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New posts include:

How Today’s Businesses Use OCR

Improving Workflows and Processes with PDF

PDF Software Lets Government Agencies Reduce Cost of Managing Documents

PDF’s Role in the Needs of the Hospitality Industry

PDF/A-3 Enables ANY Format to be Embedded in PDF

Realizing the Paperless Office with PDF


Realizing the Paperless Office with PDF

A paperless office is exactly as it sounds—an office without paper, relying instead upon digital documents in digital files.

While the concept’s been around for a long time, the paperless office has been difficult if not impossible to achieve. Today, however, technology advances have made it not only possible but even attractive to take your office paperless—or, if not entirely paperless, certainly less reliant upon the veritable printed page.

Paperless is now an Even Better Option

Scanners are faster and can handle larger loads. OCR (optical character recognition) is better. Digital storage is cheaper. Services that will do everything from digitizing your paper documents to storing your electronic files abound. And, most importantly, a great digital format standard exists in the form of PDF.

The Portable Document Format is the best option for storing your digital documents because it’s:

  • Standard. You can save all kinds of files as PDF files. That includes Microsoft Word, Excel, and just about any other software format. Once in PDF, your documents can be easily read and made available to whoever needs access to them. All that’s required is a PDF reader such as the free Foxit Reader and you’re good to go.
  • Secure. There’s a whole spectrum of security for PDF files available to you when using PDF software such as Foxit PhantomPDF. You can choose everything from using no security at all to applying various levels of password protection, encryption and even rights-managed protection.
  • Small. (Or at least, smaller.) PDF files are much smaller than other formats, which saves you hardware space and makes them easier to send online.
  • Searchable. That means no more digging around massive numbers of paper documents, hanging file folders and underneath your boss’s desk trying to find one elusive sheet of paper or that much-needed paragraph.

Indeed, when you’re moving to the less-paper/paperless office, the key benefit really comes down to the searchable PDF format. After all, you don’t want to save physical space at the risk of misplacing valuable information.

How OCR Makes PDF Searchable

Fortunately, most of today’s scanners use OCR software that can convert your paper documents into searchable files.

Searchable PDF files are similar to normal PDF files, except that, in addition to the scanned bitmap image of your paper document, they include an invisible overlay containing searchable text. That’s true for any kind of searchable PDF document you create, whether it’s from published brochures, text in legal judgments, or handwritten notes your boss passed you on a paper napkin. It’s also true whether you use PDF software or OCR software to create it.

This enables you to use your digital file system as a searchable database to find keywords, names and phrases that can help you locate the information you need.

Don’t have a scanner capable of creating searchable PDF files? No worries. Any of numerous PDF software applications such as Foxit PhantomPDF can turn a scanned image into a searchable PDF.

How to Find PDFs in Your Paperless Office

Once you have digitalized all these PDFs, how do you find them later?  You may want to take a look at Foxit PDF IFilter – Server.

Built on Microsoft’s IFilter indexing interface, Foxit PDF IFilter extracts data from PDF documents and returns the index results to search engine software. It goes beyond Adobe® to search and index PDF content, titles, subjects, authors, keywords, PDF portfolios, annotations, text and data from forms (both standard PDF and XFA forms), bookmarks, attachments, create time/date, number of pages, and the names of the creating applications.

PDF IFilter – Server was benchmarked by a knowledgeable independent software reviewer at MSDN Blogs. Key test results include data set crawl time, which Foxit PDF IFilter – Server finished in just 13 minutes—six times faster than TET PDF IFilter and a whopping 39 times faster than Adobe PDF IFilter.

You’ll find the full review here.

Have a large volume of paper documents? Consider third-party conversion.

Of course, if you’ve got massive amounts of documents that require conversion, scanning them by hand, even with a high-speed scanner that creates searchable PDFs, could take too much time. In that case, consider using one of the many document conversion companies that use PDF software to convert your paper files into searchable PDFs for you. Most will send you a DVD, CD, hard drive or flash drive with your newly searchable PDF documents and will return your original paper documents to you, if you wish.

