Portable Document Format, or "PDF" as it's become known, is a proprietary format that Adobe Corporation came up with to show documents with all their formatting intact - fonts, layout, size, color, everything. While the application (in it's 9th iteration as of 2010) has increased in functionality dramatically over the years, at its heart it is simple: show the doc the way it was intended by the author, without any issues with the web compatibility of browsers and other client issues. Because Adobe positioned itself early on as the dominant typographic force in digital publishing, PDFs have become a "sure" way to send documents via the web and still be sure to get your message across. When you combine the two technologies, you get a wide array of coding techniques to manipulate data and display them as PDFs for viewers on your web page. This includes things like:
- Creating dynamic PDF's based on user input or current data
- Searching PDF content
- Preserving font and layout without worrying about browser version
- Control whether links to PDFs on your page open in an "embedded" or a "true" (separate window) viewer.
These are all very useful design tools. However, implementing them can be a little tricky.
Of course, the disadvantage of this method is that you are dependent on Google for all of the back-end processing, and if Google changes, it is unlikely to consult with you before it does what it likes. Some people prefer to have more control over their sites.
Use the Adobe API
Join the Open Source Crew