The single most important feature of Acrobat Professional 8 is a dramatic expansion in the Reader Extensions that Acrobat Professional may apply to PDF files, bestowing new “Extended Rights”. Of these, the most important such “Right” is commonly known as “Reader Save”. Within the new End User License Agreement (EULA) and certain other technical limitations, Acrobat Professional 8 obviates the need for expensive servers, programmatic chicanery or 3rd party products to deploy this key feature for end-users.
Simply put, Reader Save allows an Acrobat Pro user to “bless” a PDF such that form-fields may be completed and then saved by any user with the free Adobe Reader. This facility is a desirable quality for almost any fillable form, and in many cases, it is simply essential in many of the form workflows actually operating in the real world.
Before Acrobat 8, the only way to get this feature into a PDF was via Adobe’s Reader Extensions Server (ARES), five-figure “enterprise” software sold exclusively through Adobe’s direct-sales bureaucracy. ARES remains a product in Adobe’s LiveCycle lineup – more on that later.
In July, 2006, I introduced the Extended Rights Manifesto; essentially, a set of checkpoints for assessing the implementation of Reader Extensions in Adobe’s PDF management software. The idea was to offer encouragement and guidance to Adobe Systems as they pondered their strategy for moving Reader Extensions to Acrobat Professional.
I’m going to go through the Articles of the Manifesto one by one, and “score” Adobe on the new playing field they’ve created with Acrobat 8. At the same time, we’ll doubtless think of some revisions to the Manifesto, in fact, we’ll need a whole NEW Manifesto just to keep up.
Changes in Acrobat 8
Acrobat 8 Professional now offers three ways to “bless” a PDF with Extended Rights (“Reader-Enable”):
- From the Advanced menu, simply select “Enable Usage Rights in Adobe Reader” to bless your PDF with Forms Save, Commenting and Digital Signatures rights. Forms-data import and export rights are also enabled (although undocumented). However, the right to spawn new pages from templates in Reader is unavailable in Acrobat 8 Professional, as is SOAP, or the capacity to bless more than one file at a time. See this post on Thom’s blog and this article by Ted Padova for more specifics.
- “Distribute form”, available on the Forms menu or task button is a simple wizard that adds Extended Rights within a canned distribution model based on your email client.
- “Send for Email Review” from the Comments menu or Review & Comment task button calls a wizard which adds Extended Rights for commenting only, disabling any Extended Rights.
First and foremost, Adobe deserves a lot of praise for taking the risk of moving formerly hyper-expensive “enterprise” functionality right into the desktop mainstream at a “mere” $449 a pop. What’s the catch, right? And for that matter, what’s the point of Adobe’s LiveCycle Reader Extensions Server now?
The “value add” of the Reader Extensions Server has been amended to:
- Enabling SOAP rights (connecting PDFs to live content delivered by a webserver)
- “Blessing” PDFs via the Batch Processor
- And of course, everyone’s favorite: “because the End User License Agreement (EULA) Says So”.
Now… I’m not actually having much luck actually FINDING the EULA text anywhere in the Acrobat documentation post-installation, nor is it up on adobe.com as of this post. So the only chance you have to read it in the short-term is if you pay attention during the customary “click though” moment on installation when you are asked to accept a software license. This time, don’t just click though, as I did.
In any event. If memory serves, the EULA limits users to either 500 end-users per form, with unlimited “instances” of the forms for each user…. or else distribution to an unknown number of users (ie, posting on a website) with a limit of 500 form-instances collected. How you figure out when you hit these limits is (it seems) up to you.
You might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.
The Manifesto Score Card, Article 1
November, 2006, Acrobat Professional 8.0: 8 out of 10.
The lack of the template spawning and SOAP “rights” is a real shame, and it should be possible to batch enable forms. There’s something wrong with the business model when people aren’t being encouraged to use this extraordinary functionality as much as possible. We also need more control over the messages displayed (or not) to the user when they open PDFs with Extended Rights, but these are whines about the way Rights are handled, not the Rights themselves. Even the LiveCycle server product doesn’t include (via the UI, anyhow) enough “controls” over the way Extended Rights actually manifest in PDF.
(An aside, I recently needed Extended Rights on a “kiosk” type project… not to actually allow Reader to Save, but simply to stop the !*&!@#$% warning message about how Reader “couldn’t save this form” from appearing every time users touched a form-field!)
I also have a caveat on the EULA. Adobe’s real intent is clearly (a) lax and (b) TBD, but what bothers me more is that the idea seems kind of goofy; a barrier to business at best, a missed opportunity on the revenue side (tsk, tsk) at worst.
But that’s for another post.
Nonetheless, the simple fact is that allowing Acrobat 8 Professional to “bless” a PDF, any PDF, with most available Extended Rights, is a marvelous thing. Whole workflows can now blossom in PDF. It’s a $449 bargain based on this feature alone. Reader can Save! If you’ve bothered to read this far, you know what that means.
The Extended Rights Manifesto has been updated with Article 10. To save you a click, here it is:
Separate “form” rights from “save” rights. PDF forms are often used for document applications rather than as forms per se, as in CD-ROM interfaces, electronic brochures, and so on. These applications may require Extended Rights to import FDFs (for example), but do not require the ability to save a form. For these purposes, Acrobat Professional should be able to bestow form rights on a PDF without limitation or reservation. With these “pdf as application” rights applied, the default form-related warnings to the user when opening or closing the PDF would not occur.
In this way, it would become very easy to develop “application” PDFs using the full suite of forms functionality without interfering with a “real” forms oriented business-model for Extended Rights.