Boston Broadside
January/February 2002
Vol. 59,  No. 3
    Newsletter of the Boston Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication


Copyright © STC Boston 2002

Program Report

Interactive PDFs:
Using Features To Add Value

By Anne Louiselle

  Hans Fenstermacher, Shlomo Perets, and Taryn Light
  Hans Fenstermacher, president of the STC Boston Chapter, Schlomo Perets, of Micro Type, and Taryn Light, first vice president of the STC Boston Chapter.
  Photo by Anne Louiselle

If you frequently use Portable Document Format (PDF) for your documents, then you may know that you can use the format to enhance them. Consider some specific suggestions from Shlomo Perets, world-renowned expert.

At the STC Northern New England and Boston Chapter's program on November 12, 2001, Perets provided a compelling argument for using the PDF format to its fullest. "In many cases, if there's no interactivity to a PDF, there is no added value," Perets said. Perets demonstrated this point with an example from the interactive PDF eBook "How To Read a Film." As Perets showed, when information was converted to PDF format, additional interactive and multimedia features were incorporated to add value to the reader's experience.

  Barbara Schieb, Janet DesRoches, and Lillian Coltin
  Barbara Schieb of SoftLanding Systems, Janet DesRoches of Clear Point Consultants, Inc., and Lillian Coltin, Wellesley College’s Center for Research on Women.
  Photo by Anne Louiselle

This project (see used video and audio clips for clarification and links to related items for further information. A glossary was added, with linked items for easy reference. Extra features should benefit, rather than hinder the user. "If you use less common features to add value, be sure to include instructions," Perets advised.

If appropriate format can add value, then the lack of it can take away from the reader's experience. "Many PDFs are unacceptable," Perets said. Pitfalls include partial interactivity, bad links, lack of bookmarks, ineffective use of bookmarks, poor quality type or graphics, and excessive file size.

A frequent contributor to Planet PDF and other Acrobat and FrameMaker forums and a presenter at the FrameUsers and PDF Conferences, Perets described a wealth of information available. Some sources for help include the following Web sites: Planet PDF (, Adobe (, and PDFZone (

  Liz Cummiskey and Darlene Doehrmann
  Liz Cummiskey and Darlene Doehrmann of Healthcare Automation.
  Photo by Anne Louiselle

Shlomo Perets founded MicroType in 1989. He trains technical communicators to get the most out of FrameMaker and Acrobat and the combination of these tools, and he provides consulting and specialized template development services. Developer of the SP TimeSavers & Bookmark Controller add-ons, Perets will be back in the Boston area in May 2002, teaching his FrameMaker-to-Acrobat Advanced Techniques seminar and four new Acrobat Advanced workshops (not FrameMaker-specific).

  Aimee Doyle, Sandra Sabetty, Kathleen Harris, and Denise Dunne
  Technical Recruiter Aimee Doyle, Account Manager Sandra Sabetty, Technical Recruiter Kathleen Harris, and President Denise Dunne, all of Thinkpath.
  Photo by Anne Louiselle

The chapter also held a raffle that raised $102 for the Carol A. Landers Spirit of Volunteering award. Congratulations to Patricia Burrows of EMC², who won a camera, and to Michele Backstrom, also of EMC², who won a copy of the interactive eBook "How to Read a Film."

For more information on MicroType, visit the MicroType Web site, at For more information on the STC's upcoming Boston seminars, visit the Monthly Programs page, at

Anne Louiselle has been a member of the STC since 1997. Anne can be reached at .