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Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Thu May 09, 2019 8:10 am
by David.P
Over there is a highly interesting thread with many thoughtful contributions from the forefront of the most advanced capabilities of PDF-XChange Editor.

I am not a researcher myself, and therefore might have a slightly different requirement profile. I do have tens of thousands of PDF files, most of which contain varying amounts of comments and internal links. At the moment it is less important for me to be able to manage, sort, arrange or export comments or highlights.

However, I'm looking for a way to collaborate (internationally) between teams, particularly using (lots of) PDF files.

The use case is often such that there are dozens or hundreds of PDF files involved in a project. If I'm working on a project by myself, I would pack all the essential PDF's into one large and ever growing project PDF with up to many thousand pages, which I then would use to track the project for months and years.

Such a project PDF can end up containing tens of thousands of highlights and comments, and particularly thousands of internal hyperlinks. Especially the internal hyperlinks are invaluable, because even after years, you can track all correlations, quotations, cross-references etc. that have ever played a role in the project, in a matter of seconds. The same of course goes for the lightning-fast advanced (Boolean) search capabilities of PDF-XChange Editor within such large project files, as well as for its advanced editing and page handling/arranging capabilities (and many more of its features).

Now the question for me is whether and how something similar can be done also across teams and locations. In other words, how can other team members benefit from my thousands of highlights, comments and hyperlinks (and vice versa), and how can they also add their own additional comments, links etc. to the project?

It currently seems to me that the only way to share such huge project PDFs across teams would be via some cloud drive, so that everyone can access and work on them. However, this fails already for technical reasons, because it is not possible for several people to work on and edit one shared PDF at the same time.

Therefore, I'm still looking for ideas as to whether something similar is possible, maybe without packing all relevant documents into one giant PDF. In other words, how can you work in a (team) project with, for example, hundreds of documents in a way so that the following capabilities are provided:

  1. shared team access to all documents
  2. possibility to annotate the documents with highlights, comments, additions etc.
  3. possibility to link not only between documents, but also between certain pages or text passages of documents (like when hyperlinking internally in a PDF)
  4. full text search of all documents belonging to the project (and only these documents)
  5. flexible arrangement of the document view(s) on the screen like with PDF-XChange Editor, especially with multiple split screens or windows side by side
  6. etc....
Thanks @all for any ideas or possible experiences on this!


Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Fri May 10, 2019 5:00 pm
by Paul - Tracker Supp
Hi David,

I pulled your post from here: viewtopic.php?f=62&t=22846 and created a new thread on it because this is something that we would like to discuss on it's own.

Collaboration is without doubt in demand and something that we have not really embraced, partly due to the fact that we don't like the way most approach it, but also there are some huge questions around how to facilitate collaboration without having to offer an associated cloud storage, which is beyond the current scope of the company.

One competitor uses a paradigm that limits collaboration to only their product, it is not an ISO compliant solution. We believe very strongly in the P of PDF. We won't likely go that way.

Still others offer a traditional check out/check in model but we do not feel that is the future.

To my mind Google Docs has nailed the collaboration functionality, multiple users can concurrently change a document and all users can see what each other is doing. I think you will find that Google Docs took years, thousands of programmers and a budget in the multiple millions to achieve. Same thing with Office 365. We simply do not have the resources to do the same.

Having said that, we do want to hear what you and other users want, so I appreciate the post. We must let this percolate for a while.

I'd love to hear what others want in regards PDF collaboration.

Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Fri May 10, 2019 8:02 pm
by David.P
Hello Paul,

thank you, I appreciate that you have created a new topic thread regarding the question of collaboration.

I will keep thinking about it and share any further ideas or thoughts in this thread. Actually, I believe that there currently is no software or service that allows the kind of collaboration that I'm thinking about, where you can comment, edit, search and link documents at a level of detail and precision that is possible within one single PDF document, using PDF-XChange Editor.

It would be already a huge step if it would become possible to handle, comment, edit and link, say, an entire folder of PDF documents, but without having to put all of the documents into one large PDF file.

In other words, you would simply shove all documents belonging to a project into one folder, and PDF-XChange Editor would treat them as a single giant virtual PDF file, with all the well-known tools available for editing, commenting, linking, moving, searching, bookmarking etc.

Well that's my thoughts for the moment, and I'd love to hear about everyone else's ideas regarding PDF-based collaboration.

Best regards

Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Sat May 11, 2019 5:22 am
by francois maurice

Yes, I'm also interested by collaboration !

A simple and basic way would be to share documents via an existing cloud service, such as Google Drive or OneDrive, from within Editor.

Several software offer this feature nowadays. The user only has to grant access to a folder of his area of the cloud service of his choice.

It's not a service like Google Docs or Office 365 and it is not exactly what David.P ask for, but it's useful all the same. And, to be honest, it is impossible to beat Google and Microsoft on this ground, at least for now.


Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Sat May 11, 2019 10:07 am
by David.P
Thank you François,

yes, simply sharing access to a collective PDF file already would be a first step towards better collaboration.

