Interactive vs Print PDF in InDesign: Adobe’s Frustrating Mistake
No one’s perfect. People make mistakes. Companies make mistakes. That’s fine. We should not be judged on our mistakes but rather how quickly we react to correct them. In my opinion, Adobe made a mistake in InDesign CS5, and it’s an important one to understand. If you’ve been listening to our recent podcasts, you know about our new “What the Heck” feature, and this… um, feature… certainly falls into that category.
The mistake was to separate the PDF export workflow into two different dialog boxes: print and interactive. This may seem like a little thing, but it’s like a thorn in my side, a pebble in my shoe, which I’ve been living with for over a year, and which just just gets more annoying.
I’m sure the folks at Adobe had it in our best interests when they proposed this crazy idea . Maybe they were thinking, “bless the souls of our poor, muddled users, they need us to make everything simple and easy for them, because they obviously can’t handle too many checkboxes in one dialog box.” Or maybe they were thinking, “we have to make it obvious that these PDFs are radically different, because they’re designed for the new (at the time) Acrobat 9 engine, which includes Flash.” But whatever they were thinking, they were wrong. (You know I’m InDesign’s biggest supporter, but a guy has to call it like he sees it!)
Here’s a short list of problems introduced by separating this into two different dialog boxes:
- Users are more confused now than before, because they don’t know what they heck to choose. “I have hyperlinks, should I choose interactive?”
- Users who have documents with facing pages spreads have no way to turn them off, to get single pages.
- Users who want to color manage their interactive documents are out of luck.
- AND THE NUMBER ONE PROBLEM: Users who need to create a single PDF that works for print and onscreen viewing are up a creek without a paddle.
I heard someone say recently (was it regarding Jobs’ new biography?) that Adobe has lacked vision since Warnock and Geschke left. I wouldn’t say that, as Adobe has clearly come up with some amazing stuff since then. However, this is the kind of thing that I’m sure John and Chuck are scratching their heads about, saying “WTH?!” I mean, the whole point of PDF was that there was a single file that could do whatever you wanted it to do! It was a portable document, would look right on screen and would print properly. I was there in the early 90s when Adobe was pushing this crazy format and they promised that it would print, it would contain video, it would flow, it would do whatever you needed when you needed it!
And InDesign CS5 broke that. It broke the fundamental promise of PDF as being a single file that did whatever you needed.
I want a PDF that includes a video, but which uses a high-resolution CMYK poster image when I print. I want a PDF that includes RGB and CMYK images, properly tagged with color profiles, and which also has buttons. I want a PDF that has animations but won’t print as 4-color cmyk black (because all the text got converted to srgb). And most of all, I want a single Export PDF dialog box that lets me choose whatever settings I want, in one place.
Come on, Adobe. Fix this mistake and give us One PDF again.