PDF In-Depth

A look at CD based publishing

December 19, 2001

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Instructional documentation is the bane of existence for most computer users today - especially surfers of this web site. Paper manuals are rarely included with software releases and most on-screen documentation is extremely "left brain" - too dry, too complex, too linear, and too tedious to hold attention for long. That's why God created trainers... especially Lynda Weinman (alias lynda.com, inc).

Lynda Weinman promulgates sophistication and craftsmanship in Web design, interactivity, documentation, and training. She is most widely known for the web design books she began publishing while instructing at prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA during the '90's. She has definitely developed a knack for appealing to both sides of a graphic designer's brain. Ask lynda.com students at campuses, international corporations, conferences, and workshops throughout the world. Read her articles in many leading interactive media magazines. Visit her web site. Check out her co-authored H.O.T. (hands-on teaching) books and CD-ROMs. The evaluation is the same... she displays both taste and zeal instructing students in the proper use of new interactive graphic tools.

Learning Acrobat 5 CD So it is with great interest that lynda.com has released its first entry into the field of Acrobat instruction and training. It is our good fortune is that Lynda also has a knack for attracting and inspiring good people to help extend her publishing and training reach. Garrick Chow, the author and demonstrator on Learning Acrobat 5 CD-ROM, has an easy-to-understand and conversational teaching style that appeals to students. In addition to creating this product, he is leading hands-on Acrobat Weekends (the first one is May 18-19, 2002) at lynda.com's secluded training center in Ojai, California.

Why buy this CD-ROM?

Garrick Chow Gaining widespread acceptance and implementation of Acrobat has taken Adobe a long time, partially because the basics for creating, altering, and implementing PDF documents have not been widely understood. What has been needed is less text and more demonstration of the basics, which is what this product seeks to provide.

If you prefer learning from books alone, don't buy this CD. If you have someone bankrolling your training, I recommend Ojai, California anytime of the year. If you fall somewhere in between, buy this CD. At $79.95 it is a tremendous value. Garrick shows you what to do with infinite patience and playback. In four hours of demonstration and with practice using the supplied examples you'll have all of the basics. It takes far longer to acquire the same knowledge without demonstration from books (including Adobe Acrobat 5 Classroom in a Book).

Don't get me wrong - having a backup reference book with a detailed index and a CD of samples is recommended if you have a focused research requirement or if you want to pass the Adobe Certified Expert exam. But for most users and enterprises, PDF's promise lies in simply capturing and sharing information digitally, communicating in local and remote workgroups, and establishing publishing workflows - not in the individual art of code hacking.

Content

Acrobat 5 chart The content of Learning Acrobat 5 is geared to what novice-to-intermediate users need to know (see chart for the list of major topics). It has a version 5 jump on almost all other Acrobat video tape and CD-ROM demonstration products advertised on the internet. At four hours of content, it is typically shorter but also less expensive than competitors' products.

Experts who want in-depth information about JavaScript, Prepress Job Settings in Distiller, and batch processing should look for additional resources. For these topics you can access on-line Adobe Help, buy more focused books, or ask questions of the experts on List Serv groups.

Garrick Chow does a good job of covering the topic of PDF Forms Creation by devoting nearly 30% of the CD (roughly 1.25 hours) to the subject. The user is taken through the process of creating a simple order form utilizing form buttons, check boxes, form field calculations, show/hide Fields, etc. He also demystifies the topics of Digital Signatures and document Security Settings.

I think the Workgroup Commenting section is one of the most valuable. Getting groups of non-technical people to trust and use ePaper in place of regular paper to do their commenting and annotations is no mean feat but one that can revolution a modern enterprise at every level of management. Garrick covers how to add comments (version 5's renaming for "annotations"); how to export/import and summarize them; and how to work with Digital Signatures.

The subject of Web-to-PDF Conversions is methodically presented showing the various options available. One of the most commonly asked novice questions is how to post a PDF onto a web site for internet access - Garrick answers that question in this section.

Training Acrobat in Enterprises

As a designer, producer, and workflow integrator my biggest implementation obstacle is having to train workgroup members the basics before getting into the details of any PDF document workflow. Just getting people into a classroom is difficult these days. Having a simple, demonstration reference to distribute frees my time to apply to other matters. It also reduces the price of implementation - making the original budget easier for client management to swallow. Simultaneously, it gives users the freedom to pick their own training hours and work at their own pace.

Some enterprises should consider buying this CD-ROM in volume. It is an ideal tool for implementing department-wide PDF implementation for any Communications, Marketing, Sales, Graphics, Publications, Training, or Advertising departments. It should be stocked as a ready reference for novices and new hires to get them into the workgroup collaboration mix.

"Helping media designers & communicators understand how to use professional tools and design to enhance visual communication through web, print, and motion graphics."
lynda.com Mission

I personally hope that Lynda.com follows this release with other Acrobat titles that will bring more users in more application areas into the PDF user fold. The blend of straight-forward demonstrations with sophisticated interactivity can help convince individuals and enterprises to invest in a new way to communicate, collaborate, and inform through intelligent use of PDFs.

CD-ROM System Requirements

The disk is a hybrid cross-platform disk. On a Mac it requires G3/OS 8.5.1 or above, 64Mb RAM, 16x CD-ROM drive, with thousands of colors video. On a PC it requires Windows 98 SE/ ME/ NT/ 2000/ Pentium II, 64Mb RAM, 16x CD-ROM drive, with thousands of colors video, PC sound card with speakers.

It has been formatted to run in either full screen or as a floating window at 800x600 pixel dimensions. Ideally, the user would have a larger monitor and work back and forth between the floating window mode (housing the Quicktime movies) and Adobe Acrobat. The Quicktime movies are accessible on the PC hybrid partition but hidden on the MAC partition.

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