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Innovative Somersaults: Communicate, Publish, and Collaborate

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Eden Maxwell


If you read a PDF now and then, you might think of Acrobat as merely a way of creating paperless documents, which is quite a feat in itself; you will be surprised to learn that Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional is much broader in scope as a tool that bridges the communication gap between digital creation and print, and collaboration.

Now a Universal install, Acrobat 8 Professional for the Mac is part of Creative Suite 3; the Standard edition for the Mac is no longer available.


As it offers a diverse toolbox, Acrobat has been called a Swiss Army Knife type application. If, for example, you’re not involved in high-end print production, you may never explore the benefits of Distiller (convert a PostScript file to PDF for printing) or Preflight (verify that your PDF contains only the features, fonts, and formatting you’ve selected for printing).

Acrobat 8 Professional offers a redesigned Macromedia-like interface gateway into its core functions; Intel users report speed boosts in general, including Distiller, which has been moved to Print Production under the Advanced menu; PDF document viewing from within a browser, which had been ‘painfully’ slow in the past, is now faster.

Building on the decade-plus heritage of Adobe in the digital documents business, this release unveils a comprehensive set of capabilities for such activities as: combining, signing and protecting PDF files, interacting with PDF forms, reviewing and collaborating on documents, plus launching real-time web conferencing; certain features, however, are Windows only, such as working with 3D objects in Computer-Aided Design (CAD) diagrams.

The toolbars in this version are far more customizable; right clicking anywhere in the toolbar area is shortcut for bringing up a menu for accessing most tools. Files created in MS Word and exported to Adobe PDF can be converted back to Word files with enhanced preservation of the original document’s layout and formatting.


With the addition of Acrobat Connect (US$39/month), workgroups can make good use of a real-time, web-based collaboration service; Acrobat Connect offers a personal meeting room for screen-sharing, audio and video conferencing, whiteboarding, instant messaging, and more, so you can review creative concepts or final work quickly and accurately. Acrobat Connect is built on Flash and takes advantage of the ubiquitous free Flash Player. Bringing more immediacy to the virtual conference table increases spontaneity and continuity for training, marketing, and meetings in general—including a seminar or workshop.

If your work involves print production, you will appreciate the much-improved functionality of Preflight. In previous versions, Preflight could detect to see if the PDF met certain criteria for distribution or print production; for example, you want your PDF to be compatible with Acrobat 5—as most users have at least that version of Adobe Reader. In the previous release of Acrobat, if Preflight found any issues, you would have to fix them manually. Acrobat 8 not only evaluates incompatibilities based on your criteria, it fixes them automatically—a time saver toward reading Preflight’s summary: No Problems Found.


One of my favorite new features is Combine Files; you can package multiple PDF’s and other documents, even folders, in one container PDF; you can also arrange the files in the order you’d like them viewed; and, security settings of the original files are left intact—protected files and digital signatures are preserved. Acrobat 8 Professional includes new and improved redaction tools to permanently remove sensitive text, images, metadata and other information in an Adobe PDF document. You can search for and redact all instances of a word or phrase in one step. Acrobat 8 also lets you create a blank PDF page; you can use a blank page to take notes during a meeting, to add a page labeled “this page intentionally left blank” to an existing document, or to control page imposition.


Acrobat 8 enhances and extends document collaboration with the shared reviews feature. Comments added to an Adobe PDF document in a shared review (inside a shared folder) are automatically stored on a file server, Web server, network directory, Microsoft SharePoint workspace or WebDAV server that an organization has already deployed. Because the comments are stored on a shared server, reviewers can view and respond to each other’s comments as soon as the comments are available—reducing redundancies in the review process. While anyone (Windows or Mac) can participate in a shared review, Mac users can’t initiate a shared review on a MS Office SharePoint server.

You can also initiate a shared review by distributing a document by e-mail. Participants in a shared review can add comments while offline. The comments will be automatically available to the team as soon as the reviewer is back online. When initiating a review, users can set a deadline for comments; Acrobat 8 automatically alerts reviewers when the deadline approaches.

Another great feature allows anyone with the free Adobe Reader to comment on a file. Users of free Adobe Reader 8 software can now electronically fill out forms, digitally sign, and locally save forms to Adobe PDF documents (the capability must be enabled by the author of an Adobe PDF file using Acrobat 8 Professional). Digital signatures help authenticate the user and help ensure the Adobe PDF document or form hasn’t been changed since it was signed.


This release simplifies and improves upon data collection and building forms. Acrobat 8 automatically adds interactive form fields to static Adobe PDF and Microsoft Office files. Easy-to-use templates and a new wizard let you quickly build forms that contain customized content, such as a corporate logo. Acrobat 8 can also create form fields from scanned paper forms—this works very well. You can collect the filled-in data, sort by field, and then export it out to MS Excel, or other back end system.


If you work solo like me, you might might not need Adobe Connect, or the Shared Review feature. With that said, I count on Acrobat 8 every day to communicate ideas and art to others packaged as a PDF; Acrobat is also an indispensable tool for print publishing—and the enhanced Preflight features save me lots of time. In an upcoming article, I’ll describe the workflow I incorporated with Acrobat 8 to publish my latest book: An Artist Empowered.

Acrobat 8 Professional maintains its focus on making the often-tedious task of getting things right with paperless documents while invigorating the workgroup experience via virtual meetings. Although no software product can be all things to all people, Acrobat 8 is a significant release with substantial new tools and improvements that make the upgrade a good investment.»

Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional: US$449
Upgrade from: US$159
Or as part of one of Adobe Creative Suite 3 configurations




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