Acrobat Has New Moves

 
 
By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2007-01-31
 
 
 

With compelling security and collaboration enhancements, Adobe Systems Acrobat 8 Professional is worthy of consideration as a new purchase or upgrade, especially for users working with sensitive documents and those who often collaborate on documents.

Released at the end of 2006, Acrobat 8 Professional is available for Microsofts Windows and Apples Mac OS X. (The Mac OS X versions of Acrobat 8 are universal binaries that will install on Intel- and PowerPC-based Macintosh systems.) Acrobat 8 Professional costs $449, with upgrades priced at $159. Acrobat 8 Standard—which lacks Professional features such as Adobe Reader review and PDF creation from existing Microsoft Office documents—costs $299, with upgrades priced at $99.

Acrobat 8 Professional requires an Intel Pentium III or equivalent processor, 256MB of RAM (512MB recommended) and 860MB of available hard drive space. The Windows version of Acrobat 8 Professional requires Microsoft Windows 2000 with Service Pack 4 or Windows XP Professional, Home Edition or Tablet PC Edition with SP2. Acrobat 8 Professional also supports Windows Vista.

eWeek Labs tested Acrobat 8 Professional on a Lenovo ThinkPad T60 Widescreen laptop with a 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7400 processor running Windows XP SP2 and Office 2003. We also tested Acrobat 8 Professional on a Toshiba Tecra A8 with a 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo T2400 processor and Office 2007.

During tests, we encountered some issues running Acrobat 8 Professional with Office 2007. Acrobat 8 Professional does not support new file formats in Office 2007 nor does it support PDF creation directly from Office 2007 applications (as it does from Office 2003 applications). Adobe officials have said that they will issue a patch that will resolve the Office 2007 issues in the first half of this year.

Despite these problems, we welcomed Acrobat 8 Professionals refreshed interface, which makes it easier for users to figure things out on their own. In addition, tool bars are now customizable, allowing users to create documents more quickly.

Collaboration standouts

Two features that stand out in this release are the ability to share PDFs for review with other Acrobat and Acrobat Reader users, and the ability to combine files into a PDF package.

Acrobat 7 Professional introduced the ability to allow even users of the free Adobe Reader to participate in PDF document reviews, and Acrobat 8 Professional enhances this capability by allowing users of Adobe Reader 7 and Adobe Reader 8 to fill out, digitally sign and locally save PDF forms.

A new shared reviews feature also makes it easy for users to collaborate on documents. We were able to allow all reviewers to see comments made to a PDF by publishing those comments to a server, separate from the PDF. Comments can be stored on a shared workspace, a Microsoft SharePoint server, a network folder or a folder on a Web server.

In addition, users can now take different files and either merge them into a single new document or assemble them into a PDF package that groups the files together but allows each document to remain distinct. We found this feature to be very useful and one that makes Acrobat 8 Professional stand out from its competitors. We also liked that users can now embed a PDF index into the PDF itself, instead of having to create a separate file.

The new Start Meeting button allows users to collaborate in real time with colleagues and partners via Acrobat Connect. Formerly the Macromedia Breeze Web conferencing product, Acrobat Connect can be used to share screens, audio, video and whiteboards.

Released in January, Acrobat Connect is a separate product that can be purchased either as a hosted service or as installed software. Acrobat Connect costs $39 a month or $395 a year. Pricing varies for Acrobat Connect Professional, which also is offered as a hosted service or installed software. The Professional version of Connect offers unlimited meeting rooms, integrated audio, VOIP (voice over IP), reporting and other capabilities.

Acrobat 8 Professional makes it easier to export PDF documents to different file formats, including Microsoft Word and HTML formats. Users can create PDF documents directly from Microsofts Office, Internet Explorer, Visio, Access and Publisher—or from any other application that prints.

A new feature we welcomed is the ability to set Acrobat 8 Professional to automatically archive Microsoft Outlook e-mail to PDF format, making it easier to search through e-mail.

We also liked Acrobat 8 Professionals improved forms capabilities. For example, we created a survey and sent it out as an e-mail attachment. Recipients were able to open and fill out the survey in Adobe Reader 7 or Reader 8. As forms were returned, they were saved together, allowing us to see all the responses in one PDF file.

Security boost

Security has been boosted with this release of Acrobat Professional. Tool bars make it easy to check documents for metadata and other identifiable and potentially confidential information, and users can now maintain individual security settings for each document used to create a PDF file. Access to PDF documents also can be restricted with 128-bit encryption.

The new features in Acrobat 8 Professional make the application best suited for users who work with sensitive data or with documents that require input from multiple users. IT managers whose users need to merely create PDF documents should consider low- and no-cost alternatives to Acrobat 8, including ABBYY Softwares ABBYY PDF Transformer Pro 2.0, Arts PDFs Nitro PDF, Nuance Communications ScanSoft PDF Converter Professional 4 and Active PDFs PrimoPDF. (For reviews of ABBYY PDF Transformer Pro 2.0 and ScanSoft PDF Converter Professional 4, see Page 34.)

IT managers also should keep in mind that Microsoft offers a downloadable plug-in for Office 2007 that will allow users to create PDFs directly from the productivity suite.

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.

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