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Do you want Govt information in PDF format?

GDS wants to remove all PDFs from gov.uk

The Government digital service (GDS) has written a blog saying it wants to remove all PDF documents from gov.uk and instead display all information as HTML.

What do you think about this? Is a PDF document better for your needs, as the information is stable and easier to print out, or would you rather have all HMRC information presented as html pages?

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19th Jul 2018 11:38

I understand some of the reasons why they want to switch the HTML but if they do the likelihood is I'll just start printing the pages as PDF. I find them easier to transfer and don't require a browser to read.

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By jcace
19th Jul 2018 13:23

PDFs are much easier to download, save, send to clients etc, especially when you only want to show the client one page of a multiple-page document. They're also much easier to access (assuming you've downloaded/saved them) when you don't have access to the internet.

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By SJRUK
19th Jul 2018 13:48

PDFs for me.

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19th Jul 2018 13:49

PDFs for me too.

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19th Jul 2018 13:53

yes, definitely .pdfs (though I will 'print' as .pdf anyway - it is just another instance of HMG making life more difficult (only a couple of clicks more difficult, but nevertheless...)

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to slipknot08
19th Jul 2018 17:07

Apparently not.

"GOV.UK exists to make government services and information as easy as possible to find and use.

For that reason, we're not huge fans of PDFs on GOV.UK."

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to Chipette
19th Jul 2018 17:21

Huge non sequitur there.

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19th Jul 2018 16:37

No - pdfs for me.

Government makes it harder to access information - why ?

Where do we complain ?

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to lionofludesch
20th Jul 2018 13:06

lionofludesch wrote:

No - pdfs for me.

Government makes it harder to access information - why ?

Where do we complain ?

They will not listen anyway. Diktats they believe in.

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19th Jul 2018 17:12

The writer of the blog assumes we use the pdfs to read online. Indeed the user experience may be better on html but as others have pointed out the pdf format is more flexible for off line reading/ sharing.

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By SXGuy
20th Jul 2018 08:57

Why can't they offer both? It's quite easy to code a pdf generator link on any html page for developers.

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to SXGuy
20th Jul 2018 09:46

Yes - there's something the Government isn't telling us here.

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to SXGuy
26th Jul 2018 11:12

SXGuy wrote:

Why can't they offer both? It's quite easy to code a pdf generator link on any html page for developers.

The blog explicitly says they're going to do exactly that...

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By Selaen
20th Jul 2018 09:40

If all HMRC info would be in HTML, it'll be in the format of:

two sentences
*click next*
two sentences
link to something semi-relevant
*click next*
sentence
*furiously click next*

PDFs are easy to use, finding information is easier than on the HMRC site (once you've collated all necessary docs to a mini-HMRCinfo on your PC).

By all means, use HTML on the site (the article seems to assume we all sit on the interwebs reading PDFs all day long, yet another bit of evidence on how out of touch HMRC are!) but don't take away my PDFs!

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20th Jul 2018 10:25

PDF's for me too

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By May bee
20th Jul 2018 10:29

PDFs please as more stable and easier to transfer/store offline. Why in times of us being told there is no money or IT resource to continue investment in dynamic coding, simple assessment and general matters are they wasting money on this. I expect they'll say it will save them money in managing PDFs but I strongly imagine the cost of implementing the change (drafting of discussion papers on the matter, dozens of meeting etc) this will not be the case in the real world.

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By hedleyg
20th Jul 2018 10:31

What could possibly go wrong.
1. The version of HTML is not fully supported by your browser.
2. The HTML reqires javascript - a security risk.
3. HMRC make an untested tweak to the webpage causing it to fail.
4. HMRC ISPs running too slow.
5. Your own ISP is struggling.
6. Needs electricity - remember the 3 day week.
7. Needs online access.
8. Storing a complete webpage will use excessive memory and many files.

Advantages of PDFs
1. Can be stored ,emailed, copied to a USB stick.
2. Can be read offline - eg while commuting.
3. Can use the stored battery power in a laptop.
4. An altered version of a PDF will strictly have a new version number.
5. Can be edited (pdftk) easily as full pages to create a personal guide to the requirements without the dross.

