March 1, 2022

Agrello + PDFTron: your PDFs just got better

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Agrello + PDFTron: your PDFs just got better

One of the latest updates to our web application quietly introduced perhaps one of the most complex software components into our system - PDFTron's WebViewer for document preview. While it may not look like a big deal to our users, it is the first step in our journey to bring the power of PDF-formatted documents to our users.

Partnering with PDFTron will bring a wealth of new, reliable document capabilities to our platform. Not only will this improve your contract previewing with new document capabilities, but it will also make completing signing workflows within Agrello even more seamless, whether your contracts are originally in Word or PDF, a single page or many. All of this is thanks to PDFTron's world-class PDF rendering and conversion engine, as well as PDF "SDK" features that our developers will now leverage to provide you with an even better solution and experience.

PDF: 30 years of history

Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format developed by Adobe in 1992 to display documents, including text formatting and images, independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems. Each PDF file is based on the PostScript language and contains a complete description of a fixed-layout document, including text, fonts, vector graphics, raster images, and other information needed to display the document.

Over the past 30 years, PDF has become a de facto global standard for exchanging digital documents and has proven to be nearly universal, with PDF being accepted virtually everywhere. Originally, PDF was a proprietary format controlled by Adobe. Then, in 2008, the company opened PDF as an international standard (ISO 32000-1: 2008), allowing an entire ecosystem of developers to develop around PDF, whose features are no longer controlled by Adobe. Since then, PDF has been an unrivaled document format in terms of interoperability, ubiquity and flexibility.

However, even today, companies that want to use PDF for document exchange must overcome many hurdles that stand in the way of developers. At Agrello, we started with PDF-based document previews using open source libraries, but soon found that in many cases the conversion produced poor results. In particular, when it came to formatting legal documents with multi-level numbered paragraphs, clear rules for indents, and the importance of fonts and font styles, the open source libraries simply let us down. So we set out to find a better solution for our customers.

PDFTron: 24 years of history

In Agrello, we started to evaluate different possible alternatives, commercial as well as open-source, and finally decided to go with the technology stack offered by PDFTron.

PDFTron Systems Incorporated is a Canadian software company headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. Founded in 1998 by Catherine Andersz and Ivan Nincic, PDFTron was among the first companies outside of Adobe Systems to offer PDF development tools.

Today, the PDFTron platform provides for definitive document viewing and manipulation capabilities for developers across all major mobile platforms, desktop, and the web, while supporting formats from conventional PDF and Office, to CAD and even video. Thousands of innovative startups to top Fortune 100, across virtually all industries, use PDFTron's SDKs (Software Development Kits) and APIs to enable cross-platform document and digital content collaboration, PDF markup, signing, and conversion within their commercial software and digital enterprise workflows.

Why we chose PDFTron

The reason we chose PDFTron lies in the reliability and expanse of their offering. Their main product PDFNet SDK has been around since 2002. That makes 20 years of experience in PDF. We benchmarked their solution for web apps, server-side support, and mobile SDKs. We also tested their support service as well as their developer materials and we found PDFTron to exceed the competition in the market significantly.

At PDFTron, our mission is to help the world change the way it works with documents one partner at a time. And Agrello is a prime example of one of the many startups we're helping to innovate faster by providing industry-leading document workflows and capabilities. Backed by PDFTron's technology, Agrello will be able to deliver a revamped document experience to Agrello users on any platform or device, effectively replacing the need for paper signing processes while helping Agrello to compete in markets with known players.
— Catherine Andersz, PDFTron’s CEO and Co-Founder

Building reliable digital solutions

Agrello's mission is to help companies digitize their contract processes. A crucial aspect of digitization is the reliability and trustworthiness of digital systems. For people dealing with legal documents, the correctness of the output format is an important part of a reliable and trustworthy digital solution. They expect the document created in Microsoft Word to look exactly the same in the signed PDF format. And although it seems trivial, converting Word to PDF is actually quite a difficult process when online conversions come into play.

Our goal is not to just put together some convenient tech stack, but to take an extra step to make sure you can trust the process completely. That's why, for example, we use sophisticated digital signature algorithms like elliptic curve encryption to ensure the authenticity of documents and signatures, and we support qualified electronic signatures.

A solid and battle-tested PDF stack is just as important for us to promote our ideals of trusted systems.

Way forward

PDF preview and document output are just the first features already available to our users, but we are currently working on expanding our PDF-based offering. In the queue are PDF form creation to enable data capture with PDFs, PAdES-qualified electronic signatures, and even possible collaboration tools for commenting on documents and sharing ideas.

We hope that with PDFTron's technical stack and experience, our customers will achieve first-class results in digitizing PDF-based documents.

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