By Duff Johnson, Planet PDF Contributing Editor and Susan Frank
one thing clear. This review discusses a new release of electronic document
software — as such, we reviewed only the Windows version. With no intention
of slighting the Mac folks, we did not fret about transparency, trapping
or ICC. In Acrobat 5.0, Adobe Systems has turned in many ways to the Document,
and for almost every document-heavy organization, not just publishers
and printers, that's actually pretty good news.
What do we
mean by "the document?" PDF was originally conceived of as a tool to assist
the process of accurately and consistently committing ink to paper. A
document, however, is not just ink and paper! It's a pastiche of
content, images, organization, layout, text attributes and packaging.
The fact that PDF is good at retaining these irreducible qualities makes
the format useful in business, publishing and academia far beyond facilitating
the production of mere printed pages.
aside, Acrobat 4.05 was already superb for many or most of the essential
prepress and print workflow missions — and only slightly less excellent
for many (although not most) electronic document applications. Adobe's
renewed attention to the form, method and execution of the electronic
document is welcome both to the hundreds of millions of Acrobat users
and Adobe shareholders alike, a happy coincidence.
had to be a goof somewhere ...
attention paid to the Document in this release, it's ironic that Adobe
initially chose to remove the Paper Capture feature — a simple, limited,
yet functional OCR utility much appreciated by almost every Acrobat user
at one time or another. Adobe had "replaced" Paper Capture with an ASP
service — upload your image file and receive an OCRed PDF in return.
Users of the service reported a, er, wide variety of experiences.
Adobe has announced the imminent return of Paper Capture to Acrobat 5.0 (Windows)
in June 2001. Occasional users do not fear, it seems that you won't have
to upload your private documents to Adobe's servers after all.
installation carefully. Attempting to load multiple versions of Acrobat
on the same machine is frowned upon; on uninstall, Acrobat 5.0 tends to
take out everything with the name "Acrobat" with it. As with Acrobat 4.05,
you should carefully assess your needs with respect to Office, Photoshop
and Illustrator integration, to name a couple of likely options. For MS
Office integration, install Office first, then Acrobat. If Office is already
on your machine ... oh, you figure it out. For the best results, install
Acrobat after all applications you would consider integrating with Acrobat.
Once you have your installation settled down (and, yes, you should reinstall
ALL your plugins — don't just copy the api files), you'll find that
5.0 is clearly faster and more stable than any earlier incarnation of
Document-Centric Summary of Changes in Acrobat 5.0
the changes in Acrobat operate only for the new 1.4 specification for
PDF files. There's not a lot you can do in Acrobat 5.0 that will make
your files unusable in Acrobat 4.05, but backwards compatibility is an
issue every electronic document application must be sure to address.
Accessibility: Tags and XML
new PDF specification allows tags for detailed formatting information
to facilitate text reflow, the next conceptual level of the venerable
(and often overlooked) Article Thread feature available since version
3.0. This feature may find intensive use with document applications
where highly flexible document delivery is critical. Tagged PDF documents
may be created through the Web Capture plugin, via the PDFMaker plugin
to Word, with Adobe FrameMaker, or via the new Adobe "Make Accessible"
plugin for Acrobat 5.0. Don't forget to proof your tags — these
engines (with the possible exception of well-structured Frame files)
will not tag the way you want them to, and they don't respond to harsh
only nods to XML throughout all of Acrobat 5.0 are the obvious first
steps towards XML integration — provision for XML metadata at
the document level, and for the export of form data as XML. This move
is significant because it truly enables document categorization, location
and management in live metadata rather than via a database. Full XML
integration - no, not yet, or at least, not with Adobe tools.
"Make Accessible" plugin, available for download from Adobe's Web site,
adds tags to existing PDFs; but like every other automation built
to sniff unstructured data, must be quality-controlled for good results.
Completely automated tagging via Distillation of PostScript from the
source-file is still -- you guessed it -- subject to human validation
new Tags interface, while expressing great potential, is unusually
clunky for an Adobe GUI.
