First Look: Adobe Acrobat 8
18 September 2006 by Kurt Foss, Editor, AcrobatUsers.com = Intuitive interface = The first thing experienced users of Adobe Acrobat will notice in the newest incarnation -- Acrobat 8 -- announced today and expected to be available in November, is a streamlined, task-oriented user interface with customizable toolbars. For starters, a new "Getting Started" window is designed to make it easier for users to access and learn how to accomplish the most common or desired tasks in Acrobat. Too often people don't realize that a certain capability exists, according to Randy Swineford, Group Product Manager for Acrobat, so the company has "bubbled up" the "20 percent of the product that 80 percent of our customers use." The eight featured categories, which are duplicated in the Acrobat 8 taskbar, are: • • • • • • • • Create PDF Combine Files Export Start Meeting Secure Sign Forms Review & Comment
Clicking any of the categories opens a task-specific page containing examples and ideas, specific guidelines and additional information, and links to the tools within Acrobat for that particular use. Beneath this cleaner arrangement of icons, toolbars and related navigational elements is an even more powerful application that includes several longrequested features, numerous others aimed at a broad horizontal spectrum of users and several new and expanded features of special interest to select vertical markets. = New and improved = Other new and enhanced features in Acrobat 8 Professional include the ability to:
• Control pages to be combined and final file size You can easily select and arrange individual parts of an original PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio or AutoCAD files to be combined, and control the size of the resulting file. • Combine multiple files into one PDF package You can combine multiple files into a searchable, sortable PDF package that maintains the individual security settings and digital signatures of each included PDF document. • Unify PDF documents with consistent headers, footers and watermarks You can add, remove and edit headers, footers and watermarks in PDF files with live previews, a streamlined interface, and the ability to save settings as presets for easy reuse. • Manage shared reviews You can easily conduct and track shared reviews, without IT assistance, that allow review participants to see each other's comments as they make them. • Enable even more advanced features in Adobe Reader You can enable anyone to fill and save electronic forms offline, and to digitally sign documents using the free Reader. • Participate in real-time collaboration via Acrobat Connect You can launch real-time, Web-based collaboration capabilities from a single button, leveraging Flash and the ubiquity of Flash Player (software sold separately). • Streamline PDF forms creation, distribution and data collection You can automatically recognize and convert form fields in static PDF documents, and more easily manage the distribution of forms and collection of forms data. • Permanently remove sensitive information You can search for and remove metadata, hidden layers, and other concealed information, and use new redaction tools to permanently delete sensitive text, illustrations or other content. • Enjoy improved performance and support for AutoCAD
You can now more rapidly convert AutoCAD files into compact PDF documents, even without AutoCAD software installed. • Archive e-mail in PDF You can configure Acrobat 8 Professional to automatically archive e-mail in Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes for easy search and retrieval. = Focus on the document = Another aspect of the new interface is quickly obvious when you open a PDF file. In Acrobat 7, a displayed PDF appears under the Acrobat framework, which can include multiple layers of toolbars, thus diminishing the space for viewing the file. In Acrobat 8, according to Swineford, the goal was to "make the document more prominent," reducing the overhead and visual weight of the application. As part of that change, the left-side elements-- for viewing pages, bookmarks, signatures, help, attachments and comments--appear only as small icons. Along the top, a minimum number of toolbar elements are loaded by default, with a new "Customize Toolbars" option that allows a user to configure additional toolbars with only those tools most frequently accessed. = Reader now is 'Saver,' too = Acrobat 8 resolves perhaps one of the longest-standing user requests, and will bring to an end one of the catchier retorts seen on e-mail discussion lists and forums for many years. Acrobat 8 Professional extends the Readerenabling capabilities introduced in the previous version, which provided a way to allow commenting on PDFs with Reader. With the new version, you can now enable PDF forms to be filled in and saved--including the usersubmitted data. You can also enable the addition of digital signatures. No longer will it be appropriate to say 'if it could save, it would be called Saver, not Reader.' = Meet me at the PDF = Collaboration has been one of the growing uses for PDF in recent years, with the ability to have users review and comment documents through a Web browser and/or e-mail. Making it work well consistently has been a technical challenge for some, often requiring IT support. Further, with e-mail-based reviews, different participants have not been able to see the comments of
others, leading to redundancy and creating more work for the review initiator. Acrobat 8 introduces a Shared Review concept that resolves many of the past issues, making it much easier to set up, participate in and benefit from comment-and-review workflows. But Acrobat 8 takes collaboration much further, a direct result of the acquisition of the Macromedia product line. The Web conferencing software previously known as Macromedia Breeze has been rebranded as Acrobat Connect, and is available as a supplement (sold separately) to the product family. From a "Start Meeting" button in either Acrobat or Reader, you can launch a personal meeting room and invite up to 15 people to participate in real time. Participants need only the Flash Player to join a meeting. Acrobat Connect is seen as an everyday productivity tool, says Kevin Lynch, vice president for product marketing in the Knowledge Worker Business Unit at Adobe. "The way we use it a tremendous amount at Adobe is for individual productivity in meetings around the company every day," he says. "We'll use it to simply jump in to a quick, real-time meeting because it's so easy. We don't travel from building to building or floor to floor when we don't have to." = Going, going, gone = In its early days, PDF was pretty much a final-form format--what went into a PDF, stayed in the PDF. Eventually the concept of editable PDF evolved, in concert with the expanded use of the format, including its adoption as a mandated standard in some fields and markets, including many government agencies and departments. Accordingly, a need arose to be able to remove or hide certain kinds of sensitive information--a process called redaction--in some documents before they could be redistributed, such as concealing the identity of minors in court documents. People developed makeshift solutions-drawing black boxes on top of to-be-hidden text or images in PDF files--only to discover later that the content beneath the boxes was easily retrieved and viewed through a simple cut-and-paste process. A third-party plug-in has been available for doing serious redaction, but Adobe only offered a makeshift workaround ... until now. True redaction is now built into Acrobat 8. Users can mark content to be removed, can use search to find other matching references to be marked and then in the final step, apply the redaction and completely remove the information from the file. The tool includes the ability to examine PDFs for related kinds of information, including metadata, that could reveal more than intended; it can also be easily redacted. Once redacted, it's gone for good. The Examine Document dialog box allows you to quickly find and eliminate various types of hidden data in PDF files.
= More to come = In the weeks between this official announcement of Acrobat 8 and its shipping date, we'll be taking a more detailed look at many of these new and improved features. In the meantime, I welcome your questions and comments, and we will do our best to answer them.