Last week we had a customer contact us regarding an alert that PDF Annotation Services (PAS) was moving to an “End of Life” schedule. From the discussion, it seems that PAS uses some components from Adobe that are out of support and Documentum does not have a replacement. This post will discuss TSG’s thoughts on PAS as well as consider different alternatives.
PDF Annotation Services – What is it?
For a long time, Documentum only offered annotation services via partners. Common add-ons for annotation services included AnnoDoc, Brava, and Snowbound. With the release of Documentum 6.0, Documentum included an add-on, PDF Annotation services or PAS as it is commonly called. Unlike Snowbound and other annotation tools, PDF annotation services only allowed annotation of PDF content. Most users would leverage PAS from Webtop. Each annotation layer can have security so only certain users can see certain markups. PAS uses the Adobe standard for marking up PDF documents and requires the users to have Adobe Acrobat installed on their PC. Annotations are typically used in two ways:
- Document Markups – In some scenarios (legal, engineering), annotations are used to highlight areas on the document to draw attention to specific text or figures. These highlighted areas tend to stay in the repository for futures viewers of the document.
- Document Review – Often in approval scenarios, we see annotations being used to indicate changes to documents during review. These annotations are typically deleted, along with the DRAFT documents, once the document is approved.
If clients are moving away from PAS, the concern would be with the Documentum Markups as those annotations would need to be available for future readers of the document.
PAS End of Life – What is the schedule?
From a quick look on the EMC support site – current EOL for PAS (as of Feb 17th) is:
Keep in mind that these dates often change based on customer feedback.
TSG’s OpenAnnotate Experience
For some clients, the cost of Acrobat as well as making sure it is configured correctly on each PC was something they wanted to get away from. TSG created OpenAnnotate back in 2010 to provide a light-weight and free browser-based PDF annotation tool. Based on open source technologies, we designed OpenAnnotate to store annotations in Documentum in Adobe’s XFDF format, consistent with PAS.
As a free, light-weight alternative, OpenAnnotate only has a subset of annotation objects compared with Acrobat. These include sticky note, line, square, circle and arrow. Given the browser-based approach, some of the text annotation objects (ex: Highlight) are difficult but clients typically found an alternative with line or square objects.
One of our first videos on OpenAnnotate and PAS is still available in our Learning Zone.
Moving away from PAS – Some thoughts
For clients that want to keep annotating from Webtop, one easy way to move away from PAS would be to leverage an annotation tool that supports the XFDF format for annotations. OpenAnnotate as well as Brava both support the standard and could easily be added. Other solutions that do not support the XFDF standard, or rely on annotations on regular documents, might more difficult to introduce.
For review and approval workflows, we would anticipate that it might be fairly simple to move to another annotation tool as existing annotations are being deleted once documents are approved. There would be a transition time period where the switch was made and client interfaces were updated.
For Document Markup, the issue is not only how to introduce a new tool but what to do with the existing annotations. One interesting option about moving away from PAS as opposed to other annotation tools is that it leverages the standard annotation layer from Adobe. This layer can be viewed if applied to a PDF correctly in Acrobat Reader. See our HPI 2.1 demonstration in the Learning Zone where this capability is demonstrated. (Note – Chrome and Firefox are a bit tricky to configure since they have their own PDF viewer. You must enable the Adobe Reader plug-in to view annotations).
With PDF Annotations Services being put on an End of Life schedule, clients should consider moving to new annotation tools as well as account for existing annotations in Documentum.