This year for PDF Days we celebrated all things PDF and presented virtually on topics from Content Accessibility For All Screen Sizes to 3D and PDF, and more! Read on for the highlights.

PDF Days Online 2021

Whether you’re a heavy PDF technology user, someone who develops PDF apps and solutions for a living, or just an eager PDF aficionado -- PDF Days Online 2021 was the place to be (virtually) this October. During the event, run by the PDF Association, attendees learned all about current and upcoming innovations and found inspiration from experts in the field of document technology. Our very own Head of Product, Andrey Safonov, hosted two motivating sessions aimed at Solution Architects, Product Managers, CTOs, and, of course, developers.

Andrey had this to say about the event:

“PDF is one of the few formats that has stood the test of time and continues to be used by basically every industry to standardize and digitize workflows. PDF Days Online 2021 provides leaders in the industry the ability to collaborate and collectively create the future for the format.”

Let’s jump into our recap!

3D PDF and the Future: Universal Viewing?

In this session, Andrey delved into the history and future of PDF and 3D, including subtopics such as:

  • The use of PDFs to transition and collaborate between 2D and 3D formats, bringing architects (who think in 3D) and engineers (who think in 2D) together
  • The expansion of 3D more broadly and its use integration with other formats
  • New use cases and industry applications
  • And new ways of interacting with 3D in the same UI for viewing other types of content

Andrey presents on 3D PDF's backstory and how PDFTron does 3D today.

When talking about 3D PDFs, we have to go back to the history of how 3D format came about in a PDF document. Travelling back to 1990, when the portable document format was created, PDFs became rapidly adopted.

Fast forward to 2005 where leading PDF players, including Boeing and Adobe, standardized 3D inside PDFs. They created a format so users could pull up and open 3D models directly in their PDFs, and helped engineers and other stakeholders get on the same ‘digital’ page.

Around that time, PRC format support was also introduced to let you create a 3D PDF in Adobe Acrobat’s X or XI Pro.

Today, at PDFTron, we’ve gone in a slightly different direction. Instead of loading up PDFs with 3D embedded, we process the original source 3D formats directly, such as IFC, RVT, DWG, DGN, and others. This approach offers two sizeable benefits:

  1. You can view your 3D models in the same UI you’d use to interact with and collaborate on your other digital content, such as conventional 2D PDFs, images, and Office files, Photoshop & Illustrator images, CAD drawings, video, and audio.

  2. You get rich functionality to interact fully on your 3D models and power a professional workflow.

In fact, with browser-based 3D today, it’s possible to:

  • Traverse the object tree in the model, so when a 3D designer puts it together, they’ll create different objects you can search. (For objects, such as a car suspension, all its little parts can be componentized and listed out for easy selection and discussion.)
  • Isolate specific objects in a tree so you can focus on just that one object.
  • Group and name each object, such as a brake disc or suspension link, to help visualize how those components could behave together under movement, pressure, or stress.
  • Annotate with the same annotation capabilities as you do on PDFs, MS Office files and videos.
  • Perform various measurements using annotations with snap to vertices and adjustable scale to determine the precise distance between two points on the 3D model.
  • Create annotation hotspots, to allow you to jump quickly to a set of coordinates (X,Y and Z) and get a snapshot of the annotation and 3D model in the notes panel.
  • Start discussions in threads with comment and reply-to-comment tools, so users can review and collaborate in real time on 3D in the same UI for all their other media and without exiting the web application.
  • And more

Try our WebViewer 3D sample for a glimpse at many of these features.

Content Accessibility For All Screen Sizes

In our next PDF Days session, we got into the nitty-gritty about making digital documents more accessible to everyone across every device. Highlights included:

  • Reflowable PDFs
  • Content detection regardless of layout or screen size
  • Accurately converting from PDF to Word, Excel and HTML
  • Leveraging semantic information for intelligent document search and discovery (such as chapters, sections, reading order, and tables)
  • Accessible environments for everyone

Andrey presents on making content universally accessible

Improving accessibility for those with disabilities is vital, especially in the field of technology, and in the world of PDFs, it’s just as crucial. While some may think that accessibility starts and stops within the PDF document itself, it should encompass all the different elements, including the document itself and all the UI surrounding it when the document is being presented. You want to ensure that an accessible environment is provided for everyone to complete their tasks.

Although there are many ways to create accessible PDFs on several different programs and platforms, unfortunately, there isn’t a way to enforce that the PDFs hitting your application will be accessible. There are two standards that aim to standardize the accessibility requirements:

  1. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG, which is in version 2.1
  2. PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility), which was initially published in 2012 and revised in 2014

In the session, we outlined some of the highlights and commonalities between those two standards.

When it comes to accessibility, users targeted often have cognitive issues, learning disabilities, low vision, or are users with disabilities using mobile devices. The two standards above aim to make the experience better for this target audience.

In the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, three different conformance levels need to be met by governments and jurisdictions that the public has to adhere to when creating an accessible environment:

A - Pointer cancellation, making sure all labels are in the name

AA - Non-text contrast, text spacing

AAA - Timeouts

Watch the session on YouTube for an in-depth breakdown of conformance levels and to learn more about content accessibility for all.

After, you can also check out our Web App Accessibility 5-Step Checklist for even more details.

PDFs and 30+ Other Formats at Their Best, Working for You

Along with the technical sessions on particular topics, PDFTron hosted a 30-minute live run-through of WebViewer. This gave us a chance to share with other document technology experts and PDF industry insiders -- to get their insightful feedback on WebViewer’s many other document & digital content processing, editing, and collaboration features outside of 3D (most of which run client-side right in the user’s browser).

Showcased features included:

  • Annotation, comment and discussion capabilities
  • Electronic signatures
  • The form builder and form filling
  • UI Customization (to add or remove tools and other UI elements and features via clicks)
  • Page manipulation with drag-and-droppable icons
  • Browser-native viewing of MS Office PowerPoint, Excel, and Word files
  • Fast viewing and smooth, high-fidelity rendering of very large 1GB+ files via document streaming and linearized PDF
  • Watermarking
  • Redaction
  • Digital signature creation and verification
  • Document comparison (image comparison vs. semantic text comparison)
  • Annotation and collaboration on video

Watch our full PDF Days session about WebViewer for more, or check out our web-based demo to explore WebViewer’s many features live in your browser. For questions about WebViewer, PDF, content accessibility, web-based 3D, or anything else document- and digital content-related -- feel free to drop us a line; we’d love to hear from you!