With Acrobat 8 Professional, Adobe offers a redesigned, Universal version of its flagship application for creating and distributing PDF (Portable Document Format) content. The new release focuses on and underscores the growing importance of collaboration and digital document management.
With this version, which will be part of Creative Suite 3, Mac users now have only one choice: Acrobat 8 Professional. Once you get over the loss of the Standard edition, you’ll probably love what you see. First and foremost, it looks and feels like a true Mac OS X application. It sports a redesigned, task-oriented user interface with customizable toolbars. And, on Intel Macs, it feels remarkably faster than its predecessor.
Acrobat 8 Pro introduces some innovative new features. For example, the new Combine Files wizard makes it easy to arrange a set of files and merge them into a single PDF document or assemble them into a PDF package (a container for multiple documents). A PDF package preserves the security settings of the original files, such as digital signatures, and can protect its contents with additional security features.
Acrobat 8 can also create a blank-page document, and it gives you some basic tools to add text to it right away.
This new version brings collaboration to a new level with a feature called Shared Reviews. A shared review relies on a shared folder, which functions as a central hub for the exchange of annotations between team members. A small helper process runs in the background to retrieve new comments and deliver updated versions of files. Best of all, it also works when Acrobat 8 is not running.
A PDF file that is part of a shared review carries the network address of the shared folder and a unique review ID, which allows your comments to reach the shared folder regardless of your location. That means you can distribute copies of the file via e-mail, a document management system, a network shared folder, or the Web.
While Mac users can participate in any kind of shared review, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to initiating one. Acrobat 8 on the Mac can’t set up a shared review on a MS Office SharePoint server. Acrobat 8 lets Mac users set up a shared review on a network folder or on a WebDAV server, such as Adobe’s Version Cue CS2 or .Mac. However, in order to set up a network folder, you must first start Windows File Sharing on a Mac in your workgroup because the program does not support Personal File Sharing.
Adobe went to great lengths to ensure feature parity across platforms. Even so, Acrobat 8 on the Mac is not equivalent in every way to the Windows version. For example, Acrobat 8 for Windows can incorporate Adobe Flash, Windows Media, RealMedia, and QuickTime files in a PDF document. In the Mac version, support for including multimedia content is limited to QuickTime. However, Acrobat can play Flash, Windows Media 9, and RealMedia content created on a PC—if you have the software installed on your Mac.
Editing, distributing, and processing PDF forms has been much improved in this version. Acrobat 8 can detect form fields even in scanned documents, compile returned forms, flatten forms with data (remove the form fields while retaining the filled-in data), merge data files into a spreadsheet, and automatically track the distribution of forms.
Acrobat 8 Professional allows you to add functionality to Adobe Reader by enabling extended usage rights in a particular PDF file. You can give users of the free Adobe Reader rights to review, comment and mark-up a PDF, save filled-in form data, and digitally sign the document either in an existing signature field (Adobe Reader 7) or anywhere on the page (Adobe Reader 8). Previously, the ability to sign and save PDF form data in Adobe Reader required Adobe’s LiveCycle Reader Extensions Server, an enterprise product with a $75,000 price tag.
Acrobat 8 introduces redaction tools to ensure that no sensitive information ever leaves your desk. Using Mark for Redaction or Search and Redact commands, you can specify which information remains private. You can also send pending redactions to colleagues for approval. In addition, Acrobat 8 can detect and redact metadata, hidden text layers, and comments.
Another highlight of this release is the much-improved preflight engine, which debuts the corrective preflight profiles feature. Acrobat’s support for PDF/A—the ISO (International Standards Organization) archiving standard—has been improved to help you preserve important documents. Last but not least, Acrobat’s Preflight supports PDF/X-4, a pending standard which will likely define the future of commercial printing.
Macworld’s buying advice
Acrobat 8 Professional is a giant leap forward, especially in the area of collaboration. It boasts a number of productivity-boosting features and gets a speed bump on Intel Macs. For many workgroups, Shared Reviews and especially the ability to sign and save PDF form data without relying on Adobe’s Live Cycle Reader Extensions Server might be a compelling reason to upgrade to Acrobat 8 Professional.
[ Filipe Pereira Martins and Anna Kobylinska are IT consultants who focus on workflow design and workflow automation for Web, print publishing, post production, and broadcast. They are co-founders and CEOs of Soft1T SARL (Consulting Agency LLC). ]Acrobat’s Preflight feature allows easy correction of PDF documents and one-click-adjustments of visuals using the Display Settings Alert.Using Acrobat’s redaction tools, you can define which information will be permanently removed from a file.