Many of these services also provide secure hosted storage solutions that can house your digital files for you. You can download your files from their servers or leave copies as a backup. One of the main benefits in this less-paper office scenario is that, if your power goes out or there’s an emergency, you can still access your PDF files on the document conversion company’s hosted server.

Digital Storage Space for your PDF documents

With computer hard drives so affordable these days, creating your own digital file cabinet is within reach even for small businesses with limited resources. You can simply buy a computer, install extra hard drives and create your own server to store all of your PDF files.

For companies with more resources, consider getting a server with the necessary amount of hard drive space to store your PDF files. When you need more space, you can simply buy and install more drives.

For PDF files used for record keeping and backup purposes, which don’t need to be accessed often, you have the option to transfer them to DVD, external hard drive or a cloud-based secure storage solution. For varying monthly fees, you can have access to as large a PDF file storage space as you need.

All in all, searchable PDF and PDF software in your less-paper/paperless office delivers on the promise. No more digging through file cabinets. No more paper cuts. No misfiled documents.

Extracting Data from PDFs Goes Big

Extracting useful information from PDFs can be a challenge when you’re talking about a gigantic number of PDF documents. Which is why the Sunlight PDF Liberation Hackathon took place. Unlike its name, the hackathon was not about breaking into anyone’s private database of PDF documents but rather, was dedicated to improving tools for PDF extraction.

Why the need? There are many organizations, including public interest groups, that want to search PDF documents en masse.

Everyday Examples of Extracting Data from PDFs

For example, one of the Foundation’s challenges centered on the financial performance of the nation’s major cities. Most large US cities publish Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs) in the form of PDFs. These documents contain a large set of audited financial statements with footnotes. The challenge was to extract a single statement – a ten-year history of revenues and expenditures – from the latest CAFR for four cities (Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington DC) participating in the hackathon. The results enable comparison of revenue sources and spending priorities across cities over a number of years—an obvious benefit to local, state and national governmental agencies, not to mention taxpayers.

As another example, Members of the House of Representatives file a yearly report on their personal finances. Though this report is often submitted electronically, it is only made available in PDF form on the Clerk of the House’s website. The challenge was to find a reliable and sustainable way to extract the information entered on the form, which shifts with downloads and content.

As such, Sunlight’s PDF Liberation Hackathon aimed to tackle real-world PDF data extraction problems and bring coders together to add features, extensions, and plugins to existing PDF extraction frameworks, making them more flexible, useful, and sustainable.

More Information on How to Extract Content from PDF

Developers interested in furthering the research may want to take a look at the Foxit Embedded PDF Software Development Kit (SDK).

The industry leading PDF SDK is targeted to developers, device manufacturers, and telecom carriers who support PDF applications that leverage powerful, standard-compliant PDF technology to securely display, search, and annotate PDF documents and to fill PDF forms.  Developers can use the SDK to search for specific text in PDF documents and then extract the content.  They can then parse and save the extracted text.  Click here for more information on the SDK.

PDF’s Role in the Healthcare Electronic Records Revolution

Healthcare has been a leading industry for technology for decades, however, when it comes to distributing healthcare-related information outside of the confines of the hospital or doctor’s office, the industry has fallen significantly behind other technology leading industries, such as banking and financial.

One example of this difference is the ease with which a consumer can open a credit account with a major financial institution. The process takes a few minutes, all information is transferred to the necessary parties, and all financial institutions, including credit bureaus, can access it easily.

Not so with heath records. Healthcare has a long way to go before it reaches this level of ease and efficiency, however, the healthcare industry is beginning to create its own information-distribution processes and the Portable Document Format (PDF) features prominently in its evolution.

The DOSSIA system gives patients access to their digital medical records, with PDF ease

A new system called DOSSIA, which relies heavily on PDF software and PDF security, is under development. The DOSSIA system will allow users to access their own personal medical information quickly and easily. It will also make it much simpler for an individual to share his or her medical information with doctors and relevant healthcare organizations.

Despite the development of DOSSIA, there are still several difficulties that must be overcome, including privacy restrictions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), reluctance of many healthcare companies to share their information due to concerns about privacy, security, infrastructure limitations, liability, and the lack of medical record standards in the US.

