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Adobe Steps into the Interactive Arena

Over the years, Adobe slowly enhanced the PDF specifications to include audio and video, and with each new version of the free Acrobat Reader (now known as Adobe Reader), Adobe increased the rich-media playback functionality (although Adobe never promoted this functionality until just recently).

In 1996, when Adobe released the specifications of PDF 1.2 (Acrobat 3.1), the capability to make the PDF document interactive became a reality. Instead of writing its own scripting language like Macromedia did, Adobe based its engine on ECMAScript (more commonly known as JavaScript). Today JavaScript is a popular, well-adopted scripting language for the Web, but in the early days of PDF, it was just in its infancy.

PDF 1.2 allowed interactive buttons and menus such as you see on Web pages to be placed into PDF documents and perform the same functions as the Acrobat toolbar, such as turning the page, printing the page, quitting the program, and so on. QuickTime video could also now stream into the document. Adobe thought these additional interactive features would mean that PDF in full-screen mode could replace Microsoft PowerPoint for creating presentations. When Reader was in full-screen mode, the navigation toolbars were no longer visible, but with the use of JavaScripted menus in the PDF, the presenter could control the presentation by jumping to a page or playing video.

The strength that PDF had over a Director presentation was that it could launch full screen and fill the window using Adobe PostScript graphics. Director presentations were fixed to the user's computer display size, and users were often presented with black frames if they did not reset their monitors manually.

Unfortunately, the multimedia community concluded that PDF was for printing only, and admin assistants were happy to stick with the simple-to-use features of PowerPoint.

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