Adobe Acrobat Pro XI review
As now seems to be the norm, the new version of Acrobat lags a bit behind the main Creative Suite upgrade. Acrobat XI Pro is now available through Creative Cloud or as a standalone purchase, while Creative Suite 6 and CS5.5 editions only include Acrobat X Pro – with no automatic upgrade.
For some users though, particularly those tasked with PDF design and review, there are a few good reasons to upgrade to be found in the Tools section. For example, when you click on Edit Text & Images, all content in the PDF is sectioned off into editable frames. Clicking on a frame will bring up an arrowhead cross allowing you to move the content, with Smart Guides on hand to aid the placement. A caret/cursor is also automatically applied when you click in a frame – allowing text to be deleted, replaced or new words inserted; frames can also be resized. With each change, the text automatically reflows to suit. You can also add completely new text blocks or new images to the page, or swap out pictures using a Replace Image command. In addition, there’s a basic section for formatting the text and picture content, context sensitive to activate tools based on your selection. An expanded set of formatting options is available by clicking a Plus button.
The new editing ability also lets you perform a find and replace text action throughout an entire PDF file, though it’s a word-by-word replacement. Text is substituted using the font currently selected in the Format palette, which further decelerates the process.
The contentious issue that you can’t edit an imported PDF in Adobe InDesign, without using a plugin, has been addressed in part by this new workflow. However the next thing you’ll probably think is ‘how can I stop some numpty messing with my layout?’
Fear not, the Protection menu at the bottom of the Tools section offers fast access to the Restrict Editing tool, which allows you to set up and instantly apply password encryption to stop anyone editing the document in any way. A password strength bar indicates the security setting.
The Tools section also features the Export File To… command which now allows you to transform PDF files into PowerPoint documents (previous versions allowed you to create other editable Microsoft Office and web formats). Document formatting stays intact, so this is bound to save time in recreating or retyping the information for a presentation slide. The resulting file can be edited like a native presentation within PowerPoint.
Guided Actions are another enhancement offered in the Tools section, stepping you through common PDF management workflows with handy green ticks to offer positive feedback on successful stages. You can use presets or set up Actions for others to follow through dragging and dropping Tools to be applied in an Action Step panel.
The digital signature workflow has been much enhanced by integration with Adobe EchoSign technology. Typewritten, hand-drawn, and image-based signatures are now available as well as certificate signatures. You can send a signed document via EchoSign or store/archive such files in the cloud. It’s also possible to specify that a document has to be signed by others – the system can track the process and alert you once the file has received an electronic signature.
Cloud access has also been integrated into the open/save dialog boxes on most Adobe Acrobat XI and Adobe Reader windows. This currently means that any document located in SharePoint and Office 365 libraries, as well as Adobe’s own Acrobat.com, can be accessed like an external hard drive, with check in/out facilities available for shared files.
There’s also greater support for form creation and handling via a desktop version of Forms Central. Very quick and effective it is too, with a multitude of templates to start from and easily customise. It also allows existing forms to be scanned in and converted to PDF format for use.
PDF Creation and collection
The Create options have been expanded, with the most appealing being the new ability to combine multiple files of different types into a single PDF or Portfolio. Previously this only worked with existing PDFs, but this version can collect Microsoft Office files, as well as standard image formats. It makes collecting all work in a project together much easier and you’ve got the new search and content editing tools afterwards to boot. However, Microsoft Office needs to be installed for it to support those files. During conversion Acrobat opens the host application temporarily to save each individual document as a PDF- and it doesn’t seem to work with older versions of Word, such as in Office for Mac 2004. A related feature, one-button PDF file creation from Microsoft Office is available only for Windows. Mac users need to use Save As PDF from the PDF button in the Print dialog instead or install the open-source CUPS-PDF driver.
Users who have shelled out for CS6 may feel shortchanged and MS Office integration is balanced in favour of Windows, but Acrobat XI offers a substantial boost to productivity for managing PDFs. Standout features are the streamlined digital signing, export as PowerPoint, the Photoshop-style automation of Guided Actions, and Edit Text & Images, which banishes ‘static’ PDFs forever.