PDF is located between completely "dumb," or unstructured PDF, and
tagged (ie, reliably reflowable) PDF. A Structured PDF may possess
some minor benefits (as claimed) for RTF extraction, but we didn't
see any. Reflow of structured PDF may well be better.
5.0 now includes a decoder for the new JBIG format, currently up for
final ISO review. JBIG promises dramatic file size reductions with
a new lossless compression scheme for bi-tonal data. It's a real opportunity
for Adobe, because adoption of JBIG in Acrobat would instantly create
a new standard for lossless compression of the scanned page, and therefore
a powerful argument for the wholesale replacement of G4 TIFF-based
systems with PDF. Unfortunately, while supporting JBIG in the specification,
Adobe has not provided a JBIG encoder in Acrobat 5.0 — this avenue
5.0 now permits easy and reliable conversion to PDF of more common
image formats than JBIG, including single and multipage G4 TIFF page
images. Of course, as previously noted, if you want Paper Capture,
your image file will be taking a trip to the Adobe web site.
image files were 2-3 percent larger on average than files imported
using Acrobat Exchange 3.01 (Acrobat 4.05 does not retain G4 compression
using its import image feature, so it's effectively broken as far
as document images go). 2-3 percent may not seem like a lot, but drive
space and bandwidth (especially in document imaging volumes) still
cost money the last time I checked!
Integrated Document Security
new, sophisticated security features with Acrobat 5 compatibility only.
Applying these powerful new options in real-world workflows remains neither
easy nor intuitive. Careful planning, with particular attention to workflow
exception handling, will reward the administrators of PDF's powerful new
capacity for layered electronic document management at the document level.
|128-bit, RC4 encryption, with sophisticated new security options delivering
fingertip control over permitting various types of changes to the
file and to form fields. Directed at enabling document routing workflows,
these new features will reward those who truly seek to replace paper
workflows with a comprehensible electronic equivalent. [SCREEN GRAB]
nice touch -- a security item was added to permit only low resolution
printing of PDF files. Think HARD before enabling THAT option!
with InterTrust. Users will have to make up their own mind about the
new DocBox "feature". Certainly, format agnosticism is crucial to
successful Digital Rights Management (DRM), but, IMHO, it's too early
to be picking winners in this area.
all-new batch processing utility allows almost any command to be run
in batch mode, including tiff conversion to PDF and saving PDF files
alone is worth the price of admission! [SCREEN GRAB 1] [SCREEN GRAB 2] [SCREEN GRAB 3]
Processing will process subdirectories, but in order to maintain the
directory structure you have to replace the original files, which
is a rather brave thing to do.
you can set the color of bookmarks and make them bold and/or italics.
"edit destination" command in Acrobat 4.05 brought you to the current
destination, the logical starting point for adjusting a link or bookmark.
In Acrobat 5.0, this handy feature is gone, a pity.
may now be opened from within Acrobat, as well as separately. Adobe
still doesn't recommend re-distilling your PDF to cure its ills; in
fact, they specifically say NOT to do this! Our jury needs more time
on this one
can now Distill a page range
to gray is a new distiller feature that is supposed to smooth jagged
edges in monochrome images. We played with this a bit and couldn't
see any difference.
is some increase in file size with jpeg med. and high compression
of images. Distiller 4 compresses them slightly more than Distiller
5. Overall, we found a 6 percent increase in file size using jpeg
med. compression over various collections of files.
File Conversion and Extraction
5.0 has the ability to save pages in various image formats, including
JPEG, single-page TIFF and PostScript. Lots of people will be excited
5.0 will also allow you to save a file in RTF format. While tagged
files show some improvement in retaining the PDF page layout, this
feature delivers approximately the same results as the Copy File to
Clipboard command in Acrobat 4.05 (and still present in Acrobat 5.0
— go figure). Just about any page thus extracted other than the
test page will require clean-up before re-use — it was ever thus.
The results are better with 1.4 specification tagged PDF, but with
1.3 spec files, RTF cleanup is still RTF cleanup. Also, as with the
4.05 version of this feature, do note that the utility copies text,
not images to the RTF file.
as optimized is now a preference to be set rather than a choice during
the Save As process. The default is that all files are saved optimized.
our experience, extracted JPEG images sometimes come out very dark.
