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PDFs and Data ▾ Improving PDFs for Science. Improving PDFs for Planners. PDFAttacher. A Clearer Plan Hybrid PDFs PDF test-off. PDF Profiler Making PDFs play nicely with data

Housing ▾ Counting households. 1. Counting households. 2. The housing market works (where we let it) Hexmaps Adonis is wrong on housing Car free Birmingham

Regional Growth ▾ Measuring tech in the UK and France in 10 steps. Defending the Zombie graph. Channel 4 must move to Mancheseter Measuring innovation 1: meetups Measuring innovation 2: scientific papers. The UK city-size abnormality. Cities not cheese: why France is productive. How moving the Capital helps Hartlepool. Industrial Strategy. Leeds Growth Strategy 5: Limits. Leeds Growth Strategy 4: Focus. Leeds Growth Strategy 3: Inclusive growth. Leeds Growth Strategy 2: Where to grow? Leeds Growth Strategy 1: Why grow? Imagination not needed. Part 1. Imagination not needed. Part 2. Imagination not needed. Part 3. Inclusive growth. The BBC in Manchester 1 The BBC in Manchester 2 What works (growth) North-South divide: we never tried Imitating Manchester Why Birmingham fails Who is London? Researching research Replacing UK steel The Economist & The North The State of the North, 2015 Move the Lords! Calderdale Digital Strategy Maths of inequality Income by MSOA Heathrow and localism The NorthernPowerhouse Centralism and Santa Claus Yorkshire backwards London makes us poor

Transport ▾ Fixing it ourselves: bus data in the North. Open fare data will be hard. Transport is too complex! Investment is political London loses when it blocks Leeds' growth The Centre of the UK Defending Uber BusTracker Train time map What works (growth) The Value of Time Innovation on buses. Heathrow 1975 WYMetro Plan

Politics & Economics ▾ GDP measures are like toilets. The UK's private postcodes restrict innovation. Yorkshire could learn from Ireland's success. Alternatives to GDP are a waste of time. Fiscal balance in the UK "Not like London" Innovation takes time to measure Fifa and the right In defence of the € GDP mystery Liberal protectionists 5 types of EU voter Asylum responsibilities STEM vs STEAM The Economist & Scotland BBC Bias? Northern rail consultation What holds us back? Saving the Union Summing it up

Positive ▾ Bike Lights Playful Everywhere Greggs vs. Pret Guardian comment generator Consult less, do more! More things for Leeds! Cartoons PubQuest: Birmingham

Tech ▾ What's holding back opendata in the UK? Anti-trust law saved computing 1 Anti-trust law saved computing 2 Open Data Camp Cardiff Why are there no great Windows 10 apps? Tap to pay. Open Data in Birmingham Defending Uber BusTracker Train time map Building a TechNation How the UK holds back TechNorth GDS is Windows 8 OpenData at the BBC SimFlood SimSponge See me speak Digital Health Leeds Empties Leeds Site Allocations Building a Chrome extension I hate webkit Visualising mental health Microsoft's 5 easy wins Epson px700w reset Stay inside the Bubble

Old/incomplete ▾ Orange price rises The future of University Cherish our Capital Dealing with NIMBYs Sponsoring the tube Gender bias calculator MetNetMaker Malaria PhD Symbian Loops Zwack Kegg Project The EU Eduroam & Windows 8 Where is science vital? The Vomcano 10 things London can shove Holbeck Waterwheel

Last modified: 02 September 2017


In my blog post about Hybrid PDFs I showed how editable documents could be stored inside a PDF. And in my blog post about PDF for Planners I showed how a similar technique could unify data and documents in my workflow for A Clearer Plan.

Here, I introduce PDFAttacher, the software that makes this possible. It is open source on GitHub and you can try it now by clicking the button below.

Attaching files to PDFs.

PDFAttacher attaches files to PDFs. Drag a PDF onto the top section and see any attached files below. Drop files on the attachment section and they will be embedded in the PDF.

Extracting and removing files from PDFs.

Click any attached file to either extract and save it, or to delete it.

Working with the PDF standard.

Unlike my earlier investigations into Hybrid PDFs, the attachment method that I'm using here is widely supported. A PDF with files embedded using PDFAttacher and opened in Adobe Reader will show those attachments. Adobe Reader can extract and save them too. Adding or deleting attachments is available in Acrobat Pro too if you have it.

Some history, and the bigger picture

In the late 80s and early 90s, personal computing made documents much easier to create and reproduce. This made us look at documents differently.

A physical document on paper always looks the same. That seems so obvious that it was until recently a trivial statement.

But the new digital documents looked different when viewed on different computer systems. In some cases this was by design, but often it was not. Many digital documents were layed out for printing in Word processors but the strict link between content and layout had been lost. They looked and printed differently on different computers. In many fields reliant on the reliabile reproduction of documents this was a critical flaw.

By combining and embedding layout, content, graphics, and fonts into one document, the PDF format bridged that gap into one portable document format. A PDF looks and prints the same wherever and whenever it is viewed.


Today there are new divides in documents. Documents increasingly refer to data. Charts, diagrams, and arguments are based on data. And that data is open, available to the public, and constantly changing and being updated.

Many of these documents serve processes that are, and will remain, powered by printable documents. The legal process — planning, government, courts, and more... — work with documents that must reproduce and print faithfully withou fail.

These documents also need to be archived and remain readable and exactly reproducible long into the future — long after the data sources that powered the charts, diagrams and argument in the document have stopped being maintained or have been update beyond recognition.

We think that PDFs can help here. The original vision of PDF was to unite layout and content in a reproducible, archivable, portable document format. But the format is also capable of uniting documents and data. Simple tools like PDF Attacher can support this ambition.


One last thing.

Finally, there are many more types of documents than I've mentioned here. Exact reproducibility of layout often does not matter — many documents will never be printed or have their contents referred to by page, or colour, or font.

That is brilliant. There are formats far better than PDF for representing and storing these documents. One of the most interesting parts of my work with Adobe is listening to the passion of people who want PDFs to die, and listening to the passion of those who want PDFs to keep getting better. Both are right.

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