I personally feel that ALL tax forms should be writable PDFs and emailed to HMRC with an email response verifying receipt of the document.

The requirement to have a mobile phone, internet access, software, and specialist accounting programs is creating inefficiencies across the whole of the UK.

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20th Jul 2018 10:39

pdf's for me too. Why fix wot ain't broke?

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20th Jul 2018 12:18

This is yet another example of GDS knowing what's best for us mere users. It's also worth noting that the blog is aimed at publishers, not users and they only really seem to be interested in the views of publishers.

To be honest, I have long since lost all faith in GDS and this project.

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20th Jul 2018 12:39

PDFs are valuable in contentious matters where one needs an unambiguous record of a document for evidential purposes. I find it quite hard to produce a permanent, complete, verifiable record of an HTML page. A PDF record, both electronic and printed on paper, is the best possible evidence of HMRC's position at a particular date, and it's easy and quick to produce.

But we are all wasting our breath. We are living in an era when the public's views mean absolutely nothing at all to the government and the civil service, who always know best and couldn't really give a stuff what we think. I have given up responding to "consultation" processes which are always designed to get the responses that the organisation commissioning the process wants, and if the "wrong" responses are in the majority the result is just ignored. You may have noticed a particularly glaring and historically significant example of that in the last couple of weeks.

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20th Jul 2018 13:32

At least we all agree on something.

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to Tax Dragon
20th Jul 2018 14:09

Do we? Personally, I find a 600 page Finance Act with another 800 pages of explanatory notes unwieldy, particularly when we now live in an age when we can have the internet always on.

I can see reasons for wanting to keep a permanent record, but I can't see any other argument in favour of the whole frigging population wanting their own personal copy of every goddam document.

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to Portia Nina Levin
20th Jul 2018 15:09

That smacks me in the gob... to learn that you get your copy of the FAs from gov.uk.

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to Tax Dragon
20th Jul 2018 15:19

I should have said bill.

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to Portia Nina Levin
20th Jul 2018 16:30

Agreed that those don't need to be in .pdf form. You were talking about everyone wanting one though; for better or worse, they don't.

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to Tax Dragon
20th Jul 2018 16:37

Same principal applies to lighter documents to my mind. Just look at it online. If it's something you're worried might get *magically* changed, then snapshot it.

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to Portia Nina Levin
20th Jul 2018 17:20

.pdfs can be useful for saving on client files. I've done this 3 times even as we speak.

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to Portia Nina Levin
22nd Jul 2018 15:11

I think that piece of advice is useless. I assume by "snapshot" you mean a screen print. How can one possibly find the time to screen print multi-page documents where each page typically takes up more than one screen? I suppose one could reduce the browser zoom level down but you'd soon reach the point where the result is pretty much illegible, particularly when printed. Remember, the most important reason for having copies of PDF documents is so that one can prove what was said at a particular time when contentious matters arise. I really do not see how an HTML page can ever be as good from an evidential point of view as a PDF, unless of course you copy the entire source code - no thanks.

As for *magically"-made changes, I'm not worried about those. I am worried about government employees deliberately altering documents to correct mistakes or even change policy in the hope the the changes will just be buried, like bad news. My level of distrust of government has indeed sunk to the point where I wouldn't trust a government employee to tell me the time of day if I thought there was a potential dis-benefit to me if they were to lie. In my constituency we can't even trust our own MP not to lie (I have documentary evidence) or break the law - indeed he was sacked from his ministerial post for the latter reason.

"Just look at it online".... that's such an idiotic remark on so many levels.

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to Portia Nina Levin
23rd Jul 2018 10:45

Portia Nina Levin wrote:

Same principal applies to lighter documents to my mind. Just look at it online. If it's something you're worried might get *magically* changed, then snapshot it.

I print pdfs of all Government information on a weekly basis and then check them for any changes they've not made public.

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By KH
20th Jul 2018 13:41

PDFs ... but if it is HTML I just print to PDF

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20th Jul 2018 14:11

They just don't get it, do they?

