PDF In-Depth

Acrobat 9: A child grows up

An overview, as required



One thing that drives me increasingly crazy in dealing with software packages (and Windows Vista) is the proliferation of versions of what you might imagine should be a fairly straightforward product. There are four variants in Acrobat 9. The first of course is the free Acrobat Reader, which has two new features, and three enhanced features. Next is the $299 (US), $99 to upgrade, Acrobat 9 Standard (Adobe now offers only U.S. pricing for Canadian customers) which Adobe tactfully describes as "ideal for office workers of any skill level," and I would rephrase as "ideal for office workers with no skill level." This version will be of no interest to readers of this website. The correct version for folks concerned with using PDF as a tool for foolproof print production is the $449 ($159 to upgrade) Acrobat 9 Pro. This one has got all the prime beef features that make Acrobat 9 an essential upgrade. (It also has a lot of other intriguing non-graphic arts features that I'll highlight but not explore in depth).

Finally there is the deluxe $699 ($229 to upgrade) Acrobat 9 Pro Extended. Extended? Extended to what or to whom? Apparently the target markets are people who want to create very fancy presentations in PDF, including lots of Flash and 3D and separately the CAD (computer-aided design) market, which has been on Adobe's radar for some time. CADs will now be able to convert both 2D and 3D images into PDF and also "create PDF maps by importing geospatial files that retain metadata and coordinates." (Don't ask me: it's on the website.) Some readers will be interested in this premium version.

An important feature of Acrobat 9 (all versions), easily forgotten (I'm already used to it) is that it launches 2 to 3 times faster than previous versions. That by itself nearly justifies the upgrade!

Adobe attempts to simplify your understanding of the features of each version at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/matrix.html.

And I must not forget that Adobe has also launched the (quite stable) beta of Acrobat.com, described as "a set of online services -- file sharing and storage, PDF converter, online word processor, and web conferencing - you can use to create and share documents, communicate in real time, and simplify working with others." The description continues: "It's free, so sign up now," to which this jaded analyst must again amend to "It's free, or at least until we get so many people dependant on it that we can charge for the service, so sign up now, while the going is good."

I'm jaded about the come-on, but not about the service. This represents one of Adobe's first forays into that world alternately referred to as "cloud computing," "software as service" and a few other terms designed to leave you wondering what's going on out there. As the collaborative sharing and storage of documents becomes ever-increasingly in demand this will be the site to go to when working with PDF files between different participants in the workflow chain. If you've not yet deduced the URL, it's www.acrobat.com. Have a look. After all it's free.

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