Adobe adds conferencing to Acrobat software

Adobe Systems announced last week that it has expanded its PDF software by adding Web conferencing and collaboration capabilities. Acrobat 8 has a new interface that lets users perform tasks such as combining, signing and protecting PDF files; interacting with PDF forms; reviewing and collaborating on documents; and launching real-time Web conferences by clicking a button.

Company officials also introduced Acrobat Connect and Acrobat Connect Professional, which let users instantly connect online with a Web browser and Flash Player software. Adobe obtained Flash Player through its acquisition of Macromedia last year.

Acrobat 8 and Adobe Reader 8 provide one-button access to Connect, a hosted service that creates a personal meeting room for real-time Web conferencing, said Rebecca Chisolm-Winkler, director of global government markets at Adobe.

The new versions of Acrobat and Connect represent the first integration of Adobe and Macromedia products, she said. Adobe’s goal is to change the way people conduct business and exchange ideas and information, she added.

“Adobe continues to expand the range of what a PDF can do,” said Joe Wilcox, a senior analyst at JupiterResearch.

Acrobat’s original function was to accurately reproduce paper documents in a digitized format. Wilcox said Acrobat is evolving into a digital container in which users can save files created in other programs so they can view them with Acrobat Reader.

The PDF packaging in Acrobat 8 lets users group disparate information into what appears to be a single document while preserving individual files and security settings, Adobe officials said.

Users of Acrobat 8 Professional or Acrobat 3D Version 8 allows anyone with the free Reader to digitally sign and save PDF forms, Chisolm-Winkler said. Acrobat 8 contains controls that let users permanently redact sensitive visible and hidden information in PDF files. The digital signing and redaction features should be of interest to government users, she added.

Government agencies could employ the new software to bring a whole new interactive look and feel to their Web sites, she said.

Wilcox agreed. For instance, the Internal Revenue Service could add a Flash video with instructions that explain how to fill out tax forms or other documents. The agency provides such instructions as PDF files on its Web site, he said.

A major new benefit is users’ ability to collaborate in real time, Wilcox said.

Acrobat Connect allows users to choose an easy-to-remember Web address for their online personal meeting rooms, with unlimited use for as many as 15 participants for a monthly fee. Any participants using a Web browser with Flash software can join a meeting.

Acrobat Connect provides collaboration tools such as whiteboarding, chat, video and audioconferencing. Acrobat Connect Professional gives larger organizations additional collaboration features such as support for interactive multimedia, integrated telephony and voice over IP. It can be provided as a hosted service or deployed at a customer’s location.


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