Public servants, by definition, are employed to serve the public. Not just do what they like with our money - and to our detriment!

The only benefit of viewing HTML that I can think of is that it is easy to copy and paste a section into an email (or Word document) to quote to someone. However, the benefits of pdfs (as listed by other people in this thread) FAR outweigh such a facility.

This contempt of the public is going to end up with the most almighty backlash and breakdown of society cohesion. Not just over pdfs - obviously! - but the effect is cumulative and, one day, there will be a straw that breaks the camel's back* . . .

* PS I'm a keen supporter of camels' welfare so I do not advocate the accumulation of straw for this purpose.

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By LAC47
20th Jul 2018 16:00

PDF every time please

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By wamstax
23rd Jul 2018 10:50

Again HMRC out of touch with us common plebs (tax agents) and the others keeping them in jobs - the tax paying public.

I think I may revert to long hand script and quill - ok I know I can't but it's Monday morning and another week of HMRC shortcutting its service to the users

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By janefg
24th Jul 2018 12:59

Please, please can they keep PDFs! Its all very well for some people to read these online, but I don't always have an internet connection and anyway, I save relevant information in PDFs on client files on my computer.
Also, can we have PDF forms to complete. That way, before completing the form we can see what information is required and gather it together.

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24th Jul 2018 13:24

PDFs, because, well, .gov.uk is complete garbage. An example of words for the sake of words that do not do what it says at the head of the page:
https://www.gov.uk/understand-self-assessment-bill

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to SteLacca
24th Jul 2018 14:02

What does "by midnight on 31st January" mean ?

As midnight is now, so I'm told, 12 am and therefore in the morning, it must be at the beginning of the day and you would need to pay pay the end of 30th January.

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26th Jul 2018 10:36

Throwing in a curveball here.

How many people who have downloaded PDF versions of documents have unwittingly (maybe even unknowingly) shared out of date content from their own PDF library?

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to steve.oldham
26th Jul 2018 10:44

Yep - that's a danger.

I would only use pdfs in two circumstances

1. To use or hand to a client immediately

2. To record what the website said at the time I printed it.

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By MC1
26th Jul 2018 10:52

My vote for both - should be easy enough. If not they should seek a different programmer.

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26th Jul 2018 11:10

Lots of people getting worked up about this for no reason, I think, particularly if you actually read the blog post. The article here isn't remotely a fair summary : there's nothing in the blog that says they want to remove PDFs.

The blog is highlighting (to *publishers*) the very strong accessibility, on-screen-readability, navigation, copy-paste and similar reasons why designing and publishing content in the "print-first" PDF format is usually worse for users than publishing it as HTML.

That doesn't mean that users who want it as PDF can't have it.

For a start, many browsers now have a decent "Save as PDF / Print as PDF" built right into the software. The blog also mentions they're considering adding an automatic "Download as PDF" tool for pages across the whole gov.uk site.

So if you want a copy for offline use or to archive for future reference / comparison then it is very easy to get a high-quality, accessible PDF from content published as HTML. It would also be easy e.g. for them to automatically produce PDFs combining multiple on-screen pages, complete with bookmarks, indexes, etc.

Similarly if you want to produce a PDF to send to a client, you can, easily. But if you want to quote and include content into an in-house report then almost every time it will be easier to copy and paste from an HTML document than a PDF (copying from PDF invariably loses some useful formatting while picking up irrelevant things like hard line breaks and double spaces that have to be cleaned up).

Similarly, it's actually much easier to run an automatic comparison for differences between two HTML versions of a document than two PDFs, because there's much less scope for slight variations in page layout to create the appearance of big changes that are actually just the result of slightly different word wrapping. Indeed, you can even get these comparisons automatically from the (separate) government web archive which shows differences over time for web pages, but not for PDFs.

In summary : content that's originally created as HTML is very easy to translate (by publisher or user) into high-quality accessible PDF. Content that's published as PDF is very hard to translate the other way and throws up a lot of issues especially if someone has just chucked something together in Word and hit "Save as PDF" so should be avoided unless there are good reasons for using that format.

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26th Jul 2018 11:28

PDFs for me

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