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Preaching to the converted

  • By Paul Crichton
  • 25 Apr 07, 10:24 AM

A new desktop utility called the RiverDocs Converter, has been released that promises to convert your inaccessible documents designed for print, into a structured and accessible format for delivery online.

Documents are typically delivered online in PDF format. In many ways, this format is unsuited for the web. PDF files are notoriously difficult to make accessible, and are not especially user-friendly to anyone. This new tool should be very welcome as it makes the process of providing an alternative much easier than ever before.

The application will turn a PDF into valid HTML or XHTML. It will also create a table of contents, and insert properly coded headings. The latter feature is an important one, as a document with appropriate titles and sub-titles makes understanding it’s structure much easier, not least for screen reader users. Headings are also very useful for navigating from one section to another.

Of course, the RiverDocs Converter can’t perform magic, and human judgement is still needed. Someone editing a document must still add suitable ALT tags to images to convey meaning, for example. But the application does look capable of doing what it says, and delivering accessible content.

It is certainly an interesting tool. PDF is pretty much the default format for delivery of documents online, so it will take quite a significant change in mindset for this to see mass adoption. But for those looking to provide accessible documents for online consumption rather than for printing, then this tool may well provide a useful service.

You can download the RiverDocs Converter and have a free trial for a week if you want to give it a spin.

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