Fortunately, PDF software and PDF security are making the PDF format a promising tool to solve these problems. Because of its adoption and acceptance, PDF is an ideal format for capturing healthcare information that can contain any combination of text, graphics and images. What’s more, a guide for the use of PDF in healthcare already exists.

PDF/H already offers guidelines for continued use of PDF in healthcare

Published in 2008, the PDF/H, a.k.a. PDF Healthcare, is a best practices guide, supplemented by an Implementation Guide. While not a standard or even a proposed standard, PDF/H provides guidelines for use with existing standards and other technologies.

The migration of medical records from paper to digital will benefit from the availability of an easy-to-adopt document encapsulation standard that meets healthcare industry requirements for portability, security and information exchange—which PDF already does, according to the healthcare experts who’ve developed PDF/H. In fact, PDF is already used in many healthcare organizations for sharing and storing device-independent medical records and imaging for those very reasons.

If PDF is fully adopted within the framework of DOSSIA and by organizations such as the Associate for Information and Image Management (AIIM), PDF software and associated PDF security measures will continue to play a key role in the standardization of medical record-keeping nationwide for years to come. And it will go a long way to enabling patients, their doctors and healthcare organizations to share life-saving data.

PDF Best Practices for the Legal Profession

Many firms and their clients are moving toward paperless offices (or at least, toward less paper, which is a feat in and of itself for most businesses and legal organizations). Meanwhile, clients are accessing law firm publications on a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and large multiple-monitor desktop environments.  It’s safe to say that with the proliferation of these devices, reading many kinds of legal documents occurs more frequently in the digital realm than on paper these days.

Needless to say, PDF has played a big role in this shift. Communications between clients, lawyers, and the courts, that once took weeks, now happen in minutes. Attorney questions are answered on the web, often published via PDF software originating within the firm. Still the law has an immense appetite for documents that need to be archived, retrieved, shared, and posted. Which is where PDF software becomes even more important to the legal profession.

Here’s how can you and your legal organization take full advantage of what PDF software has to offer you.

PDF Best Practices for Legal

As new usability features are added to PDF software such as Foxit PhantomPDF, some apply to the legal industry most directly.

For example, if you’re expecting your PDF content, such as your firm’s marketing brochures, to be printed, or you plan to do a large campaign that may benefit from personalization, consider exploring the PDF/VT standard. It allows you access to far better graphics, which, in turn, make for better printing. And you treat your PDFs as personalized campaigns in which you can address each recipient individually.

As many legal documents may be archived for long periods of time but will need to be accessible far into the future, consider using PDF/A. This ISO-standardized version of PDF was created specifically to enable you to preserve electronic documents over the long haul.

But how about getting your valuable and informative legal documents found online when they’re in PDF? Fortunately, it’s easy to make PDF documents search-engine-friendly by using the same SEO practices used on the web in PDF documents, such as:

  • Adding internal links.
  • Linking PDFs to other web pages.
  • Using keywords.
  • Optimizing images.
  • Keeping file size down.

Some other best practices for publishing PDF-based papers include:

  • Increase navigation by deep linking PDFs. You can enhance usability by deep-linking web pages to pages within a PDF document so that readers can jump directly to subtopics, and re-orienting the initial view and screen-size for the audience when they’re likely to be using tablets or smartphones.
  • Use PDF/A when filing documents. Many courts and legal entities around the country are beginning to require electronic filing. Some even specify PDF as the required format. So again, it makes sense to use PDF/A as it’s adapted for digital preservation and omits features that won’t work in long-term archives.
  • Use PDF/A for scanned documents when archiving. You may be able to make your PDF-to-PDF/A conversion a single step by using your document scanner. Many have embedded software that can view your PDF document and automatically convert the data into a searchable PDF/A file.
  • Ensure your PDF documents are secure. Of course, legal matters often mean confidential matters, so you may want to keep your PDF documents protected from prying eyes by using state-of-the art PDF Security features such as password protection, certificate protection and other security techniques.
  • Authenticate and validate users. You may want to use digital signatures or even obtain digital IDs from third-party validators to authenticate the identities of users as well as the document content. (See Chapter 9 – Security in the Foxit PhantomPDF User Manual for details.)

