Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) was ten years old on June 15. In just ten years, PDF has become the de facto open standard for electronic document distribution and is now at the heart of almost every digital workflow system (Mac or Windows).
Acrobat 6 is Mac OS X-only, and sports an impressive all-over Aqua look. Some commands have been moved around but the overall layout is familiar, with the How To…? info panel being a welcome addition.
For PDF creation, Acrobat 6 brings some of Mac OS 9’s ease of operation to OS X. Courtesy of PDFMaker, an OS X library, Acrobat adds a dedicated toolbar with two one-button options (Convert to Adobe PDF & Convert to Adobe PDF and email) to Microsoft Office v.X. Additionally, an Adobe PDF printer is installed into the Print Center for use with any application in a similar manner to OS 9’s Create Adobe PDF.
Acrobat boasts a number of new viewing tools. Maximum zoom has been increased four-fold to 6,400 per cent; the new Loupe tool gives you a close-up of a small zoomed area; and Dynamic Zoom lets you grab a page and zoom by moving the cursor around. The Split Window facility shows two parts of the same document independently, and the new set of measuring tools is useful for measuring distances and areas.
Acrobat 5 introduced a set of markup tools that, when used in conjunction with its Web-browser plug-in, made document proofing a doddle. Acrobat 6 takes this a stage further. With the new Review Tracker, a list of reviewers can be set up and all comments and changes to a PDF kept in a single place. Interactive electronic forms make the review process within workgroups that bit easier, too. Changes can be sent via email, and new markup tools – including text insertion and deletion, custom stamps and basic drawing tools – minimize proofing errors.
On the creation side, Distiller is now native. Launchable within Acrobat 6, its functionality is similar to its predecessor – aside from support for PDF/X (Portable Document Format eXchange), a family of PDF standards conforming to ISO 15930. At the moment, UK printers tend to use the Periodical Publishers Association’s pass4press standard, but PDF/X will probably be adopted in the long term. A pass4press profile can easily be imported.
For a visual guide, Acrobat has taken a leaf out of InProduction’s book. Separation Preview shows CMYK plates and spot colours individually or in combinations, which is useful when used with the previews for overprint and transparency flattener.
Acrobat 6 supports high-quality printing. The advanced options in its print dialog has settings for colour output (including host-based or in-RIP separations), marks and bleeds, transparency flattening, and PostScript handling. In a similar vein, the Save dialog includes an option to save as a composite EPS file.
Other new features include support for layers and embedded multimedia files, integrated eBook functionality, enhanced Web Capture, and the return of Paper Capture.
Acrobat 6 was Adobe’s opportunity to give its OS X-only product parity with the Windows version. Not quite so. Numerous features are missing – including browser-based review, Web-page conversion from within Internet Explorer, and PDF creation with linked table of contents and hierarchical bookmarks from Microsoft Word to name but three. Even converted Web hyperlinks are non-functional despite appearing as underlined blue text.
While Acrobat 6 has a new integrated panel-based search facility, it cannot read catalogues created with previous versions. For instance, you can’t search one of Macworld’s Past Issues CDs via its catalogue. In mitigation, the new Search lets you choose folders or disks whose PDFs will be searched – but it’s a slow business.
Talking of speed, the Adobe PDF printer is less than convincing. Using the Convert to Adobe PDF toolbar option in Word, a basic two-page file with two photos and a dozen lines of text took just over a minute to convert. Using the Adobe PDF printer via the print dialog took over 40 minutes! The same file in OS 9 with the Create Adobe PDF driver also took just over a minute. This doesn’t bode well for applications outside of Microsoft Office. In fact, it’s faster to use the standard Save as PDF option in the print dialog and then optimize the file in Acrobat 6.
In its aim to be the ultimate tool for electronic documentation and the source of print-ready PDFs, Acrobat 6 Professional has taken some serious steps forward. Many of the new features, and the return of some past friends, are welcome – although the lack of parity with Windows is cause for some concern, especially where Web-based review is concerned.
With QuarkXPress 6 now released, switching to Mac OS X is almost mandatory. Make the move and enjoy all that Acrobat 6 Professional has to offer.