Document Fidelity Management – Part 1

Information today is easy to create, share and synthesize. However managing even a basic document in the massive digital libraries people collect requires preparation, organization and forethought. The following guidelines and practical tools should help you manage at least the electronic documents you create and collect. I call this method document fidelity management or DFM for short. The basic premise is to utilize collected data that is output in documents suitable for print or electronic collaboration.

There are fundamental rules for DFM. One might even call these the 4 commandments of document management. They are:

1) Create documents using best practice or generally agreed upon standards.
2) Make formatting platform independent, or as technically agnostic as possible.
3) Separately maintain source document(s).
4) Use metadata in all documents to include source, creation date, author, and abstract information on the subject.

In essence the document you create is the output or display of a process that is done to build the document. Including the source and other information (including source documents) enables true meaning to come from you completed work. If the work from your document needed to be primarily sourced or expanded upon providing the source material provides a very efficient means of building upon the document.

Tools of the Trade
Every industry or practice has special and unique tools allowing them to be most efficient in their work. Plumbers, carpenters, doctors and electrical engineers all adhere to a standard unique to their science and share common tools and practices for accomplishing their duties. Knowledge workers are those who use information to enable decision making and share knowledge. For our example on document sharing we will explain the purpose and  best uses of the portable document format (pdf).

PDF is the open standard for document management under ISO 32000-1:2008 for Document Management – Portable Document Format. This defines the layout and file structure of files used to display text image and offer limited interactivity. PDF files may be viewed on any number of computers including Windows, Linux, Solaris and Mac operating systems. Making files available to a wide audience ensures compatability while mainaining a consistent dislay of information.

You may wish to use PDF when sending a advertising proof to ensure grpahics, colors and layouts remain consistent. If you have created a report that should not be accessible to a non-paying recipient or you wish to maintain digital rights management the pdf standard for documents enables this granularity of control. You may also want to distribute information that is view only and prevent end users from re-tasking your work or material. In all cases the pdf standard addresses these as well as other goals.

It is a common misconception that a PDF file may be created. The truth is a PDF is simply a means of converting a document into a commonly read format. In other words you create a PDF from an existing file. For this reason it is very important you maintain the source document (example a Microsoft Word file) to allow you to make modifications and redistribute an updated copy of the pdf file. Citing this source file in your metadata assists in the recollection or review of your work.

In future posts I describe both commercial and freely available software tools to use for creating and managing pdf documents. FInally I share methodologies for sharing and distributing your work in the pdf standard.

1) Create a PDF document (link pending)
2) Cut PDF files (link pending)
3) Merge PDF files (link pending)
4) Sharing PDF files (link pending)
5) Live Collaboration Techniques (link pending)

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