PDF software will be part of legal web publishing for a long time so it makes sense to use the PDF format to the best of its abilities to make legal work as streamlined as possible. After all, you’ve got enough to keep you busy.

Quick and Easy Ways to Keep your PDF Documents Up-to-date

It’s no surprise that, in your average office workday, documents need to be updated. So there are several features you should know about when it comes time to update a PDF document. These handy features will let you do a lot of changing and updating right in Foxit PhantomPDF for Business, without having to convert or revert your PDFs to Microsoft Word or Excel first.

Foxit makes editing your PDFs an easy task, thanks to the editing interface that works just like a familiar word processor. For example, there’s no need to worry about disturbing the layout of your document as you make changes. When you edit text in a paragraph with PhantomPDF for Business, the text will automatically reflow as you edit.

You can use the advanced editing features of PhantomPDF for Business to undo and redo actions, add headers and footers, insert background images, link to web page and other locations in your document, and also add images and video. Let’s take a deeper look.

Undo and Redo

As you make adjustments to your document you might accidentally press the wrong button and change things for the worse. But have no fear: you can easily undo or redo the most recent action you performed.

Headers and Footers

To spruce up your PDF document design, you may want to add headers and footers that include text and images. This is a snap to do with PDF editing software like PhantomPDF for Business. And once you’ve created your document’s header and footer, you can easily update both.

Background Images

You can create the perfect background for your document pages and then add it to any PDF document. Choose an image file from your computer or just select a color from the menu. The editing tools of the program allow you to determine the opacity of your chosen background, along with its size and exactly which pages in the document will have the background (you can select all pages, specify the page range, or even decide to just do even or odd pages).

Add Links

Want to direct readers to a specific page in your document or to related web pages? No problem. Just specify any rectangular area of the document to function as a link. You can also determine exactly how the linked area will appear by choosing the style and color of its border (solid, dashed, underline).

Insert Images and Video

Make your PDF more engaging and interactive by adding eye-catching images and video directly into your PDF document. Once you’ve inserted images, you can easily resize them so they fit any space you put them in.

Feeling empowered to do even more amazing things with your PDF documents? Great! Happy editing, updating and generally staying on top of those business documents.

How The Adobe Breach Might Affect You

This past October, Adobe Systems (makers of Adobe PDF software) announced that they had been the victims of a deliberate and concentrated hacking attack on their servers. When the dust settled, Adobe found that the hackers had gained access to over 38 million customer files, including customer IDs, credit and debit card information, and numerous other data points. In addition, Adobe revealed that their corporate source code for PDF software product Adobe Acrobat, as well as for other products like Cold Fusion and Cold Fusion Builder, were stolen as well.

More Information

It appears as though this is the largest hacking attack in Adobe’s history, and one of the largest hacks this year. What started as a breach of about 3 million customer accounts eventually grew to include over 152 million Adobe customers, with significant quantities of sensitive customer data appearing on cybercriminal websites.

The source code stolen from Adobe, including for Acrobat and Cold Fusion, can now be analyzed and used by hackers looking to exploit weaknesses in the code. This means that users of Adobe’s PDF software, web development applications, and a number of their other Adobe products may be vulnerable to hackers who now have an understanding of the weaknesses in the program code.

As a result of this breach, Adobe has been served a potential class action lawsuit in a California Federal court that accuses the company of failing to protect the sensitive private information of its customers.

What you can do to protect yourself

If you use Adobe software, including PDF software such as Acrobat or Reader, be aware that it may become vulnerable to the actions of hackers at some point. Read up on the latest updates and upgrades and make sure you’re on top of the news.

Also, if you’re an Adobe customer, you should strongly consider changing your password to minimize the possibility of being exploited by cybercriminals. Be sure to make your password complex by using combinations of numbers and letters, symbols, punctuation, and capitalization of letters. Also, never use words that can be easily looked up in a dictionary as hackers have software that does just that.

We also recommend that you remain vigilant about any e-mail attachments you open and the links that you click on.

As to what to do about the PDF software you use, this is a tricky one. We don’t want to advocate you removing software you rely on for business, be it ours or anyone else’s. Our best advice is, be careful.

PDF/VT lets you effortlessly personalize important documents

Again and again, PDFs prove invaluable in your business world. But PDF/VT takes the next step in flexible business operations, enabling you to personalize your professional documents on a whole new level using variable and transactional printing. (That means it kind of turns your PDFs into personalized campaigns, where you can address each recipient individually.) Here’s the scoop.

What is PDF/VT?

Portable document format for variable and transactional printing takes the basic PDF concept and infuses a new visual element, adding encapsulated graphic objects to the mix for improved processing of images, text and other types of content. You can see these advancements in graphic representation not only through a fast PDF reader like Foxit Reader, but in the quality of the printed documents.

As with other types of image-enhanced files, PDF/VT incorporates layers, but it does so on a more sophisticated level than your standard PDF document. While the typical PDF features optional content groups, or OCGs, PDF/VT includes optional content configuration dictionaries (OCCDs), which actually consist of a bunch of OCGs grouped together.

By including OCCDs in the PDF setup, PDF/VT allows you access to far better graphics, which, in turn, make for better printing. So instead of delivering documents to your recipients with a lot of different image formats that may not print particularly well, all information included in your PDF becomes standardized under PDF/VT, so it can be accurately printed onto paper, without compromising the quality of the featured images or text. To get the best idea of how a given document will look after printing, you should utilize a fast PDF reader like Foxit Reader. It best reflects the intended quality of the content, while also making for easier sharing between business partners, clients or other PDF recipients.

When should you use PDF/VT?

PDF/VT is the ideal solution for any situation in which quality printing is a necessity. As a type of file that better lends itself to the printing process, this version of the PDF standard enables PDF software  to print elegantly, removing the headaches that usual accompany juggling collections of different text and graphics. Once you’ve opened and reviewed your document with a fast PDF reader, you’ll be able to immediately send the file to the printer, without spending a lot of time and resources to make changes.

As you can see, business leaders often choose PDF/VT in the context of B2B correspondence, particularly when a variety of names and addresses are necessary. This PDF format is also incredibly useful for marketing efforts, as it allows you to personalize your PDF documents in ways that wouldn’t be possible with other standard PDF file standards. For transactional printing, as an example, you can use PDF/VT to better reflect the requirements related to a specific bill or invoice, making your correspondence appear more professional and using personalization to increase the likelihood of a response.

Ultimately, the strength of PDF/VT lies in its flexibility. Whether your needs are visual or transactional in nature, this format gives you the tools you need to craft and print the perfect set of high-quality printable, personalized documents.

More Tips for Generating Better PDF Documents

Foxit gives you the ability to create and edit PDFs in a way that other solutions just can’t match. And that can be very handy when you find yourself wishing for a little more functionality and ability to customize your PDF files.

Today we will showcase three features that can really make a difference in your productivity and efficiency.

Auto Scroll does the scrolling for you

This feature isn’t like a smartphone that can detect eye movement to keep a page scrolling, but it’s just as convenient. Foxit Reader and PhantomPDF will automatically scroll through your PDF, so all you have to do is lean back and read. This is especially useful for long documents. Automatic scrolling is also available for documents that display at full-screen, so you’ll be able to dedicate every inch of your screen to reading the PDF.

You can turn on this function by press “Control + Shift + H” on your keyboard.  You can also use the up arrow and down arrow keys to change the scrolling rate or direction.

Text Viewer takes images out of the way

When you view a PDF document with images and text, it can be difficult to read with other PDF readers if images overlap the text. Fortunately, Foxit Reader and PhantomPDF offer an easy fix. Just use the Text viewer feature. It picks out just the text content, making it easier to read by removing images temporarily. You can activate this feature with the keyboard shortcut “Control + 6”.

Image Editing lets you insert, move and scale images

Speaking of images, sometimes you’ll want to add them to a PDF you’re creating. Foxit allows you to do this by drawing a rectangle anywhere in your PDF file. This is a convenient way to insert images without making it difficult for your viewers to read the text on the page.  In Foxit Reader, choose the Image Annotation button on the HOME tab.  You’ll see the editing rectangle appear, and you can drag it anywhere for optimum positioning. Then, browse to the image on your computer and the editing dialog box will appear, enabling you to insert your image.