Catalog and Index Information
superb, albeit dated product, Catalog is now built directly into Acrobat,
but the changes are modest. The interface and feature-set of this
venerable Verity-based engine have barely changed in four years, although
the functions once only available on the Mac version are now available
under Windows. No, Search is still NOT web-enabled; but it works well,
and it's free, so count yourself lucky! Back in the day, they used
to charge a stand-alone license of over $500 per CD-master for the
right to use this same product.
now indexes custom fields on both Mac and Windows. You still can't
add custom fields to the Search interface, nor can you view them in
the search window — stop whining, it's free! You can search the
custom fields via the full text search box. Nothing has changed, except
that now a Windows Catalog run will include the contents of your custom
document information fields.
are much more powerful, permitting the user to select specific pages
for deletion, cropping or rotation. The thumbnail images are created
on the fly, eliminating the need to embed them in the document. They
can be embedded to save drawing time, with an increase in file size
rotation: You can now opt to rotate only even or odd pages and/or
only portrait or landscape pages.
Crop tool now has a new "remove white margins" feature which functions
almost exactly as did the "Crop bounded box" function in Acrobat 4.05.
Unfortunately, you still can't set the size of the resulting margin.
manual says (AcroHelp.pdf, page 111) that they fixed the drag and
drop insert files feature so that the files insert in the same order
as they are sorted in Explorer. This still doesn't work.
as forms are to business, so they are to this new version of Acrobat.
Layout and print folks can skip this part.
you can set preferences to highlight form fields with a color box
when selected and to "Show Focus Rectangle" for fields.
new fields palette lists all fields to help locate and edit them.
You can lock or unlock and set properties for multiple selected fields
from the palette. [SCREEN GRAB]
creation of multicell, formatted tables based on one row or column
down the shift key when resizing a form field maintains the original
aspect ratio of the form field.
Form Export Format now includes XML
can be exported in a single format
field text can now be in any font, not just the base 14.
field text orientation can be set to 0, 90, 180, 270 degrees. Fields
thus adjusted DO, repeat DO function in Reader 4.05.
can now select other image formats in addition to PDF files for use
as button icons.
check for form fields and Comments is a new and very welcome feature.
Note that for fields, spell check is set as a form field property
defaulting to Off. In order for the form field spell check to work,
the "Do Not Spell Check" option in the field properties must be checked
File Creation and Management
process of creating PDF files, as well as creating bookmarks, links,
and form fields, is similar enough to the previous version that re-training
should not present a major concern. Generating a quality PDF file
is not yet reducible to a single click, even in MS Office applications.
Users must still format files for the Distiller printer, as well as
set Distiller and PDFMaker options, which are better integrated.
Project managers will want to spend time thinking about the Batch
options, which are far more powerful than before.
Other Little Things We Liked
Auditor [SCREEN GRAB]:
A new tool that lists the size and percentage of the file that different
objects take up, such as images, fonts, bookmarks, etc. Sobering.
underline annotation tool makes a much better looking line
than in Acrobat 4. It could be used for underlining text in the PDF
to grid now works for links and annotations in addition to form
fields. It only worked with form fields in Acrobat 4.
scripts in one window.
are now completely modular, facilitating a customized tool setup.
and much of the superstructure for the final-form electronic document
(epaper) were all in place with Acrobat 4.05. Acrobat and Acrobat Reader
5.0 represent meaningful progress in Acrobat application development,
but are largely evolutionary steps for the core PDF applications. The
customary debate over the value of a painful transition to accommodate
the new features will be as pronounced as ever. The ground still shakes,
even when the elephant moves only a little. It can't be helped.
The new 1.4
specification begins the long, slow transition to the complete XML enabling
of PDF -- or the complete PDF-enabling of XML -- whichever way you want to
look at it. This is the development to watch. The full power of the "Portable
Document Format" concept comes ever more to life with electronic paper
finding a mètier as both final reference and essential content source,
whether "fully dressed" in its native "final form" or acknowledged within
some far-flung XMLized iteration. Look to Acrobat to provide that platform
in the future.