Adobe Unveils a New Acrobat

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Acrobat, Adobe Systems' portable-document technology, has shown a split personality in recent years, serving as an easy way to place publications online, and also as an alternative to PostScript for print production. With Acrobat 4.0, the latest release, Adobe has bolstered both aspects of the software with an assortment of features that make the technology more flexible and easier to use. However, Mac users will find less to like than their PC counterparts, because some of the most interesting new features will be available only in the Windows version. The software is scheduled to ship this spring.

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 annotating PDF files; and Acrobat Reader, a cross-platform utility for viewing PDF files that Adobe also offers for free download. Along with the new software, Adobe has introduced an update of the PDF specification that allows for the extraction and editing of text and graphics in PDF files.

Flexible Graphics

Mac users will most appreciate Acrobat's new graphics-production features. With Acrobat 3.0, you were limited 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. This lets you correct errors in a PDF file without going back to the original application that created it, an especially useful feature if you plan to send the files to a service bureau for high-resolution output.

You can also edit bitmapped images and vector graphics within PDF files. In Acrobat's 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 you're finished editing the image, the modified version appears automatically in Acrobat.

Perhaps a bigger boon for print-production pros is the ability to embed ICC color profiles within PDF files, making the format more amenable to color management. Acrobat 4.0 also supports new graphics-production features in PostScript 3, including Smooth Shading for color blends and Device N, which lets you save duotones, tritones, and six-color images in PDF files. 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 (510/744-0282, ). The maximum page size is now 200 by 200 inches.

Optimized PDF

Acrobat 4.0 makes it much easier to create files for different purposes by letting you choose 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 (619/587-4668, ) 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 prior to generating the PDF file.

For workgroups, Adobe has added features that make it easier to annotate PDF files. Previous versions let you add electronic "sticky notes" to the file. With the upgrade, you can also type short comments directly on the page, highlight or strike through text, mark up the document using a digital pencil or other tool, or apply a virtual rubber stamp.

Short Shrift?

There are many new features here, but PC users get even more. The Windows version of Acrobat 4.0 includes a Web capture function that lets you quickly convert Web sites into PDF files; a digital-signature feature that identifies the document's author for authentication purposes; and macros for creating PDF files from Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The Windows version also lets you extract formatted text, graphics, and tables from PDF files; the Mac release is limited to extracting unformatted text and graphics. Adobe, responding to early complaints from Mac users, says it will add the PC-only features to a future update of the Mac version. PDF files created in Windows can still be read with the Mac version of Acrobat Reader.

May 1999 page: 27

By Stephen Beale

It's been a busy month for Adobe Systems. In addition to introducing Adobe InDesign (see the feature " Adobe Answers XPress," elsewhere in this issue) and Adobe Acrobat 4.0, the company has announced new versions of CyberStudio and PageMaker and has also revealed its long-range plans for PageMill, whose fate was in doubt after Adobe's recent acquisition of CyberStudio developer GoLive.

Adobe has rechristened GoLive CyberStudio as Adobe GoLive and plans to ship version 4.0 for the Mac by the time you read this. Adobe also plans to release the first Windows version of GoLive, which was previously available only for the Mac, sometime in the second quarter. The $299 Web authoring software has become a favorite among professional designers and has received two consecutive Macworld Eddy Awards.

The upgrade--originally slated as CyberStudio 3.5 before Adobe acquired the product--is a modest one, offering an improved QuickTime 3 Movie Editor, enhanced XML support, new site-management functions, and a handful of other features.

Adobe has also decided to continue offering its PageMill Web authoring software as an entry-level complement to GoLive. GoLive had offered its own entry-level program, CyberStudio Personal Edition, which was essentially an early version of CyberStudio.

And if you thought InDesign signaled the death of PageMaker, think again. Adobe, positioning its classic page-layout software as a midrange program for corporate users, has announced PageMaker 6.5 Plus, which adds templates and other design aids to the package.

Adobe has also announced PressReady, a $149 color-management program that transforms inexpensive ink-jet printers into PostScript 3 proofing devices. The company expects to ship the product by mid-year.

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