Acrobat performs new tricks

If you've used the World Wide Web lately, you've almost certainly clicked

on a link that opened a PDF file.

The files have become a widely accepted standard for document delivery

in situations where retaining a document's format is important. In part,

that's because Adobe Systems Inc.'s Acrobat Reader, which enables users

to view PDF files, is available for free.

Of course, if you want to create PDF (Portable Document Format) files,

you'll need to spend some money on the full version of Adobe Acrobat. As

software goes, the $250 street price of the full version of Acrobat is not

exorbitant. And we've found that the new version, Acrobat 5.0, adds a host

of features that turn the product into a true workgroup tool for document

creation and management.

Converting files to and from PDF is easier than before. Using Acrobat

5.0, you can quickly convert a PDF file to a Microsoft Corp. Rich Text Format

file, although you will lose all images and most of the formatting. Images

are extracted separately, and if you want to bring them into the RTF file,

you must do so manually. Alternatively, you can convert whole PDF pages

into image file formats, such as TIFF or JPEG.

Converting files to PDF is also easy, thanks to the Distiller program.

Upon installation, Acrobat places icons in Microsoft Office applications

that enable you to quickly convert documents to PDF. (We did find, however,

that Acrobat failed to install its icons in Office XP toolbars, a snag Adobe

is working on. So if you're using Office XP, you'll need to convert by selecting

Print, then choosing Distiller.)

What's more, with Acrobat 5.0 you can even capture Web pages and entire

sites from the Internet as PDF files. That can be especially handy for archiving

your site and for doing research online.

Another nifty new feature is Version 5.0's ability to let users view

and add comments to PDF files while reading them within a Web browser. When

you click on a link that opens a PDF file in your browser, you'll find a

set of editing tools in the toolbar at the top of the window. The tools

available will depend upon the security settings specified by the document's

author. Authors can determine whether users can edit a PDF file, select

text for copying, add comments or print the document, among other things.

Also, Acrobat has become a fairly powerful forms-creation tool that

enables you to generate and distribute PDF files with data fields that change

dynamically depending on user input. Also, data from PDF forms is compatible

with Extensible Markup Language, so you can move it directly into your back-end

databases.

Adobe has also added spell checking for form fields to Version 5.0;

this helps ensure that the information in your database is usable.

Acrobat 5.0 offers enhanced security for those sharing and collaborating

on files via a network or the Internet. Version 5.0 supports password protections

and encryption, as did earlier versions. But where earlier versions were

limited to 40-bit encryption, Version 5.0 supports 128-bit encryption.

Version 5.0 supports third-party digital signature and public-key infrastructure

solutions, such as those available from VeriSign Inc. and Entrust Inc.

It also allows users to request and exchange certificates with.in Acrobat

documents via e-mail, which means that you can ensure that only intended

recipients can open and view PDF files.

We found Acrobat's security features robust and easy to implement

important considerations when documents are being shared for collaboration.

And Acrobat's version-comparison tools also make it easy to track changes

made in documents by various collaborators.

Agency users who have Section 508 requirements of the Rehabilitation

Act in mind will especially appreciate Acrobat's support for features that

make documents more accessible to users with disabilities, such as high-contrast

viewing modes and compatibility with third-party screen readers, such as

JAWS (Job Access With Speech) from Freedom Scientific and Window-Eyes from

GW Micro Inc.

The bottom line: We were impressed with Acrobat's new collaboration

and security features. The product is quickly becoming a must-have tool

for working on and delivering formatted materials, especially in cross-platform

environments.

REPORT CARD

Acrobat 5.0

Score: A-

Adobe Systems Inc.
(800) 833-6687
www.adobe.com

Acrobat 5.0 costs $250.

Thanks to new Web-based collaboration tools and enhanced security, Acrobat is evolving from a document-delivery application into a full-fledged collaborative authoring tool.

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