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Adobe Acrobat 5.0

There was a time when Adobe's Acrobat technology was used for little more than creating PDF files with Acrobat Distiller and viewing them through the free Acrobat Reader. But over time Acrobat has evolved into a far more versatile product, and Acrobat 5.0 makes PDF creation more convenient than ever before.

Transformations

One of the most significant additions in Acrobat 5.0 is the ability to repurpose PDF files. You can reuse a PDF's text and tables in a company report, for instance, or edit a PDF to fit on a handheld device. The latest version supports cross-platform tagged PDF documents, which you can save as RTF files. You can even save nontagged PDFs in a number of formats and export a file's graphics as individual items. Unfortunately, you can export vector images only in raster format.

If you pass PDFs through a proofing cycle, you'll appreciate another important addition: a browser plug-in that includes many standard Acrobat tools and allows several users to share and mark up a server-based PDF file online. You can upload and save comments to a server using the industry-standard WebDAV protocol. And the browser plug-in lets you use database-driven interactive forms to which digital signatures can be added; there's even support for XML form data.

Updates and Improvements

Batch processing is no longer limited to a small number of presets--you can use almost any function and set up custom sequences of functions. And in conjunction with the new PDF Consultant tool, which strips out unnecessary elements and reduces file size, batch processing lets you check and repair multiple PDFs.

With version 5.0, Adobe has also added a number of useful print-based features to Acrobat. Proof Setup,

for example, lets you define the color space and set Paper White or Ink Black options. Such on-screen soft proofing works well with a calibrated monitor, and you can extend the proofing to printouts.

In fact, Acrobat's entire color-management system is flexible and yields reliable results. For the first time in Acrobat, you can view and print an image's transparency effects. And Acrobat's Overprint Preview gives an on-screen warning of overprint and knockout problems in a file. That's a handy feature, but it's of limited use to QuarkXPress users because it trashes custom knockout preferences when you save a document as a composite PostScript file or a PDF.

Deviations

Acrobat 5.0 is not without flaws. It doesn't run natively in Mac OS X, and it stumbles in OS X's Classic mode; problems include difficulties with scanning and searching, as well as incompatibility with third-party drivers.

An important feature missing from the Mac version is the Convert To Adobe PDF function. In the Windows version, this macro preserves the structure of a Microsoft Word 2001 file, including links to indexes and tables of contents. The Mac version's Create Adobe PDF feature, in contrast, requires you to re-create links manually.

Macworld's Buying Advice

With version 5.0, Adobe has taken Acrobat to a new level. Its Web integration, content repurposing, and print and soft-proofing features make this a tempting upgrade for anyone with a previous version, and a must-buy for anyone new to PDF creation.

Fix It with Functions: Acrobat 5.0's improved batch processing lets you impose a sequence of functions on a folderful of PDFs.
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