We were one game away this year from a historic first ever event: a Super Bowl played in a participating team’s home field. Of course, Minnesota lost to Philadelphia, so that didn’t happen this year. What did happen this year and will continue to happen, is the home field advantage that Interactive Electronic Technical Publications (IETP) will always have over PDFs.

Let’s face it, PDFs were born from paper. Talk about a kid looking like their parent, PDFs look just like the paper they came from. IETPs on the other hand were created from the heart of the digital revolution. They were made by technology to work with technology. Talk about a home field advantage!

So let’s set these two loose in a Super Bowl showdown to see if IETPs can utilize their home field advantage to upend the persistent PDF attack.


IETP’s receive the opening kickoff and take it all the way in for a touchdown.   PDFs 0IETP’s 07

IETP’s were around first, but not by much. Originally called IETM’s (M for Manuals), the idea was started by the US Military in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Widespread use came in the 90’s, but mostly for huge projects in aircraft and defense industries.

PDFs take their kickoff in the end zone and take a knee for a touchback. They drive down the field for an easy touchdown.          PDFs 7IETPs 7

PDFs were developed in the early 90’s and became free in 1993. July 1, 2008 saw the release of PDFs as an open standard.

PDFs gain the upper hand in the first quarter due to widespread use coming much quicker than IETPs. IETP usage has grown, just nowhere near as fast as PDFs.       PDFs 21IETPs 10


The second quarter opens with PDFs driving down the field after an interception. A quick score here puts the pressure on IETP’s to respond.          PDFs 28IETP’s 10

Do you have a computer, phone, or tablet that can’t open a PDF? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Any PC/Phone/Tablet made in the last decade can open a PDF for free with one of the many PDF viewing options available. Heck, even web browsers and operating systems can now natively view PDFs.

IETP’s start the next drive deep in their own territory. They pass on 3rd and long and get intercepted for a pick-six. The quarter starts out bleak for IETP’s, but there is hope on the horizon.      PDFs 35IETP’s 10

Most IETP viewers have limited compatibility because almost all of them are proprietary.

IETPs manage to squeeze out another score in this quarter because of the proliferation of the web and the shift to web apps and HTML5.          PDFs 35IETPs 17


After an epic motivational speech by IETP’s head coach at halftime, the IETP’s storm the field in the third quarter and quickly score against the gloating PDFs.          PDFs 35IETPs 24

IETPs aren’t limited to looking or acting like glorified paper. In fact IETPs were designed to allow for maximum flexibility when it came to content creation, display, distribution, and management.

  • Want to show a 3D model that can be rotated, paned, zoomed, and blown apart? BAM, you got it! PDFs 35IETPs 27
  • Want to show a video in your content? POW, got that, too! PDFs 35 IETPs 30
  • Want to change the applicability (variant, model or language) of the content on the fly? SMASH! PDFs 35IETPs 33

In a matter of minutes the PDFs go from tyranny to terror. With their cushy lead having evaporated like a box of donuts in a police station, they start playing cheap and dirty. A field goal gets them moving in the right direction.          PDFs 38IETPs 33

After reading about the flexibility of IETPs above you might be thinking, “Hey, wait a minute there buck-o. PDFs can have 3D content and cool multimedia built into them, too!” Okay, let me ask you something, when have you ever seen a PDF with 3D content or multimedia built into it that wasn’t some sort of tech demo? When was the last time you downloaded a PDF manual off the web for your toaster, stereo, clothes washer, mower, or whatever, that had multimedia content in it and wasn’t just a glorified scan of a paper manual? Yeah, I haven’t either.

The rest of the third quarter has the IETPs toying with the PDFs like a cat with a trapped mouse. Another touchdown here puts the IETPs in the lead.          PDFs 38IETPs 40

Oh and did I forget to mention that in addition to IETPs displaying any kind of content imaginable, that they often also display PDFs? SMACK!          PDFs 38IETPs 43

And one more thing…ever tried to open, search, and find a part in a 3000 page PDF? PDFs back out of their own end zone for a safety.          PDFs 38IETPs 45


Having squandered their lead in the third quarter, the PDFs fly back into action in the fourth. They’re not going down without a fight, not today. A long grinding drive nets them a tough, and needed, touchdown to tie things up.          PDFs 45IETPs 45

PDFs are free. Need I say more?

The IETPs fight back with a dominant drive of their own, only to fumble the ball at mid-field. The PDFs capitalize by getting deep into IETP territory before the iron curtain IETP defense stops them in their tracks. The PDFs kick a field goal to take the lead with a minute left in the game.          PDFs 48IETPs 45

Although the web is free and the technology is flexible, most IETPs today are still delivered in a proprietary viewer, which you have to pay for…

…Except for OneStrand’s IETP Viewers (R4i Viewer and R4i MobieTP) which are royalty free and can be distributed to your customers around the world! A dramatic last minute IETP touchdown to win the game.

Final Score….          PDFs 48IETPs 52


Joel Brache
Technology Consultant
OneStrand LLC