I’ve been working on “live” files using Acrobat 8 Professional for some time now, so my initial reactions to the latest version of Acrobat are a little more seasoned.
I had this in mind during a recent interview for MacAddict magazine.
Since I went on at greater length than they could possibly print, I thought I would inflict the balance of my words on you, the helpess RSS robots (and occasional human) monitoring this Blog.
What is your overall opinion of Acrobat 8?
The vast majority of desktop PDF users still think of Acrobat and PDF for basic create/view/print applications – if, that is, they don’t think of them collectively as just “Adobe”. With XPS looming and competition stiffening, Acrobat 8 represents a serious effort on Adobe’s part to awaken end-users to PDF’s higher uses. The redesign is new-user friendly, yet includes some neat tricks for power users that help to smooth out certain grumbles. There’s not a lot that’s strictly speaking “new” in Acrobat 8, but there are a lot of very powerful refinements, and some key additions.
What are the most important new features for the average user? (Whomever that is.)
Oddly enough, it’s very hard to say – testimony to the very breadth and depth of the toolkit. The very first Acrobat users thought it was a prepress tool. For others, it was (and is!) a document assembly and distribution tool, or a scanning tool, or a platform for developing interactive PDF forms, or archiving documents, or commenting. There are many other equally dissimilar tasks in which some aspect of Acrobat is considered vital. “Swiss army knife” remains about the fairest overall description.
Perhaps the most important single change is the effort Adobe has put into helping newer users get more out of Acrobat than just the very basics. In Acrobat 8 most (but not all) of the tools got either a little or a lot better, depending mainly on what you need and how cleverly you use them.
That said, from my “knowledge worker” perspective, the single biggest new feature is the ability to “bless” PDFs using Acrobat Professional so the free Reader can save a user-filled form before printing or submitting it to a server.
What are the most important new features for the vertical markets (e.g., government, manufacturing, legal, etc.) Does anything stand out in this regard?
Allowing Reader to save a form stands out in any context. Every industry uses forms, and extended this capability to Reader is BIG, without a doubt.
The legal community seems excited about redaction and bates-numbering (which surprised me, since excellent PDF redaction AND bates-numbering software from Appligent has been around for years), but government, publishers and others who want to make their PDF files more accessible (or PDF/A-1A compliant) won’t find substantially improved tagging tools in Acrobat 8.0.
Unlike Adobe, I don’t really believe traditional verticals are especially meaningful when it comes to PDF and Acrobat. There are many seemingly subtle enhancements in Acrobat 8 that offer immense opportunity for streamlining regular and ad-hoc work processes in many verticals. That’s because these are really document processes, not vertical processes.
Take the upgraded Combine Documents tool for example. Notice that this slick, easy tool now allows users to select and convert individual pages from different sources, preview the results and save that overall configuration for reuse. Workgroups large and small can continue to update documents individually, simply pushing the “easy button” in Acrobat 8 to combine all efforts together at the end of the day. Very cool. What vertical needs that? Any of them could really use it, and it’s only one such feature.
Are there any often-requested features that aren’t in Acrobat 8? (i.e., What are the key missing pieces?)
While Extended Rights via Acrobat are great, the way they are implemented (and limited) in the EULA (End User License Agreement) makes little sense. Adobe has set a legal, financial and/or logistical cliff at the 500 user or 500 forms mark, depending. If LiveCycle is to meet the potential, Adobe needs to put (a lot) more attention into smoothing the transition from desktop to server-orientation in this area.
I was also quite disappointed to see very little improvement to the tagging tools. Ensuring that content semantics may be extracted from the document is a key aspect of making documents usable by those who must use assistive technologies to read. From accessibility to PDF/A to content reuse, automation and search-engine optimization, meaningful semantic tagging isn’t going away as an issue and there are a lot of corollary benefits to getting it right. Adobe needs to get going here.
Is Acrobat 8 a good value for new purchasers and upgraders?
Acrobat 8 Professional is an especially good value for new purchasers. While the application as a whole is very wide and deep, it is now laid out in a way that is fundamentally more approachable for new users. The new Combine Documents feature alone, if carefully studied and implemented, could deliver dramatic document-assembly benefits to distributed teams in almost every desk-bound organization.
by Duff Johnson