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Postscript and Acrobat

20 replies on 2 pages. Most recent reply: Jan 3, 2008 10:12 PM by William Baxter

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Bruce Eckel

Posts: 874
Nickname: beckel
Registered: Jun, 2003

Postscript and Acrobat (View in Weblogs)
Posted: Sep 25, 2005 9:40 AM
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Summary
It's not uncommon to run across technical papers published in postscript. It's not clear to me why people still do this, but until yesterday I've never had the patience to figure out how to read them.
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Acrobat claims that it can convert postscript, but every time I've tried it, it failed and blamed the postscript. I began thinking that Adobe just hadn't put in the necessary effort.

This was reinforced when a friend blithely agreed to the popup that suggested she upgrade to the latest Acrobat. Acrobat has always been pretty reliable, why not? But when she did, Acrobat stopped working. When we looked at the latest upgrades, each point release seemed to be a bug-fix for the previous point release, and if you wanted to install the latest version, you had to start with the basic installation and then install all the point releases one-by-one. Looks like Adobe has wandered into the land of bad software. Don't agree to upgrade unless you're in the mood to be an explorer in that land.

This worries me, because Adobe has just acquired Macromedia. Will Flash begin to falter under Adobe's bad software practices?

My friend was saved by an unlikely source: Microsoft. If you are unfamiliar with Windows XP's "System Restore" (generally found under Accessories|System Tools), it's definitely the most brilliant feature in XP. You can explicitly place milestones, and every few days it places its own. If you install a piece of software that messes things up (like Acrobat, in this case), you can back up to a previous milestone, when things were working. It doesn't mess with your data files, only your software installations. It's repaired a number of boo-boos, and it's really good to know it's there. I'm hoping that Windows "Vista" has one or two features of that calibre to make it worth the probable pain of upgrading (tempted, but unable to switch to OSX just yet; hoping that OSX for Windows will allow easy dual booting).

Anyway, in my quest to read the postscript file, I decided to look at my Cygwin installation. If you're not familiar with Cygwin, it's basically "Unix on Windows," it's free, and it's solved many, many problems for me over the years. I probably didn't install Ghostscript correctly, because that didn't seem to work. So I ran "apropos postscript" (apropos tells you what programs might be appropriate for the arguments that you give it) and it showed me the ps2pdf command, which instantly converted my document into a PDF that Acrobat had no trouble displaying.

Another thing that makes me worry about Adobe: Acrobat has always been very slow to start up; it's one of the painful things about using the product. But Adobe has never, apparently, felt the need to speed it up, even when there has been (apparently for several years) at least one addon tool that speeds up your Acrobat startup, the Adobe Reader SpeedUp. I've used this for a year or two and it's been great; it's really reduced the pain of using Acrobat. So if someone can write a tool that, from the outside without the source code, can manipulate Acrobat and speed it up, why wouldn't Adobe improve their own product to be faster? It's no wonder I'm concerned about what will happen to Flash.


Keith Ray

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Registered: May, 2003

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 25, 2005 9:52 AM
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Apple's Preview application has been able to open Postscript files for me (converting them into pdf). It might running ps2pdf internally.

Morel Xavier

Posts: 73
Nickname: masklinn
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 25, 2005 11:09 AM
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Summary
It's not uncommon to run across technical papers published in postscript. It's not clear to me why people still do this, but until yesterday I've never had the patience to figure out how to read them. Acrobat claims that it can convert postscript, but every time I've tried it, it failed and blamed the postscript. I began thinking that Adobe just hadn't put in the necessary effort.
-----------------------------
Your best bet for reading Postscripts (without converting them) would be to download GhostView. Not as nice as PDF-reading software, but still useable.

And as an alternative to Adobe's reader, you should try Foxit PDF Reader, it's lean and mean, has a very fast startup and it uses roughly a third of Reader's memory consumption (using Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0.3)

Charles Haws

Posts: 24
Nickname: hawscs
Registered: Nov, 2003

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 25, 2005 1:07 PM
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> <p>Anyway, in my quest to read the postscript file, I
> decided to look at my <a
> href="http://www.cygwin.com/">Cygwin installation</a>. If
> you're not familiar with Cygwin, it's basically "Unix on
> Windows," it's free, and it's solved many, many problems
> for me over the years. I probably didn't install
> Ghostscript correctly, because that didn't seem to work.

Thank you! I needed this just the other day. I made GhostScript work, but even when it works it isn't very good. Not compared to Acrobat at least.

Kartik Vaddadi

Posts: 2
Nickname: kartikvad
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 25, 2005 2:26 PM
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"hoping that OSX for Windows will allow easy dual booting" - Don't you mean OX X for Pentium?

