipulate and process PDF files. This is thanks to the fact that the core functionality — the ability to display the document — is universal.

Our vision is to make PDFs not only universally displayable, but also universally editable. A large variety of applications today generate PDF files, but otherwise use their own proprietary formats for saving editable versions of the document natively. Even though they each have their own model of a document, these applications have many features in common, with text and text formatting being the most common of all. So we are focusing on text first and foremost when developing Editable PDF.

Editable PDF will offer an alternative to proprietary document formats, enabling text and similarly common content types to be edited universally, yet be rich enough to allow storage of specialized metadata that might only be of interest to the application that originated it. It will be finally possible to use a variety of tools, “the best one for each job”, when working on a single document, without complex, lossy import/export procedures.

But the Editable PDF Initiative is more about just engineering an editable document format. It also offers us the opportunity to rethink the way that word processing is done in the age of the Web, alleviating many of the inefficiencies that we still have today when working with documents. The following pages explain our vision to unify the methods of batch and interactive (WYSIWYG) authoring, as well as bringing PDF and the Web closer together.

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