It’s easy to assume that Acrobat was designed especially for the graphics world, given its importance in publishing. However, Adobe’s portable document format was also designed for the corporate world for exchanging documents without worrying about the application file-formats used. Now there are almost no computer users that don’t use PDFs at some point. Whether it is viewing downloaded product catalogues or approving artwork, exporting files for print jobs, or encrypting sensitive data, Acrobat and the PDF format are ubiquitous.
One of the big benefits of the new version of Acrobat will be the ability to create PDFs directly from Microsoft Office. I say will be because the beta version is having difficulties with this. Outputting in PDF format means that the look of documents is preserved when opening the document in a non-Office application.
The Windows version can save Web pages as PDFs directly from Internet Explorer. This isn’t available from the Mac version, though it can be done from within Acrobat. Again, this is in beta, and it wasn’t too stable when PDFing a big site – but this should be fixed in the final version.
One of the great things about the new Acrobat is the way you can gather files together to make a PDF. Any compatible files can be selected and put in order, and presto – you have a single PDF.
Reviewing PDF documents is now more sophisticated, and the interface is a little prettier. You can now simultaneously review documents if you have access to a WebDAV or SOAP (Single Object Access Protocol) server. Apple’s iDisk uses WebDAV, so it should work with this feature.
The commenting tools now have customizable stamps that can show current date, time and image. There is also an option to sort comments by date, reviewer or other criteria, and you can create a page that summarizes all the comments in a document.
For the engineers and architects among you, there are exciting new features, but only for Windows-based applications such as Autodesk AutoCAD and Microsoft Visio.
Distiller isn’t greatly different from the previous version, except that it is – at last – OS X native. This is an important breakthrough for the workflow of the publishing industry, which has been trying to move to OS X despite various logistical problems. The main problem has been the fact that QuarkXPress still isn’t OS X-native. So there are still plenty of people stuck back in OS 9 land. But there are plenty of brave and valiant companies making the move to OS X even if Quark isn’t ready for it. Of course, a solution for some has been to move to InDesign at the same time, which diminishes the need for Distiller. Either way, a native version is Distiller is a most welcome progression.
The potentially bewildering world of PDF creation is greatly simplified by Acrobat 6. It shows a lot of promise. The program has enhancements for both pro designers with complex workflows, and office or administration people who just want to get a document in a readable format without the worry of compatibility. Adobe was a bit slow off the starting blocks, but once Acrobat Professional is out, it will have a complete lineup of OS X-native software.