Andriy Shapochka

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Nickname: ashapochka
Registered: Oct, 2004

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 25, 2005 4:26 PM
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Likely GPL Ghostscript for the win platform will work best for you in dealing with PS documents. Its home is here: http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~ghost/
Once installed you can use one of its utilities ps2pdf to convert ps to pdfs, or you can install the actual ps viewer GSView on top of it: http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~ghost/gsview/index.htm

David Coldrick

Posts: 2
Nickname: coldrick
Registered: Feb, 2003

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 25, 2005 11:16 PM
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Hi Bruce,

Dunno why the remark about Acrobat being slow - since version 7, it's been going like a rocket for me, both on windoze and linux

Regards,
David

Chris

Posts: 1
Nickname: crisscross
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 26, 2005 1:09 AM
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>It's not uncommon to run across technical papers published in
>postscript. It's not clear to me why people still do this...
Well, I belive it is the same kind of people who thinks that Linux/Unix is more usable than Windows that publishes papers in postscript, and some of them even like to publish their writings in tex.
But it is not clear to me too why they do this...

Lucian Pintilie

Posts: 3
Nickname: luci
Registered: Aug, 2005

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 26, 2005 6:17 AM
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Many technical papers are presented as PostScript because the writers are familiar with either TeX or LaTeX (see Donald Knuth and Leslie Lamport). These are very good typesetting programs. They allow authors to focus on their content and its logical structure and let the tool to take care of presentation issues. The output is very good-looking and as author you don't need to fight with intricacies of stubborn software (have you tried to have properly numbered headings for sections of your Word document?).

You'll probably be amazed to hear that IBM DB2 tools can "describe" database tables in LaTeX format!

SvendTofte

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Nickname: svendtofte
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 26, 2005 6:51 AM
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No, it does not answer why people put old old formats such as ps and tex online (I've gotten tex off of knuth's page). You can write all you want, and still put it online in PDF format.

While there may be some technical problems, I've written a dosen papers in latex, and I can always print it PDF, with no problems.

Chris Stromberger

Posts: 3
Nickname: cstrombe
Registered: Jun, 2004

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 26, 2005 10:04 AM
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Thanks for the link to the Adobe Reader SpeedUp software. I have always been whipped by clicking on a link on some website, only to see the Adobe splash screen come up. I think PDF files are used far too much online when often a simple html file will suffice. Drives me nuts!

-Chris

Lucian Pintilie

Posts: 3
Nickname: luci
Registered: Aug, 2005

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 26, 2005 10:54 AM
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People put PS content online for download and printing (I think that's the most common usage scenario). Most printers are PS printers, not PDF printers. PS looks best in print and sometimes the quality is degraded by ps2pdf - I've seen that happening.

Noam Tamim

Posts: 26
Nickname: noamtm
Registered: Jun, 2005

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 26, 2005 12:21 PM
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1. Acrobat Reader 7 (or, like they call it now, Adobe Reader) is much faster than 6.
2. I use PDFCreator (https://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator) to create PDFs from any Windows application (it works as a printer driver). It can also convert PS to PDF (you just associate .ps files with it).

Noam.

Eric Gillespie

Posts: 13
Nickname: viking
Registered: Jun, 2005

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 26, 2005 5:43 PM
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Personally, since I tried out Adobe Reader 7, I haven't looked back, and indeed, now cringe at the screen whenever I use earlier versions. The one down point in the version running under Linux is: they took the DRM out. So I can't read books that have protection included, unless it's only password protection. Major annoyance, as my Windows system won't run Adobe Reader 7.

I'm happy enough (on my Linux system, anyhow) to use disparate formats such as info, text, html, ps, pdf, latex, lyx, lout, and even the occasional .doc file. Bruce - your "Thinking In Java edition 2, doc form" takes absolutely ages to load into OpenOffice.org possibly because of the macros you used while composing it. Good book, by the way. Looks like I'll have to buy my copy of Edition 4.

Ron Ruble

Posts: 10
Nickname: ronr
Registered: Aug, 2004

Re: Postscript and Acrobat Posted: Sep 27, 2005 7:26 AM
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> People put PS content online for download and printing (I
> think that's the most common usage scenario).

Download will remain common for a long time, but printing is rapidly becoming second choice. For a lot of information, especially technical writing, a lot of people skim to the parts they need to see. This is easier done without printing.

> Most printers are PS printers,

Not anymore. Most high-end printers in use are probably PS printers, but there are a -lot- of low-end printers.

> not PDF printers. PS looks best in print and sometimes
> the quality is degraded by ps2pdf -
> I've seen that happening.

That's true. As others have noted, there is always GhostScript and GhostView, and the author's CygWin solution is a nice alternative.

My biggest objection to PS documents is that the documents are often formatted poorly, with such attention to getting a certain 'look' in print that the document is exceedingly poor for viewing on a monitor. They are often overly long; 50 pages worth of content stretching over 200 pages. They are often formatted for a very narrow width, and the greater width of monitors means they fail to use screen size effectively. Then, too, the fonts chosen by many authors scale poorly on the monitor.

This isn't a limitation of PS format, but a poor use of it by the authors.

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