Adobe Ties PDF Format to XML

With Web services rapidly becoming an industry standard, Adobe Tuesday unveiled new technology that ties together its Portable Document Format (PDF) with XML.

The new XML/PDF form designer software, which the company plans to integrate into existing Adobe products by the end of the year, will allow designers to incorporate XML schemas into PDF files, allowing forms to be deployed in PDF and then processed as PDF is today, or delivered as an XML Data Package (XDP) to be processed as XML.

XDP files, according to the company, are simply XML files that contain XML form data, XML form templates, PDF documents and other XML information. They can be easily integrated with enterprise applications via commonly available XML tools and web services.

“With the evolution towards Web services as the integration language of enterprise systems, it’s inevitable that the electronic forms market would also evolve to support Web services directly,” says Tim Hickernell, vice president of analyst firm META Group.

The new technology will allow information to flow both ways between PDF documents and XML files, according to Hickernell. “Thanks to XML, the distinction between enterprise documents and enterprise forms has irreversibly blurred,” he says.

Microsoft has similar technology in its Infopath product, according to Hickernell, which will allow custom XML schemas to be supported in products like Word or Excel. That technology is expected to be released soon, as part of Office 2003.

By allowing PDFs to be processed as XML, Adobe hopes to streamline organizations’ internal operations. For instance, a financial institution can use the technology to make loan applications available online. Anyone with a free Acrobat Reader can download the form, fill it in, and submit the form electronically to the institution. The file can then be integrated directly into the institution’s existing loan processing system.

Adobe said the form designer will be combined with the Adobe Form Server, Adobe Workflow Server, Adobe Document Server and the free Adobe Reader to create an infrastructure for integrating enterprise applications and document workflows throughout an organization. The company plans to make its form designer available for beta testing during the fourth quarter of 2003.

Adobe isn’t the only one working to integrate PDF and XML. The open source Project, which is developing an office productivity suite to compete with Microsoft’s Office, has issued a version of its OpenOffice software which features the ability to export the suite’s native XML documents as PDF. It also supports export to Macromedia Flash,
DocBook, and PDA file formats.