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Last modified: 17 May 2017

PDF for Planners

I’ve shown how A Clearer Plan pulls together data from dozens of sources to inform people about planning. I’ve also shown how Hybrid PDFs and Attachments retain PDF’s core purpose – to hold documents that can be faithfully and reliably reproduced – while improving their capability to reliably store data and links. Here I’ll show how PDF for Planners does both.

It all starts with A Clearer Plan, but once we’ve picked our location and explored the widgets we click “Show me the Plan”. This now creates a print-ready document containing exactly the same information as on the plan. Often that means tables, such as a list of nearby parks and their size, instead of that information on a map. But it’s the same information.

Data in documents.

But there are two things that make this document special.

First, the raw data is embedded in the document. Since we think that JSON is likely to be the most long-lasting format for structured data, we use that. The data shows the situation at the time the document was created.

Second, the link in the document links back to the page on A Clearer Plan that created it. So clicking the link can not only recreate the document, but also create a new version, with a new date, if information changes.

Static documents, attached data, with living links

We’ve spoken to a lot of people who rely on PDFs to do their jobs. They trust them to be reliably and faithfully reproducible, unchanging, printable, and much more. They can imagine a future with fewer such documents, but not one without any at all. And in any case, the future feels a long way off for many.

We’ve listened to them.

We cannot break what makes PDFs so valuable to make them work better with data. We have to add to PDFs. Here we’ve done that by attaching the data that creates them, and linking back to the tool that created them.

Our PDFs for Planners hold documents and data that can be faithfully and reliably reproduced.

Oh and here's the PDF for Planners file of A Clearer Plan for LS6 3LS, with an editable document and the raw data as attachments. Try opening it in Acrobate reader and looking at attachments.

If you're like me you're thinking you're thinking "but what if I don't have Acrobat Reader? How can I get the attachments then?". That's a great question, and I'll be answering it in my next blog post.


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