Juggling business features with Adobe’s Acrobat 8
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
High Tech Office column;
January 16 22, 2007; issue 899
While it’s been seemingly eons between new versions of
Windows and Office, some software companies have been on a much faster
track. Graphics and publishing powerhouse Adobe, for instance, has been
regularly churning out new and improved versions of its product line.
Among Adobe’s recent updates is Acrobat 8, with versions for
Windows and Mac. Acrobat coverts documents into PDF files viewable
anywhere while retaining the original design. But if all you need is to
convert documents to PDF, Acrobat is unnecessary: that capability is
built into the Mac operating system and can be added with any of a
range of free or inexpensive Windows add-ons.
The challenge for Adobe to justify pricing of $300 for
standard edition and $450 for the professional version is to provide
compelling added capabilities. The new version 8 starts off with a
cleaner, easier to use interface than earlier versions, beginning with
a “Getting Started” wizard that offers users a
As with earlier versions, installing the software adds
PDF” buttons to Microsoft Office 2000 through 2003 (though
Microsoft’s new Office 2007 version).
Also new is integration with Adobe Connect, an online service offering
virtual meeting rooms, a re-branding of the former Macromedia Breeze
service. Adobe Connect allows users to collaborate online with a shared
workspace without needing specialized software other than a web browser
and the seemingly ubiquitous Flash Player. (Adobe Connect is available
at an additional cost of US$40 per month or US$400 per year per online
meeting room and does not require the purchase of Acrobat software.)
For years I’ve been frustrated with PDF forms. Too often
I’ve received digital forms only to have to print them out,
them in by hand, then fax them back or scan them to return them as
Forms created with Acrobat 8 can be filled out digitally, even by users
who don’t own a copy of Acrobat, as long as they’ve
downloaded the latest version of the free Acrobat Reader. This not only
benefits the person filling out the form, it also allows the sender to
automate the process of collating form responses. The professional
version of Acrobat 8 simplifies digital form creation, detecting form
fields in a document and converting them into live data input fields.
A new “Combine Files” wizard makes it possible to
single PDF package combining multiple documents of a variety of types.
You can bundle a Word document with an Excel spreadsheet with Autocad
plans, for instance. You can even choose to include only selected word
processor pages or worksheets rather than entire files.The new Acrobat
does a better job of blacking out text (and respecting text that has
been blacked out in Word), making it the software of choice for
would-be censors. And new secure and sign options make it easier to add
encryption and digital signatures to protect your work.
Even Adobe recognizes that not everyone requires Acrobat’s
high-end features. The company markets a low-end Acrobat Elements to
institutions buying at least 100 licences. (Acrobat Elements has not
yet been updated to version 8.)
Individuals and small businesses with basic needs to convert existing
documents to PDF format are perhaps best served by any of the many free
or low-cost PDF-creation programs available. (I like the free CutePDF,
but there are lots of other alternatives.)
Corel WordPerfect, Sun StarOffice, and the free OpenOffice.org office
suites can all export word processor, spreadsheet or presentation
documents directly to PDF, and Microsoft has promised a free
downloadable PDF add-on for its Office 2007 version.
But Acrobat 8’s improved form-filling, document combining,
security and ease-of-use features make it a valuable upgrade for
business users whose electronic document needs go beyond the basics.
And everyone should download a copy of Adobe Reader 8; it not only
meshes with Acrobat’s improved digital forms capabilities,
it’s also faster and easier to use than previous versions.