Acrobat finds a new home on the Web

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Remember when hardly a week went by in the early months of 2008 without some sort of Apple product announcement? The past few weeks, Adobe has been doing its best Apple imitation, with a slew of product news aimed at creative professionals.

Following last week’s debut of a trio of public betas for the CS4 versions of Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Soundbooth, Adobe kicked off this week by introducing Acrobat 9 Pro. The new version of the PDF creation and editing tool should arrive in July, and Adobe has said that it will integrate Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro into Adobe Creative Suite 3.3 Design Premium and Standard editions, Creative Suite 3.3 Web Premium and Creative Suite 3.3 Master Collection editions. CS3 owners can upgrade for $159. Pricing for full versions, as well as a host of optional upgrade paths can be found at the Creative Suite page on Adobe’s Web site.

Macworld has already carried profiles of Acrobat 9 and this week. But I thought it would be a good idea to look at Monday’s announcements from a creative pro perspective.

With Acrobat 9 Pro, designers can combine PDF files, video, audio, and other documents into easy-to-distribute PDF Portfolios, which are simple to browse using customizable interactive navigation designed in Adobe Flash. Designers also can include Adobe Flash Player-compatible video and application files in their PDF files and then play back this content in Acrobat 9 Pro and Adobe Reader 9.

Users of Adobe Acrobat Packages in previous versions of Acrobat will see some minor updates and a name change to PDF Portfolios. The OCR scanning engine has seen a minor update, among several other features already available in Acrobat 8.

Overall, I don’t see any huge changes for most print designers, which is actually a good thing in our industry. Instead, the bigger news this week was the unveiling of If Acrobat’s primary home is on the user’s desktop, you might say that this the application adds a condo on the beach in the form of this Web based-component.

Much like the recent move by Adobe to put Photoshop in the hands of Web users with Photoshop Express, the company does the same thing with, which includes Web-based file sharing and storage, PDF-creation services, on-line web conferencing and screen sharing, and more. Here are some of the highlights: 

The newly unveiled online service
Buzzword’s Flash-based word-processor, Buzzword offers all the basic word-processor tools you expect from an online tool, including collaboration. You can share your documents with others, and any comments or changes are seen in real-time by everyone. You can set one of three roles to the people you invite to share your document, giving them read-only, comment-only and full writing privileges.

With Buzzword, you can import documents from Microsoft Word as well as regular or rich text format files for editing. When you’re done, you can export your document to .doc, .docX, text, rich text, HTML, and of course, PDF formats. In my initial tests, though, exporting as PDF simply did not work. I kept getting damaged file errors.

Buzzword also keeps a version history as you go. Each of the last several versions of your document is available to you, as is meta information such as who created a document and when.

ConnectNow Of course, offers the ability to start a collaborative meeting using Adobe ConnectNow, which offers screen-sharing, Webcam video conferencing, chat and more. While this feature is certainly cool, I think it’s a bit “beyond” the needs of most designers, who generally work in smaller teams in a single office, or at home. However, for those situations where a phone call just won’t do, it’s nice to have the option of online conferencing with ConnectNow.

MyFiles offers 5GB of file storage space with each free account. You are limited to text documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDF files and images though. No audio, video, compressed file or executable files are permitted.

Share Once your files are on, you can share them with select team members, or via the HTML linking feature which you can use to embed your files into your blog, or Web page.

Create PDF As the name implies, this feature allows you to upload a document to be converted to PDF format. You can convert text (TXT, PS, RTF), Microsoft Office (DOC, XLS, PPT, PRJ), Open Office (ODT, ODP, ODS, ODG, ODF), Star Office (SWX, SXI, SXC, SXD, STW), Word Perfect (WPD), and image files (BMP, GIF, JPEG, TIFF, PNG) to PDF using this service. While most content creators already have a program capable of creating a PDF, this is great for those emergency situations when you don’t have access to your computer. The site states that you have a five-PDF limit, but it’s unclear if that is a total limit forever, or a “at a time” limit.

After spending some time on, I like what I see so far. It has its hiccups, just as any new service does. But considering it’s still in beta, things look pretty good. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised though, the Photoshop Express Beta is impressive as well, though not really for “pro” use. It’s clear that Adobe sees that the future is online tools and services. Though we won’t see the death of the desktop application anytime soon, it’s reassuring to know that Adobe is thinking ahead.

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