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Need feedback on prototype cheatsheet

By stretch | Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 5:55 a.m. UTC

Many of you have asked for, or suggested heavily in the manner of an irritated mafia boss, better vector graphics support in the cheat sheet PDFs. Until now the rendering process for each PDF has gone something like this:

  • Accumulate notes on the topic
  • Arrange notes into an HTML template common to all Packet Life cheat sheets
  • Create any necessary drawings in Visio and save them in PNG format
  • Eat a sammich (nom nom)
  • Embed the PNGs in the HTML document
  • Tidy up the formatting, spell check, and print it to PDF
  • Upload and announce the new cheat sheet

While this works moderately well, there are two major flaws with this process: Visio's poor support for exporting raster graphics, and the inability to elegantly scale these graphics. For example, when one of the cheat sheet PDFs is zoomed beyond 100%, the graphics quickly become pixelated and distorted. While not typically a problem when printing to an 8.5x11" page, this can pose problems when viewing documents enlarged on-screen or printing to a manipulated format.

So, lately I've been experimenting with a simpler publishing workflow: do the whole thing in Visio. As an experiment, I recreated the BGP cheat sheet entirely in Visio, and printed it directly to PDF (technically it was printed to PostScript first and then converted to PDF, but whatever). I didn't begin with high expectations but the first prototype has really turned out well.

The major advantage here is that the topology drawings and other native Visio images are now fully vector; compare the two images below. At left is a crop of the original BGP cheat sheet taken at 300% zoom, with the same crop taken from the new PDF at right.


What I need now is some feedback from people using various PDF viewers and printers. Download the new BGP prototype cheat sheet attached below and play around with it. Do you notice any rendering issues when viewing the PDF? Does it print okay for you? If no major issues are reported I'll start converting the existing cheat sheets to the new format.

UPDATE: Thanks for the feedback all! I'll get to work redoing all the cheat sheets as soon as I get back from Defcon. (Which sucked, by the way. For future reference, don't book a talk titled "So You Got Arrested in Vegas..." then act surprised when attendees do stupid shit and get arrested at the conference. Never again.)

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Darren OConnor
July 29, 2009 at 7:13 a.m. UTC

No problems viewing it at home over here. Also I use Foxit Reader on Windows7, not Adobe.



July 29, 2009 at 7:26 a.m. UTC

No issues here. Definately clearer at all zoom levels within Adobe and is very crisp when printed out.


July 29, 2009 at 9:31 a.m. UTC

works fine on OSX using Preview

July 29, 2009 at 9:49 a.m. UTC

looks very good with the build-in PDF-Viewer on MacOS X.

July 29, 2009 at 10:23 a.m. UTC

I'm using Adobe reader 9.1 and the graphics scale perfectly. Thanks for all the effort you've put into these. They're great!

July 29, 2009 at 11:53 a.m. UTC

the new ones flawless, can zoom as far as you want with no loss of quality, good stuff :D

July 29, 2009 at 12:43 p.m. UTC

huh... I had always just assumed being PDF that your cheat sheets were scalable. I never tried to zoom in on them before.

So, I guess being that they should have been vector to start with, props to you for changing it :)

Eric M. Phillips, CCIE 23378
July 29, 2009 at 1:12 p.m. UTC

Looks great on Foxit and Adobe on Vista 32 bit. Thank you very much for creating these cheat sheets. They are how I found your website and blog, and it has become my most read, and most recommended blog!


Angel Castaneda
July 29, 2009 at 2:19 p.m. UTC

It looks great here at 600% (which is my default zoom setting for any document, lol)

July 29, 2009 at 4:51 p.m. UTC

Looks nice to me. I use Foxit on XP.

July 29, 2009 at 4:51 p.m. UTC

Looks great through IE 7 and XP. I thank you for detailing the process (I always assumed it was a lot of work, nice to know I was right) for creating these, but you left out an important detail...

What was on the sammich, and what was it washed down with...

July 29, 2009 at 5:36 p.m. UTC

Looks great in Preview on OS X.

July 29, 2009 at 7:04 p.m. UTC

Looks fantastic on win7 + Firefox 3.5 w/ Foxit plugin. Zoomed in so close it got shy.

July 29, 2009 at 7:25 p.m. UTC

Looks great in CentOS 5.3 using either Adobe Reader or evince.

