This Adobe Acrobat jumps through more PDF hoops
by Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business in Vancouver
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
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
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 OpenOffice.org 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 (www.cutepdf.com) 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
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.