The purpose of this note is to request improvements in the Acrobat interface that I believe go beyond merely being ‘nice to have’. Instead they call attention to serious design flaws that cry out for correction. In brief, they involve whether one is embedding vs. linking to media, and the associated security implications. They appear to result from the responses by Adobe to the failure by Apple to fix a security flaw in the PC version of Quicktime. I hope that this request can somehow reach the engineers at Adobe.
I had an extended interchange with Adobe tech support about this back in May of this year, for example in the email referenced below.
Footnote to My Adobe Case ADB-29327168-G5Y9 (Friday May 19 at 12:06 pm)
Back in May, it was not even possible to load an mp3 file (I was forced to load .wavs), and videos embedded via Add Video were just awful. There was not even a ‘play again’ button. To repeat a video, it was necessary to close it and re-open it. Perhaps as a result of my complaints, or complaints by others, videos embedded into Acrobat via Add Video are better now, but they still lack functions that the readers of my PDFs will need, most notably frame-by-frame viewing, and remaining on the last frame when a video ends instead of jumping to a logo or blank screen (the latter function sometimes works now, and sometimes does not).
To get these functions for my users, I am currently forced to LINK to the videos and tell users which player they must set as default for my linked MP4s, namely MPC-HC, which is one of the very few that has these abilities but whose function keys are not as intuitive as they should be. And just as bad or worse: there will be literally hundreds of these videos scattered through multiple volumes and appendices of my 600-page set of PDFs. This will necessitate a complex external folder structure that users will have to keep track of, and which must be shipped to them as well.
(The reason is that this is a book on the linguistics of deaf sign language, and the videos are of sign language sentences lasting about 2 seconds each, that readers will need to study carefully frame by frame. And their mental processing will be disrupted if it is cut short by abruptly switching to a logo when a sentence ends.)
These problems would be solved if you could improve your built-in player in the ways that I mentioned. Did I read somewhere that it is actually Microsoft’s most recent player under the covers? That player has lots of possible parameters, including slow motion. I don’t see one for frame-by-frame viewing with the arrow keys but it has a cursor that can be dragged to achieve a similar effect. And it has an automatic ‘repeat’ function which is in some ways even better since one can watch for the crucial transitions in the signed sentence as it zips by again and again at normal speed. Unfortunately it does not stop on the last frame, but your built-in player is currently doing that somehow even though that function does not always work. I’m not suggesting that you add all these functions. I mention them only to suggest that Microsoft’s player may have capabilities that can be tweaked appropriately. All I need is some equivalent of frame-by-frame viewing (like the repeat-again-and-again function), and for it to reliably stop on the last frame and stay there. And to stop acting strange when I click on ‘Play’ multiple times.
Or if that is impossible, why can you not just let us embed videos directly? If MOV videos are the problem, can you not simply block us from embedding MOV videos? (Just FYI, I tried to link to a MOV file a moment ago and Acrobat let me do that, and then let me play it. I have the latest version.) But why block MOV files anyway? Isn’t it the Quicktime player that has the security hole instead of MOV files? You could also block the Quicktime player at runtime. I know you can intercept it since your warning that a file could be dangerous always lists the video player, not the file type, as the thing you warn us about. I’m no expert, but wouldn’t the video actually be playing inside of the chosen player instead of inside the Acrobat itself? Only the data defining the video would be stored inside the PDF, right?
The wonderful interface for my purposes would be an ‘Embed Media…’ option right next to the ‘Create Link…’ option that one already sees when one selects an area on a page and right-clicks it. The ‘Create link…’ option is easy for me since my icons are already there and I have only to draw a box around the area that they fill, click ‘Create Link…’ and navigate to the file I want. Here is what my icons look like:
When I link to videos this way, they automatically come with whatever properties the video file already has, such as 720x480 size, opening in a floating window, and the icon itself – all of which I must explicitly specify at present, in dialog windows again and again for each and every video if I try to embed them using the AddVideo tool – a highly time-consuming task for my hundreds of videos. (As a VERY nice-to-have suggestion, it would greatly ease my workload if you provided a way for me to store defaults for all those choices, or at least remember what they had been on each prior video that was inserted via AddVideo.) If I had an ‘Embed Media…’ option next to the ‘Create Link…’ one, I would no longer have to repeatall those choices each time, and I would not have to ship a complex external folder structure to all my users along with the PDFs. I would only still have to tell users which video player to use and how its function keys work.
In addition to these benefits, the changes that I suggest would make your interface more perspicuous. At present, when one chooses the AddVideo tool, one has no way of knowing ahead of time (except after learning by experience) that the result will be embedded. Nor does one know when choosing the AddButton tool that the only possible result for videos will be to link them. Surely writers of PDFs should know ahead of time whether they are embedding or linking, shouldn’t they? Another option would be to provide AddVideo with a radio button for embed vs. link that one can choose before proceeding to add the video. Or get rid of the AddVideo tool and provide separate Embed Video and Link Video tools in its place.
But the best solution (perhaps in addition to those just suggested) would be to improve your built-in video player in the ways that I mention, and provide defaults that one could set for all the choices one is faced with, or just default automatically to the most recent choices used.
I will be happy to discuss these issues further with any Adobe engineers, and even serve as a free tester of interim versions.
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