Aware of the discomfort of reading PDF documents on smartphones and other small-form-factor mobile devices, Adobe recently introduced Liquid Mode, a new feature that automatically reformat text, images, and tables for quick navigation and consumption on small screens.
Powered by Adobe Sensei, Liquid Mode uses AI and machine learning in the background to understand and identify parts of a PDF, like headings, paragraphs, images, lists, tables, and more. It also attempts to understand the hierarchy and order of those parts to reformat a static PDF into a more dynamic and customisable experience.
“We’ve gone to great lengths to be thoughtful and methodical in addressing the most common reading pain-points, but it is still early days for the technology behind Liquid Mode. Like all machine learning, the more documents pass through Liquid Mode, the more knowledge it will gain to expand its functionality and improve its reliability,” Adobe said in a blogpost.
The inventor of PDF has debuted Liquid Mode first in the free Adobe Acrobat Reader mobile app for iOS and Android, including Google Play Store-compatible Chromebooks, then bringing it to desktops and browsers.
With Liquid Mode, pinching and zooming are no longer necessary. Words are resizable and reflowable, images are tappable and expandable, and tables are responsive.
The new feature simultaneously creates an intelligent outline, collapsible and expandable sections, and searchable text for quick navigation. Users can even tailor font size and spacing between words, characters, and lines to suit their specific reading preferences. This is especially useful for those who may see the text as too small, squished together, tight, or jumbled.
“Liquid Mode is the first step in a multi-year vision to fundamentally change the way people consume digital documents, and how organisations can extract document intelligence to gain a competitive advantage,” Adobe said in press statement. “Leveraging the power of Adobe Sensei to understand the structure of PDFs, Adobe has begun to reimagine how people read and interact with digital documents, starting with reinventing mobile productivity.”
The company added: “Imagine using AI to replace months of intensive document research with a quick query that cross-references millions of PDFs in your organisation at once. Or, uncovering ground-breaking medical insights from PDF data spread across millions of scientific research reports, medical records, or academic studies. Unleashing this technology to state and local governments could also significantly improve coordination and collaboration across disparate agencies.”
Huge growth of PDF documents
Adobe launched PDF in the early 1990s and released it as an open standard in 2008. Today, its products and services are easily accessed online through Document Cloud, with Adobe Sign usage rising by 200% and Acrobat DC monthly active users more than doubled in 2020.
Furthermore, Adobe estimated that there are more than 2.5 trillion PDFs in the world today.
In a recent Forrester poll commissioned by the company, it found robust growth in the use of document processes across Asia Pacific, with 46% of respondents saying their organization is planning to implement or expand its digital document process capabilities in the next 12 months.
“Entire industries have pivoted to virtual ways of working, as the pandemic puts a halt on face-to-face interactions,” Adobe said.
However, consuming content on mobile has long been a painful experience — especially if a document is long and wordy. In fact, new Adobe research shows that 65% of Americans find it frustrating; 45%t stopped reading or didn’t even try; and 72% say they would work on their mobile device more if it were easier to read documents.
“Manifesting the future of PDF, Liquid Mode delivers a breakthrough reading experience that enables a much easier way to read documents on mobile,” Adobe said.