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Preface > Why PDF Hacks?

Why PDF Hacks?

The term hacking has a bad reputation in the press. They use it to refer to someone who breaks into systems or wreaks havoc with computers as their weapon. Among people who write code, though, the term hack refers to a “quick-and-dirty” solution to a problem, or a clever way to get something done. And the term hacker is taken very much as a compliment, referring to someone as being creative, having the technical chops to get things done. The Hacks series is an attempt to reclaim the word, document the good ways people are hacking, and pass the hacker ethic of creative participation on to the uninitiated. Seeing how others approach systems and problems is often the quickest way to learn about a new technology.

PDF has traditionally been seen as a pretty unhackable technology. Most people work with PDF using tools provided by a single vendor, Adobe, and PDFs are often distributed under the assumption that people can’t (or at least won’t) modify them. In practice, however, PDF tools offer an enormous amount of flexibility and support a wide range of ways to read, share, manage, and create PDF files. Even if you only read PDF files, there are lots of ways to improve your reading experience, many of which are not obvious. Creators of PDF files can similarly do much more than just “print to PDF”; they can generate files with custom content or create forms for two-way communications.


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