PDF In-Depth

A first look at Adobe Reader 6

May 27, 2003

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Here we go again! It's been a while, but as of today, we now have an official first look at Adobe's brand-new PDF viewer. When you open the newly renamed Adobe Reader for the first time, likely one of the first things that you will notice is the revamped interface. For one thing, there are noticeably fewer icons on the screen, and those that do appear are larger and clearer than ever before. This philosophy that "Less is more" permeates the rest of the product design as well, with many menu items having been removed or consolidated to result in a clean, intuitive interface in the final product.

Help!

Significantly, the Help file now opens in a separate, dedicated viewer, facilitating concurrent browsing or manipulation of PDFs without the need to switch back and forth between documents. The new model even incorporates a ridiculously user-friendly How To interface for the most frequently asked questions!

Dedicated Help file viewer

Repurposing Content

The new offering has also streamlined options for the selection and extraction of PDF content. Along with allowing users to save out as plain text (previously reserved for the full version), the updated Select Image Tool now automatically selects complete image objects with a single click. Those nostalgic for the old method can still make manual selections using the new Snapshot Tool.

Improved Searching

The Search pane is another impressive addition that allows for full text searching of either individual documents or even PDF archives without the need for pre-defined index files such as those created by Catalog. Mac users need not feel left out either, as this nifty feature is duplicated on both Mac and Windows versions.

The new Search pane

Mac vs PC

This is a big advance in cross-platform feature parity, although there are a couple of features Mac users might miss. As with Acrobat Reader 5, the Mac OSX version Adobe Reader 6 does not include a plug-in to allow viewing of PDF files in the browser (e.g. IE or Netscape). One point of difference, however, is that this edition does not support Classic Mac systems at all.

How does the update handle Accessibility in PDF?

For the visually-impaired, there is now a readily accessible, built-in screen reader that can be controlled by simple menu commands (View > Read Out Loud) and hotkey combinations. As an added bonus, the Document menu now includes an Accessibility Quick Check command, which will summarize the active document's compliance to the famous Section 508.

What about Adobe eBook Reader?

Another point to note -- and perhaps one reason for the name change -- is that Adobe Reader is more than just the new version of Acrobat Reader: it is in fact the synthesis of Acrobat Reader and the more specialized eBook Reader. As such, it includes several useful eBook-specific features such as the My Bookshelf function, which allows users to readily access a list of commonly used PDF documents or eBooks without the need to build a separate archive.

Bookshelf function

The Verdict

In our humble opinion, this latest offering has made a quantum leap forward in terms of usability, and should be a worthy addition to desktops across the globe. Since it's freely available for download, why not try it for yourself.

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