What two numbers when multiplied together give 42? 

May 25th is Towel Day in honour of Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams was fascinated by technology and inspired by innovation. Many of his fantastical plotlines were driven by real inventions and events. In his seminal novel, the greatest computer ever built was tasked with finding out the answer to life, the universe and everything. “42,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm. So, what two numbers when multiplied together give 42? Obviously, the possible answers to this question are six and seven, three and 14 or two and 21 even when just counting whole numbers. Which one is correct? We don’t have enough information to tell. This is known as an underdetermined problem, where mathematical conundrums arise from not having enough information to be sure whether the answer is right.

In the book, they try to overcome this by making up some questions, such as: Why?, What's yellow and dangerous? What do you get when you multiply six by seven?, How many Vogons does it take to change a lightbulb? They eventually went with ‘How many roads must a man walk down?’ which does fit the answer.

Converting a PDF document back to a Word document is an example of an underdetermined problem. There is not enough information available in the PDF file to produce a Word document that is the one and only possible output for that particular PDF file. All PDF comparison tools face the same issue: you can't accurately know whether the original document that the PDF came from was laid out with tables, tabs or columns. Scanned PDFs add another layer of complexity because to compare the text you need to perform OCR (optical character recognition) on the file first. The quality of the scan, along with the OCR engine used, can also impact the resulting output and therefore accuracy of the comparison. Don’t panic! We are lucky enough to partner with best-of-breed technology to support our PDF comparison tool.

Of course, it is mistake to think that you can solve any major problems with potatoes, as Douglas’s Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax found out, but Workshare Compare for PDF has come a long way using our patented DeltaView technology.  Workshare succeeds more often, with more complicated documents, and produces a redline document faster than our competitors, cementing our place as the world leader in document collaboration software.

We don’t have the answer to life, the universe and everything. But we might just have the answer to PDF comparisons.