Managing PDF Files – a Project Engineer’s Worst Nightmare – Solved!


Creating and distributing PDF files for construction drawings and documents is seen as a critical requirement when moving to a paperless environment.

Widely distributed PDF files, marked up by multiple users, creates a secondary document management problem when users attempt to combine all markups into a single document.

Anoto Live PDF provides a unique solution. Managers can automate the distribution of Live PDF files to multiple users. They are printed with the Live PDF print driver and users mark up drawings and documents with a digital pen.  All markups are consolidated into a single PDF file and then redistributed to the original users.

With the widespread move to tablets, a solution that uses the Live PDF technology on tablets would address a huge market need. Users can select the tool most appropriate to their specific needs – tablet or pen and paper – and all markups would be automatically combined.  Anoto is uniquely positioned to address this market opportunity.

Managing Construction Documents is a Historical Problem

Effectively managing construction documents has long been an issue faced by project engineers and architects.

In the past it was standard practice to create a limited set of documents and distributed these to the project team including designers, field inspectors and contractors. During construction, markups were made on these documents by all parties. Processes were put in place to manage these documents and ultimately to collect and assimilate all markups into an accurate set of as-built documents.

A solution that provides immediate real time feedback from the field allows designers to review field changes and shortens the time frame for completing as-built documentation and final payment.

Paper Based Drawing Markups Effectively Managed with Digital Pens

Digital pen solutions such as SmartInkPDF utilizing Anoto’s PenDocuments Pro technology successfully addressed these paper based needs.  Individual libraries canbe created for each project and all “ink” files are automatically returned and assimilated into a single PDF document.

SmartInkDWG allows drawing based markups to be loaded directly into the original AutoCAD drawing file, streamlining the entire as-built process and providing a complete history of all markups organized by date stamped layers.

Distributing PDF Files Creates New Document Management Issues

Recently, many designers have adopted the practice of generating and distributing PDF files rather than paper documents to the extended project team.  Using PDF files reducew the cost of creating, distributing and managing paper based documents but creates a secondary issue on how the PDF files are managed:

  • Some users will use the PDF files with markup tools as simple as Adobe Acrobat
  • Others will use tablet based applications to markup the files
  • Some will simply print the PDF files and mark them up with a pen

Managing a combination of electronic and paper based documents creates a new set of workflows that are difficult to manage without strict document management procedures. Although many vendors provide construction management software to assist in managing the construction process, most only create versions of the PDF file…. A partial solution at best.

Invariably, some of these documents will be misfiled or simply lost exposing the project engineer to liabilities and delaying the as-built process.

Anoto Live PDF Consolidates Markups and Notes into a Single Document

Anoto Live PDF is a unique cloud based solution that allows designers to create and distribute PDF documents to the extended project team. They are designed to accept updates from digital pens.

Every time any user writes on a Live PDF document, regardless of location, the ink strokes are automatically added to the document and all users receive an updated file.

This is the perfect collaboration tool because all annotations, regardless of who or where are automatically consolidated into a single document.

  • Some users will simply receive updated PDF files whenever a markup is made – allowing instant review of all field observations.
  • A project folder can be created and all updates are automatically posted to that folder

SmartInk Redline, from ChasmTech, utilizes Live PDF and extracts the “ink” from drawing markups and loads the ink strokes directly into the original drawing file as CAD entities. In a distributed environment, users can insert and view the markups in their application of choice:

  • AutoCAD
  • Revit
  • MicroStation
  • Visio

Having all markups loaded into a drawing, separated by date stamped layers, consolidates all information into a single document, allows drafters to review and make changes to expedite the as-built drawing process while also providing complete project documentation.

Live PDF’s ability to automatically consolidate field observations from all project team members is a major step forward in the design and construction industry.

Relentless Move To Mobile Solutions

In the design and construction market, there is a relentless move towards mobile solutions – many cloud based.

A few of the hundreds of products available include:

All of the above are focusing on paperless, tablet based solutions.

How could Anoto technology be incorporated into the tablet market?

Panasonic gives us the first clue with its recently released Toughpad 4K Tablet. This product incorporates Anoto dot pattern into the screen and provides a stylus that is designed to allow accurate drafting on this 20” tablet

Tablet based solutions are ideally suited to and have gain wide acceptance in building and plant projects with well defined processes for monitoring and approving the individual components of a construction project.

Outside facilities are another story.  A harsh environment affected directly by sunlight and weather is less conducive to tablet based applications.  A cross-section of young and older workers often requires the ability to support the use of both pen and paper and tablet applications.

Integrating Anoto Technology With Tablets – The Next Logical Step?

Although the Panasonic Toughpad has a number of interesting characteristics, it is not a main street tablet. What if Anoto were to integrate its technology into iPad and Android tablets?

This could provide a unique solution that address the needs of both tablet and pen and paper users.  Regardless of what technology was used for the markup, all information would be consolidated into a single PDF document that would then be automatically distributed to all participants:

  • Managers and designers would always see the most current field observations
  • Workflows could be easily integrated into the solution to allow for proactive responses
  • Drafters would have immediate access to all construction drawing markups
  • The need for complex document management processes would be eliminated
  • Users can select the technology best suited to their specific needs

About Lance Maidlow

A professional engineer and solution architect with direct experience in a wide range of industries including GIS, water, sewer, power, transportation and oil and gas. Currently focusing on the optimization of design software and field data collection for utilities, local governments and their supporting organizations.
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