PDF In-Depth

Becoming an Adobe Certified Expert (ACE)

April 14, 1999

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Adobe Acrobat is a powerful and versatile addition to anybody's digital toolbox. Adobe has a very successful and highly respected certification process called ACE (Adobe Certified Expert). In the case of Acrobat certification, the benefits extend far beyond the world of computer graphics and desktop publishing, which Adobe is such a significant part of.

Just consider the many areas of expertise in which Acrobat and PDF play a significant role. The World Wide Web, corporate data systems and intranets, the archiving industry, electronic forms suppliers, the IT sector, the publishing industry, and the nearly countless end user scenarios, and there are others. Getting that Acrobat ACE in your pocket can have many advantages, and its value is by no means restricted to graphic artists and DTPers.

The spread of PDF has been very constant and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. The recent release of Acrobat 4 is a huge vote of confidence by Adobe, and helps to further establish Acrobat and PDF as long term players in the area of platform independence. With the recent popularity and spread of Linux, which adds yet another computing platform for people to contend with, Acrobat and PDF have an opportunity to let their light shine even more. The greater the number of incompatible platforms there are, the more attractive platform independent solutions like Acrobat and PDF become. All these developments can only serve to increase the value of the Acrobat certification process.

Studying for and successfully completing the Acrobat ACE exam is in some ways different from most certification processes, and this is due to the nature of Acrobat and PDF. Consider an application like Photoshop for example. For all intents and purposes it is a stand alone application capable of producing a document in it's entirety without interference or input from the outside world. Indeed most applications are designed to function this way.

Acrobat is different. A convenient way of looking at Acrobat is like the hub in the middle of a bicycle wheel, that all the spokes connect to, holds the whole wheel together, and connects to the rest of the bicycle. Acrobat and PDF technology is far more than an end user application. Getting that Acrobat ACE in your pocket requires that you have a much more generalized, jack-of-all-trades type of knowledge than what is required for most certifications. During the Acrobat ACE exam you will be confronted by questions dealing with issues like:

  • Indexing and boolean searches.
  • Issues concerning the Macintosh operating system, and the Windows 95 and 3.x environments.
  • CD ROM technology.
  • Hard drive and random access memory (RAM) issues.
  • Various font technologies and their operating system peculiarities.
  • WWW and Internet technology issues.
  • Compression technologies.
  • Workflow issues.

Of course this is only a partial list, but it will give you an idea of how far reaching Acrobat is. One advantage to this is that the questions on the exam tend to be a little less exacting than the questions on most certification exams. Don't get too excited just yet, because in order to make up for this you will have to answer over 100 questions during the 90 minutes of the exam. Consider that the average certification exam would present you with only 60 to 70 questions during the same 90 minutes.

So yes, the questions may be a little easier to answer, but you will be expected to answer a lot more of them. All this (the quantity and wide range of questions) combines to make a very challenging exam, so don't underestimate it. I've taken many exams in my time, and I consider the Acrobat exam to be one of the most challenging ones. Over 100 questions in 90 minutes doesn't leave much time to think. Be prepared to answer questions very quickly.

So how should you be planning to get that ACE in your pocket?

Well, there are no set rules, but if you have to make a mistake anywhere, make it on the side of too much studying and preparation, especially in the sense of diversification. It's not sufficient to know Windows 95 issues, because you are dealing with many platforms. Know the Mac issues, and even if you've never used it, Windows 3.x is still alive and well and used by millions of people worldwide, so get acquainted with it.

It's not sufficient to know how to make a perfect PDF file, because perfection is different on the WWW than it is on a hard drive, or a CD ROM. Concerning fonts, think Postscript and all it's varieties, as well as TrueType, Multiple Master, and Bitmap fonts. Get intimate with workflow. Know what makes PDFWriter and Distiller similar, and what makes them different. Think workstation, but also think network. Extend that even further, and think Internet, Intranet, LAN, WAN. They're all different, and Acrobat's approach to each one is different.

Consider the different environments PDF files end up in. Disposable e-mail attachments. Critical high end service bureau files. Versatile WWW files filled with every enhancement. You won't be expected to write PDF code, or to even know the semantics of PDFmarks. But you will be expected to have a thorough knowledge of each Acrobat component and their purpose, as well as a good overall understanding of general computer and platform issues, and how they all relate to Acrobat. The emphasis is on Acrobat as a *solution* that spans a very wide range of technology.

And lastly, spend some time on Adobe's website, especially in the certification section. Be sure to read the ACE agreement, and the Acrobat exam bulletin for exam # 9A0-007. This bulletin is your study guide for the Acrobat exam, and I can tell you from experience that the exam doesn't stray very far from what is covered in this guide. It's a gold mine of information.

There are many sources of good information and study material, and Adobe has a list on their site. But by far the most useful stuff is the Acrobat online guides (don't overlook the troubleshooting guide), and plenty of hands on experience. Consider joining a PDF forum or newsgroup, and start answering as many questions as you have time to, and don't limit yourself to only the easy ones you already know the answers to. Challenge yourself with some of the tougher questions.

Just one more thing. Experience in DTP, prepress or computer graphics will be of special value to anyone who has it, since Acrobat and PDF have so much to do with page layout, fonts and graphics. If you don't have any such experience and you know someone who does, now is a good time to renew that old friendship or start a new one.

Good luck!

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