Acrobat performs new tricks
- By Patrick Marshall
- Sep 03, 2001
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
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