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WWF introduces new PDF-like file format to stop you from printing


December 15, 2010

The World Wide Fund for Nature has teamed up with German advertising agency Jung von Matt to develop a digital document format that prevents users sending docs to the printer

The World Wide Fund for Nature has teamed up with German advertising agency Jung von Matt to develop a digital document format that prevents users sending docs to the printer

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The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says that an area of forest the size of Greece is cleared every year and that a significant proportion of that wood is pulped to make paper. In an effort to curb the needless printing of documents, the German branch of the organization has teamed up with Jung von Matt to introduce a new PDF-like digital file format that actually prevents a user from sending documents to the printer.

Even in these enlightened days of digital documents and in spite of various public, business and government efforts to reduce and recycle, trees are still being cut down to make paper. Ahead of next year being designated International Year of the Forests by the United Nations, WWF Germany has developed a new WWF file format to focus our attention on such issues every time we save a digital document.

Any document that doesn't need to be printed can be saved with a WWF file extension and when it's subsequently opened in a reader, the print option is blocked. WWF says that a WWF file can be viewed by most software that's able to read PDF documents – and I can confirm that this is certainly true of readers from Foxit and Adobe, although neither company has indicated official support for the development.

"We think the PDF ISO standard and Acrobat have tremendous potential to help customers with their efforts to go green," Adobe's Senior Director of Product Management for Acrobat Solutions told Gizmag. "Adobe Acrobat allows customers to create PDF with a range of security permissions, including the ability to disallow printing. The WWF format is based on the PDF standard and it is great to see WWF leveraging PDF in creative ways. At this point, we don't intend to support the .wwf file extension. We do participate with the ISO standards groups to further improve PDF and helping customers better leverage PDF for efficient and eco-friendly document sharing and printing is an important part of that effort."

Anyone wishing to support the new WWF document format will first need to download some free conversion software developed by the Jung von Matt advertising agency (currently compatible only with Mac OS X systems, a Windows version is on the way). Once installed, a new "Save As WWF" option will appear as an extra print option or be available via the application dock.

WWF Germany says that the campaign is meant to be viral and an extra page tagged onto each new format document will help introduce new users to the campaign and encourage awareness about how we use paper in our digital lives. If you don't want this extra page added to catalogs, official documents, CV's and so on then you'll need to choose another method of saving files and run the risk that such things may end up in a print queue somewhere.

More information on the campaign, together with a link to the conversion software, is available from the Save As WWF website.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

Great idea and all, but a smart person would take a screen shot of the document and print the picture file.

Kavin Nguyen

There is a proportion of things that DO not really need to be printed, there are documents that are useful to have printed, and there are documents that MUST be printed.

Some of these decisions are based upon needs, choice and circumstance.

In essence - it\'s a STUPID idea that is out of synch with reality.

Mr Stiffy

I avoid printing whenever possible, mainly because paper is a bother. The environmental benefit is incidental. But try to take away my options and I would be upset. This idea is DOA.


I just printed this article out several times and I have also set my security software to block any attachment with a .wwf suffix.


The paper companies own millions of acres of forest that were planted specifically to be used for pulp. When sections are harvested, they are re-planted. It\'s a constantly renewable resource. Stupid article, stupid idea.


Have all those junk \"snail mail\" senders stop. It would save a hella\'va lot of wood.

Facebook User

Duh - why re-invent the wheel ?? There is PDF that already does this !


I have invested an easy hour of my life each year getting off snail mailing lists. Without this mail, the post office could deliver letters twice a week and I would notice no serious impact. Talk about saving resources!

Charles Bosse

I\'ve mused that if the computer was invented before paper, and then someone created this \'new\' technology that required no electricity to save information, didn\'t crash, easy to file for ready access, easy to mark on, and made with renewable resources...we would love it. It\'s called paper.

Of course, 95% of what I do is electronic medium, but occasionally paper just works a bit better in a few circumstances....and I would leave that up to the end-user to decide, and not just BLOCK it from the source writer.

Matt Rings

Will the World Wildlife Fund sue the World Wide Fund for Nature? They sued the World Wrestling Federation to force them to stop using the letters WWF because the World Wildlife Fund claimed it caused confusion and \"forced\" them to have to print their full name and their panda bear logo on all their stuff.

Nevermind that US copyright law provides for organizations and companies and other things the ability to use the same name as long as what they do or make is completely different. I bet there\'s similar provisions in other countries.

So the WWF went judge shopping until they found a left-wing \"liberal\" judge who would ignore the law and order the other WWF to change their name to World Wrestling Entertainment. The wrestling outfit may still use their old WWF logo and name where present on archival material and in references to other legacy materials and products.

If the World Wildlife Fund doesn\'t sue the World Wide Fund for Nature over the use of the letters WWF, I bet the WWE could make a good case for countersuit and damages against the World Wildlife Fund.

Facebook User

What about \"printing\" to a file or document storage system? Typical activists, the knock, but do not think through the alternatives. RRV


Great idea ... and why not extend the logic and outlaw the use of automobiles .. Would result in a drastic cut in loss of life!!

This is one of the most stupid ideas I\'ve encountered.. but I\'m sure the originators were trying to do a good thing. Solutions that make more problems than they solve are not helpful.


They are going to save the world by making a software that only works on 5%of the worlds computer and does the same thing as a PDF?? from what I understand..I have been printing to PDF for a decade now, I don\'t understand what is big about this.. lol

Michael Mantion

This is completely useless. Completely and utterly useless.

Facebook User

Do a little research on how much goes into making wood pallets each year. I dare the WWF et al to do it ... just because I want them to, literally, shit their pants.

Used once, maaayyybe three times before they\'re damaged beyond use, burned or dumped in a landfill, and replaced. Where as a plastic or aluminum one lasts for years of use and reuse.

J Michael Antoniewicz

I come up with stupid ideas too, and see how many people I can convince that it is a good idea. I once told someone who wanted to me to recycle an aluminum can that since they started all this forced recycling through CRV that the aluminum workers had seen a big downturn in business. I made up stories of poor aluminum workers\' children not getting Christmas presents, etc. They believed me! These guys are just seeing how many dumb people they can get to agree with their stupid idea. Try it, it\'s fun. Maybe I should start a reality show :-)


Actually the WWF file format is a complete failure. it is trivially printable.

The WWF file format is nothing more than PDF document with the Print flag set to no. That's it.

Any PDF viewers that use the Ghost print back end simply ignore the flag setting and let you print regardless.

I wrote to WWF in 2010 informing them of this, and withdrew my support of them, for wasting funds in this manner.

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