I was sufficiently intrigued by the Adobe Document Center to put it to the test with a real document distributed to a reasonably savvy group of people.
I’m one of those people who finds Flash more than a little overused. Once the initial buzz from the soft-focus feel of the all-Flash UI wore off, the Document Center did nothing to dispel this view.
Certainly, the process of adding new Policies and then applying them to documents was very easy. The Document Center doesn’t make it especially clear that applying Policies to documents is conducted from within Acrobat, which it is. Create a Policy, go back to Acrobat, open your document and navigate to Advanced -> Security -> Manage Security Policies, login using your Adobe ID, select your Policy and save. That’s it!
Less easy, as I went through version after version of my document, was retaining any meaningful picture of actual usage over time, one of the great Policy Server Promises. I couldn’t delete revoked documents from the UI, or consolidate their statistics – perhaps that’s just a reporting issue, but it’s significant. I also couldn’t group users, and I could never tell if or when the interface actually updated, and resorted to logging out and back in, which always seemed to do the trick.
So, it’s a freebie interface for a freebie demo application, so I guess that’s OK. I sure would hate to have to use it as a going concern, though. Subtle hint.
I also found that my document recipients (and they are savvy, no kidding) were in a surprising number of cases quite stumped when confronted with a Policy Server protected document. Part of this was due to a degree of reticence (or forgetfulness) in loyally signing up for Adobe IDs as is necessary for Adobe Document Center-protected documents. Part of the problem was clearly also the cumbersome, Flash-heavy (why?!?) signup screen, which sapped enthusiasm further in at least two cases. Worst, a disturbing number of reports (ie, more than 1) attested to the files consistently “crashing Acrobat”, which certainly wasn’t what anyone wants to hear.
So, I guess I have to report that thus far I’m not totally charmed, there are some definite rough-spots. The Policy Server is undeniably an extraordinary concept, and I’d like to see much more of it. I certainly proved to my own satisfaction that I could flip a switch in Boston and watch my chosen file go “dark” all over the world, almost instantly, from Manila to Moscow. For a second, lightning crackled between my fingertips as well.
Here’s hoping that Adobe will leave it in place past the end of the new year, or else limit freebie users to 2 protected documents at any given time… or something of the sort. Let the people kick the tires!
The ability to issue a truly embargoed document and then seamlessly (to prepared users, in any event) update it while simultaneously and effectively deleting all prior distributed copies is, quite simply, MAGIC. Policy Server could be a real smash-hit if the execution, marketing and sales can be made to match, or even approach, the power of this product concept.
by Duff Johnson