REVIEW: Acrobat comes of age

Acrobat 5, the latest incarnation of Adobe's portable document creator, is a great leap forward in usability. The new release, launched last week, finally turns this underrated little app into a useful and mature piece of business software.

Acrobat 5, the latest incarnation of Adobe's portable document creator, is a great leap forward in usability. The new release, launched this week, finally turns this underrated little app into a useful and mature piece of business software.

As a graphic designer, Distiller has always been particularly useful. Sitting there like another printer, it’s ready to produce an accurate, cross-platform-compatible, onscreen Postscript proof, from any application, for client approval or before going to the bureau.

And I have made use of Acrobat Exchange’s networking and editing features. But that is the point at which frustration levels start rising. Try copying a block of text, or saving the PDF document back to something useful, like text and images – forget it.

Hallelujah Acrobat 5! Why? Select text block, copy, and paste! Save in Rich Text Format. Extract images or save PDF as images.

This ability to repurpose alone makes it worth the upgrade. And that’s just the start.

Designers will appreciate Acrobat 5's colour management. Also useful are the many levels of protection I can apply to a proof. I can prevent it from being edited or repurposed, but still let it be annotated, and I can also set it to print only in low resolution – good enough for an inkjet but not for an imagesetter.

The networked office will be the greatest beneficiary of the changes in this release. The business user has been clearly targeted, with an interface more closely resembling Microsoft Office than an Adobe application. Creating PDFs from Office applications is much more streamlined.

The extensive and powerful collaborative tools are vastly improved and easier to use, and can be web-based. Documents can now accept multiple digital signatures, verified by certificates. Security can be set to 128-bit encryption.

For the full extent of changes in this major upgrade see www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/main.html.

And if you thought you had Acrobat already because you got the free reader, or you can export PDF from your favourite app, think again.

Acrobat 5 costs $629 or as an upgrade $248 (excluding GST).

Canning is an Auckland graphic designer.

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