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According to the history books, in A.D. 105 the Chinese court official Ts'ai Lun invented papermaking from textile waste using rags. This could be considered the birth of paper as we know it today. Some 1886 years later, in the spring of 1991, Adobe Systems' founder and former CEO, Dr. John Warnock, first described the market opportunity for PDF and Adobe Acrobat in a memo code-named “Camelot.”

You could think of this as the birth of electronic paper.

The Camelot project's goal was to solve the fundamental problem of communicating visual material between different computer applications and systems. At the time Dr. Warnock believed that industries badly needed a universal way to communicate documents across a wide variety of machine configurations, operating systems, and communication networks. He believed that if this problem could be solved, the fundamental way people worked would change.

He was right.

Over 13 years later, Camelot has morphed into one of Adobe's most successful business lines and now forms not only the lifeblood of the company's enterprise, but also one of the most commonly used and widely distributed file formats in the world.

If you're reading this book now, then you're most likely one of the 700 million users around the world who are using the free Adobe Reader (formerly called Adobe Acrobat Reader) to view a document that's been produced as a file in Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF).

PDF is the first truly commercially successful electronic paper—perfect for making digital documents. It offers universal readability—that is, it truly encapsulates the “look and feel” of a document independent of the platform being used to view it, or the platform/software used to create it.

Adobe has taken the tried-and-true “paper page” paradigm and shown that it can work electronically. It's like the missing link, or the first stepping-stone to a more paperless office. With PDF, you do everything you used to do with paper, only you do it on your computer. You can also do extra things not possible with paper, like fast archival and retrieval, tracking of changes, and so on.

That PDFs have well-defined “pages” is very important, as the page is a key element that we all are familiar with. The Web has no real concept of pages or standard page sizes (at least there's no obvious, simple, or standard way to create pages that people understand instantly). Moving from paper to PDF seems like a logical transition;moving from paper to World *Wild* Web pages less so.

Furthermore, unlike other popular document formats such as a Microsoft Word file, PDF is usually used as what you call a final form document format. It doesn't lose its formatting when sent from computer to computer or printer to printer—that is, it retains the look and feel of the original document and can be created from all manner of source applications.

When my good friend Ted Padova let me know that he was writing a book on Adobe Reader (and to an extent PDF), I was thrilled. That's why you're hearing from me now. Ted is a fantastic trainer and educator, one of the best I've ever seen, and he has a perfect command of the entire Acrobat family's functions including Adobe Reader.

With this book, you'll want to draw on Ted's knowledge to gain an understanding of the PDF format; to discover what functionality is available in the free Reader compared with the full version of Adobe Acrobat; to use the book as a reference or how-to guide for the software; and finally, to obtain a basic introduction to eBooks/Digital Editions and related technologies.

PDF has become a key technology across many industries for increasing efficiency and creating workflows that were never before possible—it has bridged the paper-to-digital divide. I wish you all the best in starting your journey with electronic documents and Adobe Reader; I hope to see you somewhere in your travels in the world of PDF. Drop into Planet PDF sometime and say hi.

Karl De Abrew
Planet PDF, CEO

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