Business-like, isn't he?



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    This Adobe Acrobat jumps through more PDF hoops

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business in Vancouver April 12-18, 2005; issue 807 High Tech Office column

    The high tech office wouldn't exist without standards. Standards let users communicate and share documents with a chance that we'll be understood at the other end. Some standards, like IEEE 802.11 (whew!), which defines how wireless networking devices talk to one another, come out of representative organizations. Other standards just happen; one product gains enough market share that its competition has to offer compatibility.

    When Adobe's Acrobat software was first released in 1993 it was just one of a number of programs aiming to allow users to create digital versions of paper documents. This early version of the paperless office never quite attained reality, and the market for e-books remains small. Nevertheless, Adobe Acrobat's PDF file format is widely used, particularly as a way to distribute manuals, forms and other highly formatted documents across the Internet. Graphics designers use PDF files to send their work out for high-quality printing. An extra benefit is that PDF documents are harder to change.

    From the beginning, Adobe's Acrobat Reader software, which is needed to read PDF files, was freely available for a wide range of computer platforms.

    With the rise of the Web, it evolved into a free plug-in for most Web browsers. Adobe made its money selling the full Acrobat package, needed to create those PDF documents.

    A few years ago, however, Adobe let the rest of the world into the secret of creating PDF files; now a wide variety of software - with the notable exception of Microsoft's Office - can do the trick. Current versions of Word Perfect, Star Office and office suites and Intuit's CanTax can all export to PDF, for instance.

    Mac OSX has PDF-ability built right into the operating system. Its standard Print Preview option can save virtually anything as a PDF document. The free CutePDF Writer ( is one of a number of add-ons for Windows that let users create basic PDF files from any document that they can print.

    If you need more than a bare-bones PDF file, though, you'll probably want to take a look at Adobe's new Acrobat 7.0, with versions for Windows and Mac.

    As with earlier versions, it comes in three flavours: a basic Acrobat Elements version for 100 users or more at about $50 each, Acrobat Standard ($370) and Professional ($525). Upgrade pricing is available for owners of older versions. What is now referred to as the Adobe Reader remains free.

    The new versions offer perkier performance; the program and documents load faster and documents convert to PDF faster. Even if you only use the free Reader, I'd recommend installing the new version.

    With the new Acrobat, PDF documents can be password-protected and can be set to expire after a set time. Microsoft Office integration is expanded. Now Outlook users can easily convert e-mail to PDF and Internet Explorer users can convert all or sections of Web pages.

    The more expensive Professional version allows users, even users who don't have a copy of Acrobat, to review and comment on PDF documents. You can e-mail documents directly from Acrobat Professional. The Professional version also includes Adobe Designer, letting users create forms, and it integrates with AutoCad, Microsoft Visio and Microsoft Project.

    You no longer need to own a copy of Adobe Acrobat to create basic PDF files. But if you need more than the basics, Acrobat 7.0 offers an extensive set of features with better performance than earlier versions.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan