PDF and eGovernment

Adobe is presenting. So far, its been the standard "PDF is great and the government should use it" kind of sales talk, but they're starting to talk about the document server. Sounds remarkably like Cocoon, but with only a PDF output capability. He refered to this as "document and bill presentment."

Next topic is form entry. They apparently can do two things that are interesting: The first is pulling data out of the completed form. I've always thought of PDF forms as static things that people filled out by hand and sent in by snail mail. The second is archival storage. This, of course, raises the question of what represents the official record. There is a version of PDF called PDF/A that is specifically for archives. For example, the archival version doesn't contain executable javascripts.

XML is used in a variety of ways inside PDF:

  • PDF's form syntax is based on XML in Acrobat 5.
  • Data objects, based on XML, can be inserted into the PDF and retrieved later (using Javascript, for example).
  • PDF metadata is XML based (and maybe RDF).
  • Tagged content, based on XML, in Acrobat 5 provides document structure. This allows reflowing, for example.
    • Form features are turned on in Reader when the form is served from Adobe's Document Server. This means that form users aren't required to have a special reader, just the normal free reader they already have.

      As of now, there is no way to integrate PDF into workflows nicely, but XML workflow support is, apparently, coming. It takes the form of XML on the outside of the PDF with the PDF file base64 encoded inside the XML. Adobe sells a workflow server right now. I wonder how it, plus PDF, compare to eWork (Metastorm) or Savvion.