For PhantomPDF, the Image Annotation button is in the EDIT tab.

Foxit PhantomPDF includes scaling options, so even if you’re displaying your image smaller than the original dimensions, it won’t appear skewed. This feature is ideal for users who don’t have the software or knowledge to edit images separately.

You can also scale non-proportionately or fix the bounds of the box that you created so that the image can’t scale outside of it. If your images look a little like they’re floating in space within your PDF, simply specify a border in the “Advanced -> Image Placement” dialog box that appears after you choose the image that you want to insert.

Got to add that same image on more than one page? No problem. Simply right-click and choose “Apply to other pages.” Foxit PhantomPDF software will ask for the page range, and after you assign it, your image will duplicate itself in your PDF. Voila!

So why not put these timesaving features to work in your next PDF? It’s just another way that Foxit PDF software helps you smooth out the rough edges of your day.

How to Generate Better PDF Documents

Most people working in an office understand the importance and usefulness of PDF software and a PDF reader. PDFs enable us to create secure documents without the sometimes undesirable metadata found in Microsoft Word documents. PDF software allows us to create documents that are universally readable on any computer or mobile device with a basic PDF reader. And really good PDF software, such as Foxit PhantomPDF (if we do say so ourselves) provides numerous options for creating and editing our documents.

Almost anyone that has used a PDF editor like Foxit PhantomPDF knows some of the basic editing options available to them. Undo, redo, and creating headers and footers are simple tools that you find in most editing programs, whether they’re PDF or not. However, there are some additional capabilities available on PDF software like PhantomPDF that can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your PDFs. And if you’re not already using them, you may want to give them a try.

Create a Watermark in PhantomPDF to Protect Your Document

Watermarks are the faint but noticeable images in the background of each page of a document. They’re typically used to put company names or logos behind text in order to protect duplication or copyrights. Creating a watermark with PDF software like PhantomPDF is very easy:

In the “organize” menu, choose “page marks,” “watermarks,” “add.”

You can then choose the text or image you’d like to use, as well as select from a number of options, including whether the watermark appears in front of or behind the PDF content, the size and margins of the watermark, and its orientation. After adding a watermark, every PDF reader that opens your document will display it in the background.

Use Bates Numbering for Better Searches

Bates Numbering is an indexing tool used by companies in the legal and medical industries and by medium to large businesses. Bates Numbering is a simple and automated way to include unique identifiers on each page of a document that indicate the date and time a document was created.

Bates Numbering makes it easy to index and retrieve documents, especially when there is a large amount of documents being created on a regular basis. Using Bates Numbering in a document is easy with PDF software like PhantomPDF:

Open the “organize” menu, choose “page marks,” “Bates Numbering,” “add.”

From here, you can decide whether you want the numbering in the header or footer, which side of the document to put it on, how many digits you want in the number, and a prefix and suffix (if any). By using Bates Numbering, you’ll never have to worry about losing a document again, which for busy professionals is a big selling point.

Add Bookmarks to Make Your PDF Easier to Navigate and More Professional Looking

Anyone who has used a PDF reader extensively knows how difficult it can be to navigate a document that is hundreds or thousands of pages long. Bookmarking to the rescue! Bookmarking your table of contents is a great way to help users read your document. It also has the dual advantage of making a document far easier to navigate and making the document appear more professional.

Adding bookmarks is easy with PDF software like PhantomPDF:

Simply go to the part of the document where you want a bookmark, click the “new bookmark” icon on the bookmark panel, and voila.

You can create nested bookmarks (or “sub-bookmarks”) simply by dragging a new bookmark directly under another. Save yourself and anyone else reading your PDF document time and frustration by adding this simple feature.

There are many other advanced editing tools available in PDF software like PhantomPDF that will work on virtually any PDF reader. Check out the PhantomPDF manual or the tutorial video page for more tips and tricks and you’ll be on your way to being a PDF expert with perhaps a bit more time for other pressing matters.