The Perils of PDF

June 25, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Posted in hands-on | Leave a comment
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Normally I think of PDF files as a simple solution to cross-platform access, but I’ve had some problems with it this week. The first of these was to do with the narrated slide shows created using Adobe Presenter. As I’ve mentioned before, this is an add-on to PowerPoint that makes it simple to record narrations for each slide and then output it in a compact size with great navigation – it also enables some extras such as file attachments and embedded test questions with audio feedback. There are two output options 1) a ZIP file containing all the SWF graphics, MP3 audio, HTML web page and the bits and bobs that make up the interface or 2) a PDF file containing the same. I thought that the PDF option was easier to use, as it is a single file that is simple to add to Blackboard or EdShare – so just click the link to view. The ZIP file is a little more complex to add in both cases – its not difficult, but it isn’t as easy as adding a PDF.

However, this week I found that older versions of the free Adobe Reader don’t play nicely with this type of PDF – and we can’t expect all our users to have the latest. More seriously, it doesn’t work for Apple Mac users who typically use the built-in Preview application to view PDFs and have never gotten round to installing Adobe Reader. As a result, I ‘ve pulled all the PDF presentations from EdShare and replaced them with the ZIP version.

The other fly in the PDF ointment is its inability to convert URLs that are split over two lines in a document – it just uses whatever is on the first line. I tried cheating it in Word by splitting the URL into two text segments and then linking each of them to the whole URL, but Acrobat’s automated conversion ignored this ruse. Eventually, I created TinyURLs for the dysfunctional links so they did just fit on one line.

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