Reimagined PDFs for the connected world
- By Stephanie Kanowitz
- Oct 10, 2016
PDF documents have many advantages: Users across devices and platforms can see them, they’re easy to secure from changes and they’re practically a de facto standard, especially for government documents. But today, when users commonly share, edit, distribute and track their documents, the traditional PDF is facing some challenges.
Foxit Software is looking to change that.
The company’s ConnectedPDF (cPDF) technology takes the traditional e-document and makes it smarter, enabling it to know its location, status, whether it has been updated and how it has been distributed. ConnectedPDF also leaves control of the document in authors’ hands, allowing them to limit who can access the PDF.
“With ConnectedPDF, we bring all the rich management capabilities to the document itself,” Foxit CTO Steven Li said. “We turn the entire document management model upside-down in that we empower the end users.”
There are three ways to create a cPDF document. Registered users of the cPDF website can take a standard PDF and convert it by dragging and dropping the document into the site, which quickly turns around a downloadable cPDF version. Users may also choose to open it online through the Foxit WebPDF Reader.
A “Track Document” link opens a new page with a dashboard showing the latest document version and a timestamp; recent views and events; information about when it was created, its size and the device that was used to make it; usage numbers; and access types.
Another way to create a cPDF document is through Foxit PhantomPDF, a PDF editor. After logging into cPDF with an email address and password, users can change documents from any format – not just PDF – to cPDF by clicking on a “Convert to cPDF” button.
A third way to create a cPDF document is by using a ConnectedApp, such as Foxit PhantomPDF 8.0, FoxitReader and Foxit MobilePDF, available for iOS and Android.
Once the document is created it is automatically registered in the cPDF cloud, which stores metadata to manage the document, including its ConnectedID, version information, view and change history, reviews, markups, people connected to the document, related files and location. “Behind the scenes, we assign a unique ID to it so that we know the identity of the document and can track and manage its life cycle,” Li said.
cPDF lets authors retain control over their documents, even letting them change permissions on-the-fly or recalling a sent document. That bolsters security because if a sensitive document is being consumed abroad, it can be shut off immediately.
Authors and recipients work in real time so that as comments are added, others see them right away. If an author publishes a new version, recipients automatically get an alert that an updated version is available. Authors can also track who has read the document and whether they had feedback.
“You don’t have to lose control of your document just because you press the send button,” Li said.
To view a cPDF document, recipients can use any PDF viewer, including the Adobe suite, Mac OS X Preview and Microsoft Edge. The only exception is when the author turns on protections that require a reader to verify his identity before gaining access to the document. In that case, the recipient can get the enhanced capabilities from Foxit’s web viewer or its native viewer for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android.
“This entire system is free to view on the viewer side and it also free for simple ConnectedPDF functions using our web tools,” Li said. “For strong protection you do have to use our Foxit Phantom, but we do not charge extra for it. You get it for free with our paid product.”
The product is so new – announced in June – that David Ronald, marketing vice president at Foxit, declined to discuss any government users of it. But Li suggested agencies could use the technology to produce PDFs that can be consumed only within an agency, identifying users by their email address.
Although originally developed by Adobe Systems, the PDF, which stands for Portable Document Format, became an International Standard Organization standard in 2008. An updated PDF standard is expected to be published this year.
Editor's note: This article was changed Oct. 11 to correct the spelling of the names of David Ronald, Foxit's marketing VP and Steven Li, Foxit CTO.
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.