My thoughts however focus more on (company) knowledge management and (shared) document management, because I feel there is nothing truly usable and flexible on the market at the moment.

With "usable" I mean fast, feature-rich, attractive and customizable to the max (as PDF-XChange Editor), and with "flexible" I mean that it should require no more than a (shared) file system with folders filled with the respective (PDF) documents.

Actually I think my above proposal of "virtual" PDF files, or "virtual" PDF portfolio files, could be a starting point. "Virtual" meaning that the PDF file (or PDF portfolio, consisting of many separate PDF files acting as one large PDF file) would be presented in PDF-XChange Editor exactly as a "real" (open) file, however the respective PDF file(s) would not actually be "open" and therefore locked for others while you work on them.

Only when a user actually would make a change to the shared PDF file (or to any PDF file of the shared virtual PDF portfolio), the respective physical PDF file would be updated. Others working on the same PDF file (or virtual PDF portfolio) would then be presented with those changes in near-realtime by PDF-XChange Editor monitoring the PDF file (or the PDF files of the shared virtual PDF portfolio) for changes (on the file system level, i.e. last modified date).

Of course, there could still be collisions if multiple users would edit the same PDF file (or virtual PDF portfolio constituent file) basically at the same minute or second. However, this probably could be handled in most cases.

For me however, simultaneously editing the very same PDF file is not a key feature of PDF collaboration anyway. I see the focus much more on keeping file duplication and emailing files to-and-fro to an absolute minimum (ideally to zero) -- together with the above-described document management abilities (creating shared virtual project PDF portfolio files with common/file-spanning bookmarks, hyperlinks and advanced search capabilities).

I rather see the main purpose of PDF collaboration in a joint participation in the advancement of one's knowledge by means of sharing your own work progress (commenting, editing, linking, bookmarking etc.) on a file or on a file portfolio with everyone on the team.


Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Wed May 15, 2019 3:27 pm
by JWF
In Office 365 SharePoint Online or MS Teams, you can edit office files, but no PDF files. When opening a PDF file, an integrated PDF viewer provided by MS displays the PDF content. Then the user can activate the collaboration feature. For PDF files, however, you can only chat to the document and not comment, note or mark anything.

1. Start collaboration in MS Teams with a Word document

Image 3

2. Then you can comment, note or mark anything

Image 2

3. With an PDF File this is currently not possible

Image 1

4. Now comes the opportunity for PDF Exchange into place - with an PDF Exchange Office 365 add-in you would add extended ways of collaboration to Office 365 and similar to your current product philosophy, you could provide different versions of the add-in (free, pro, …)

Got the message?

Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Wed May 15, 2019 6:14 pm
by Paul - Tracker Supp

welcome to the forums and thank you for the post! I appreciate your bringing this to this public forum.

You have piqued my interest, (actually this whole discussion has, but anyway...) I am going to do some reading up on collaboration using Office 365, I must confess to not having much experience with it myself.

David, I am interested in your comments about how for you collaboration is not necessarily tied to concurrent editing. If I understand your thinking correctly, your need seems to be essentially about presenting an existing shared filesystem of PDFs in a user friendly UI.

It seems to me that a traditional Check Out/Check in system like SharePoint or WebDAV is applicable to such a thing. It raises the question "What really IS PDF collaboration?"
  • Does collaborating on PDF files inherently mean concurrent editing capabilities?
  • Should PDF Collaboration be integrated into existing back ends (like SharePoint, WebDAV, etc)
  • What do people want from PDF collaboration?

Those are not just rhetorical questions. I am keen to hear, if you could describe "PDF Collaboration" in a single sentence, what would it be?

Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Fri May 31, 2019 6:50 pm
by David.P
Hello forum and Tracker Team,

I am sorry, Paul, that I haven't answered for so long.

That's only because I think about the topic every day -- and because I'm actually trying and implementing a complex international (legal) project via PDF collaboration at the moment.

I will share my experiences, ideas, suggestions... on PDF collaboration as soon as possible!

In one sentence I would perhaps express it this way, currently:

  • For me, PDF collaboration currently means providing one single complex shared PDF document that contains all information essential to the project, as well as a massive (and ever increasing) number of comments and (mostly internal) hyperlinks, whereby that shared PDF document is continuously updated with the latest project information.

Thanks @All and
Best regards,

Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 9:12 pm
by Paul - Tracker Supp
Thanks for that David,

so for you the collaborative part is that this virtual PDF and it's associated annotations are all presented to multiple users?

Once again managing the comments comes up. I can see it's value here as well, and this crossover may be helpful.

I must confess that when I think of collaboration I go straight to concurrent editing. Perhaps because my experience in collaboration has to date been in the context shared code where check out/check in and conflict merging are the rule of the day. At least that is how it used to be...

I appreciate all the input we are getting here. Regardless of how it may seem, all this is percolating through to the right places. This is not something we will determine how to handle in a week.
Keep up the input and feedback. It is appreciated.

Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:04 am
by soremo

David, do I get you right that the huge virtual pdf that you describe is like a case folder holding a collection of documents and that, while it is not intended to modify the content of already included documents (since they are kind of archived in the case folder; otherwise they would probably have been saved in a more editable format than pdf), it shall be possible to add further documents to the case folder and to collaboratively annotate the documents therein (in particular concurrently viewing the documents and their annotations as well as adding and editting annotations such as highlights and comments)?

In my opinion, handling such a case folder would be easier if the documents are handled not as a single virtual pdf file, but as individual pieces, since these could be handled more flexible. For example, individual documents can be arranged next to each other for side-by-side viewing or grouped in tag groups and so on. The individual files could simply be stored in a common directory of the file system. But I also see the benefit of a hierarchy or timeline to have an order (other than the alphabetical order) between the files. Therefore I suggest having a special file (handled by PDF-XChange Editor) that is like a bookmark list or bookmark tree, though not for a single pdf document, but for a collection of pdf documents. Furthermore, such file could also include session information like the *.xcesession files already do. If such special file is opened the pdf documents to which the file refers are loaded into tabs and arranged according to the session information, and a sidebar is opened showing the document order/hierarchy as a list or tree for quick navigation through the documents. Possibly the pdf documents and the special file could be packaged so as to appear as a single file on the file system.

So far for the document collection. As for the collaboration, all collaborators would of course need to have access to the special file and to the directory in which the individual documents are stored (or to the package). Such access could be provided by a company cloud or a public cloud. As regards concurrently annotating the documents, this would depend on where the annotations are stored. If they are stored in the individual pdf documents, this would require PDF-XChange Editor not to lock a pdf documents that it opens, to immediatly write changes to the pdf document to disk for others to be able to pick them up, and to do periodic background checks whether an opened document has been modified by someone else. Of course one would also need some means of handling editing conflicts. If instead all annotations are stored centrally in the special file, only collaboratively editing this file would be required. This might be easier; for example, the file could be an SQLite database that already supports concurrent access (as far as I know).

So this is my take on PDF collaboration. What do you think?


Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:22 am
by David.P
Hi soremo, and many thanks for your description and ideas!

Sorry, I'm just answering basically as a placeholder at the moment, because I won't have the time to write anything really substantiated here for a few days at least.

Only to that extent, I find your thoughts extremely helpful, and I think your suggestion of handling the comments (or even different "comment layers" for different projects/different "parent" collab-PDF's) not in the collaborative (virtual) PDF itself, but possibly in a separate file structure is very good!

I will come back soon and outline my further experiences and ideas about PDF-based collaboration, promised.


Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Wed Jul 17, 2019 10:55 pm
by Paul - Tracker Supp
I love this discussion (does that mean I have no life?).

I can see both advantages and disadvantages to keeping all the annotations separate from the PDFs they relate to. The obvious advantage, as soremo pointed out, is a single location to manage all annotations, I would imagine this would simplify things, but I also think it would mean that opening any of the constituent PDF files outside the context of the "collection/case folder" would mean those annotations are not available.

I am also surprised to hear few people think that concurrent editing is really required. If we go that way then conflicts on save could potentially be handled right there with similar options that existing version control systems use.

Keep the ideas coming! This is great stuff!

Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 1:12 pm
by Stephanie L.
Hi everyone,
I have followed this discussion and thought I would chime in since this is something I would be very interested in as well.

We have been using Exchange at our office for some years an love it!
We are now interested in some collaboration or shared review options and there does not seem to be much out there that would fit our exact needs.

On our end what would be very beneficial is collaboration for the commenting aspect only.
For example, we have a pdf and multiple parties need to include their own comments on the same document.
I do not think that real time sharing would be essential, but perhaps a ''sync'' feature where you add in a few comments and then sync to add you changes to the shared file. Then the other users get notified the file has been updated and need to do a sync on their end to see the new comments. A bit similarly to the sync feature in the Autodesk Revit software if anybody if familiar with that.

I think that what would be the best collaborating tool would be some type of syncing platform where users could add the comment on their preferred software (Exchange, Acrobat, Foxxit, which ever they prefer). All the other collaborating options out there that I could find limit you to using only that commenting software, and the reality is that not all users use the same. But maybe that is a bit too much to ask for haha! :wink:

Re: Collaboration in PDF-XChange

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 2:33 pm
by Paul - Tracker Supp
Hi Stephanie,

thank you so much for your input. I think you have hit upon an important part of the overall puzzle here when you point out that most collaboration solutions do require everyone to use the same software, while may users would prefer to use what they already know.

The main reason for that is that the creators of said collaboration service/system will not have access to the other platforms to add the required functionality. For Outlook one could conceivable write an Add-On, Adobe and Foxit for example are direct competitors to us and as such unlikely to work with us to implement cross application collaboration.

I am personally intrigued with the idea and it is sparking for me many questions. Like any good quest, every answer elicits more questions.

To truly be cross application capable would require an as yet unprecedented level of cooperation between competitors.


I love this discussion, I want to hear all the ideas, conservative to radical. A bit like a brainstorming session where no idea is excluded. Sometimes the most crazy ideas end up working! (NOT saying this a a crazy idea ;-) )