July 29, 2009 at 7:50 p.m. UTC

Works great with evince and Xpdf

July 29, 2009 at 8:03 p.m. UTC

Very nice and clear! I use IE 6 and Firefox, looks great in both. Kudos to you!

July 29, 2009 at 8:46 p.m. UTC

awesome :)

Bryan Baize
July 30, 2009 at 1:22 a.m. UTC

looks good on 10" EEE PC in FF and foxit reader

July 30, 2009 at 1:39 a.m. UTC

No comments required. It looks great as usual.

July 30, 2009 at 3:48 a.m. UTC

Hey Stretch,

I have a suggestion for a different approach that you may find useful. I understand that Visio has the ability to save images in multiple vector formats. In the past I have exported to EMF format to preserve the vector format in word documents. SVG is a format that Visio will export and is supported in HTML pages.

I just tried a test using an SVG image from Wikipedia and outputting a PDF. I was surprised to find it indeed maintained the vector quality of the image. This combination may result in quality diagrams without affecting your workflow much. I have not tried the entire process myself, but I imagine it should work.

Always a fan of the site btw ;)

July 30, 2009 at 8:37 a.m. UTC

looks great in Adobe Reader 8.1 on XP.

July 30, 2009 at 12:45 p.m. UTC

I zoomed in at 6400% on Acrobat PDF 6.0 pro and it looked very clean and clear. I did not get a chance to print it but I do not see any issues printing it.

July 30, 2009 at 1:33 p.m. UTC

Perfect image. No pixelization even at 1000% with 22 inches screen with Nuance PDF professionnal.

July 30, 2009 at 2:08 p.m. UTC

looks a lot better...excellent job!


July 31, 2009 at 6:27 a.m. UTC

Using Adobe Reader 9, the new one works without any flaws!

July 31, 2009 at 9:04 a.m. UTC

So much better ! Thx !

July 31, 2009 at 9:31 a.m. UTC

works great with preview on my osx.

July 31, 2009 at 9:08 p.m. UTC

.. just checked the .pdf with my Nokia E90 and the default PDF viewer Adobe ME 1.5.0. Looks great even if zoomed to 800%. Just keep on with the good work!! Br, Jani

July 31, 2009 at 9:39 p.m. UTC

Looks perfect..you can update these amazing cheat sheets!!!

Matt Milholen
August 2, 2009 at 12:12 a.m. UTC

Looks good in Mozilla. Definetly looks better than the old format but I didn't think those looked bad either. Man you are a perfectionist! Great job with the cheat sheets -- keep em coming!

August 3, 2009 at 2:05 p.m. UTC

They look great. Way to be a perfectionist!

Tim Carey
August 7, 2009 at 3:41 p.m. UTC

No issues - Prints great !

Maj Terry McGraw
August 7, 2009 at 4:41 p.m. UTC

Look good Stretch

August 7, 2009 at 8:33 p.m. UTC

Looks perfect in okular and kpdf. Print great too. Running opensuse 11.1.

Thanks for the terrific sheets!

Jesse Krembs
August 10, 2009 at 1:57 p.m. UTC

Sorry to hear you didn't have a good time at Vegas, I would have liked to meet up with, but we never seemed to connect. As a rule the people that put on Defcon are not surprised at the stupid shit people do at Defcon or that they get arrested. People do dumb things. Looking forward to the new and improved cheatsheets.

August 11, 2009 at 11:57 a.m. UTC

I use Bullzip PDF for converting any documents to pdf. I like it, coz it free :)

August 13, 2009 at 7:52 a.m. UTC

Someone recommended using Visio SVG export. I do not recommend this, as it is quite buggy. I usually do the following: As I have Visio 2007, I export the drawing to PDF. Then I start Inkscape (free vector drawing tool), open the PDF, tweak it if I want, and export to the format I want.

Jim H
August 14, 2009 at 11:37 a.m. UTC

Looks really clear. The print out looks great as well. The cheat sheets are outstanding. Hopefully we can see some new ones in the future.

Dan B
August 15, 2009 at 3:19 a.m. UTC

This is my first visit to your site, specifically looking for a BGP cheatsheet. It took all of about 15 seconds to come to a one word summary of this site..


Thanks for the great work

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