PDF as the new main document format for Microsoft Word?

Recently a friend of mine told me that Microsoft Word is now capable to use PDF as its persistence format – you can now save documents as PDF and you can open PDF documents for editing. And because of this he assumes PDF to not be a secure file format to transfer documents that must not be altered until you protect it with a password.

This got my attention because of some issues I have with this “information” – I’ll just post the two most important:

  1. PDF is not a format that has been designed for saving text documents that will be edited again. PDF has been enriched with a lot of things that are contrary to its initial target (describing the output of a formatted document that is device independent and durable). I’ve seen PDF documents that actively call web services like applications do. IMHO it’s NOT a good idea to use things for a certain work just because there is a way to use them – I try to always use the tools for things they are designed for (e.g. I don’t try to force a nail into a wall using my cordless screwdriver – even if it would work). Opening a PDF to edit it is like opening a EXE with a decompiler to add a new feature.
  2. Simply saving a document as PDF never was a way to secure the content from being altered. Adding a password does not really make this better (http://www.pdfunlock.com/). To protect something against manipulation the correct tool is a time stamped signature – not a password or a specific file format.

So what I want you to take from this post:

  • Use tools the way the tool-designer had in mind!
  • If you are not 100% sure, what tool to use: RTFM – don’t ask your naighbor … he might didn’t read the FM 😉
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