Adobe's New Acrobat

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Adobe InDesign may be generating the buzz at this week's Seybold Boston conference, but another key Adobe product–Acrobat 4.0–is also getting its first major public showing at the event.

Originally conceived as an easy way to exchange documents and place them online, Acrobat, and the related PDF file format, is fast becoming an alternative to PostScript as the the universal format for print publishing. Acrobat 4.0, announced in mid-February, features numerous enhancements for both online and print publishing, including the ability to extract and edit text and graphics in PDF files.

Acrobat 4.0, which will sell for $249, consists of Acrobat Distiller for converting PostScript files into Portable Document Format (PDF) files, Acrobat (formerly Acrobat Exchange) for modifying and managing PDF files, and multi-platform versions of the Acrobat Reader, a utility for viewing PDF files that Adobe also offers for free download. The software is scheduled to ship in the second quarter of this year.

Previous versions of Acrobat limited you to making simple text edits in a PDF file. With the new version, you can modify the font, type size, and other type attributes in addition to the text itself.

You can also edit bit-map images and vector graphics within PDF files. In AcrobatOs Preferences dialog box, you specify an image editor, such as Adobe Photoshop, and a vector drawing program, such as Adobe Illustrator. When you click on an image in a PDF file, Acrobat launches the appropriate graphics software; when youOre finished editing the image, the modified version appears automatically in Acrobat.

You can now embed ICC color profiles within PDF files for enhanced color management. By itself, Acrobat still cannot generate color separations from PDF files, but you can create separations using Crackerjack, a $495 Acrobat plug-in from Lantana ( ). At this week's Seybold show, Lantana announced Crackerjack 3, which includes new color management and color separation features, as well as improved crop and bleed support.

Acrobat 4.0 makes it much easier to create files for different purposes by letting you choose from one of three presets: Screen Optimized for online viewing, Print Optimized for printing from a local ink-jet or laser printer, and Press Optimized for output on a commercial press. Screen Optimized corresponds to the default settings in Acrobat 3.0; it downsamples all images to 72 dpi and converts them to RGB.

In addition to these canned settings, you can create a custom setting and place it in a hot folder; when you drop a PostScript file into the folder, Acrobat Distiller automatically converts it to PDF using the options you've specified.

As an alternative, Acquired Knowledge ( ) has introduced a $79 Acrobat plug-in called EZ-PDF that creates Mac OS Desktop Printer files that incorporate custom PDF settings. You simply print to the appropriate Desktop Printer to produce a PDF file with the options you want. The program, which also works with Acrobat 3.0, automatically generates a PostScript print file as a precursor to producing PDF output.

For workgroups, Adobe has added features that make it easier to annotate PDF files. You can type short comments directly on the page, highlight or strike through text, mark up the document using a pencil or other tools, or apply a virtual rubber stamp.

Many Mac users were disappointed to find that the Windows version is slated to include additional features not available on the Mac. These include a Web-capture function that lets you quickly convert Web sites into PDF files; a digital signature feature that identifies the documentOs author for authentication purposes; and macros for creating PDF files from Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. During Adobe's Tuesday keynote here, the company announced that it will make the Windows features available in a future update of the Mac version.

In addition to Lantana and Acquired Knowledge, several other vendors have announced new or updated Acrobat plug-ins:

Enfocus Software ( ) announced PitStop 4.0, an upgrade of its PDF preflighting and editing software. The $295 program inspects PDF files for common font, color, and image problems and includes tools that allow you to fix them from within Acrobat.

Callas Software ( ) announced updates to pdfToolbox, a set of tools for automating PDF production, and pdfOutput Pro, which lets you create color separations of PDF files on any PostScript output device. The company also announced two new plug-ins: MadeToPrint, which streamlines printing of PostScript or EPS files, and AutoPilot, which lets you automate PDF production by executing specified scripts or plug-ins when certain conditions occur. Both are scheduled to ship in April.

Quite Software ( ) unveiled updates to Quite Imposing, Quite Imposing Plus, and Quite A Box Of Tricks. The Quite Imposing products let you create electronic impositions from PDF files; the Plus version will take advantage of PDF's new maximum 200-by-200-inch document size. Box of Tricks is a set of PDF utilities that include image reduction and RGB-to-CMYK conversion capabilities.

Avenza Global Technologies ( ) announced JAMBuddy, a set of free search-and-query plug-ins that let you view hidden layers in PDF documents. The plug-ins are primarily designed for use with MAPublisher, Avenza's Adobe Illustrator plug-in for creating multi-layer maps.

Helios ( ) announced enhancements to PDF Handshake, a $4,400 prepress workflow system for PDF files. New features include the ability to print pre-separated PDF files.

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