Adobe Acrobat 9

The latest incarnation of Adobe’s primary PDF-creating and editing application

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Adobe Acrobat 9
  • Adobe Acrobat 9
  • Adobe Acrobat 9
  • Adobe Acrobat 9

Pros

  • Upgraded PDF creation and editing package introduces PDF Portfolios, more PDF/X support; standards panel, embedded preflight audits; improved Web capture, native Flash playback support.

Cons

  • Limited new functions for print designers, UK pricing double the US price, Mac users are denied lower-cost entry-level and high-end specialist versions, Distiller user interface remains confusing

Bottom Line

In a Windows environment Acrobat 9 Pro is the mid-priced option, mainly of interest to designers and professional printers who want to use PDF/X files. However, printers mainly use PDF/X-1a or PDF/X-3, which can be created by Acrobat 8 Professional if you’ve got that already. For Mac users, Pro is the only option if you want to upgrade from 8. Sadly, Adobe’s UK prices are a rip-off.

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The latest incarnation of Adobe’s primary PDF-creating and editing application stresses multimedia integration and presentation: it plays Flash natively and extends its multi-user collaboration through a new hosted Web site, Acrobat.com.

It has a straightforward new PDF Portfolio feature that can combine various file formats into presentations, and its character recognition tool is much improved.

However, Mac users will enjoy only some of the benefits: two of the three Acrobat 9 editions are Windows-only. Acrobat 9 Pro, reviewed here, is available for OS X as well as Windows, but it’s the mid-range option; at the top of the range is Pro Extended. Pro is the version you get if you upgrade your Creative Suite to version 3.3.

If you have Creative Suite Design Premium version then the upgrade to version 3.3 will also add Fireworks.

Adobe is pulling the old dollar-pound parity dodge, so UK users pay roughly twice as much for each edition of Acrobat 9 as US users. Most companies charge more for software in the UK than a straight dollars-to-pounds conversion, but this is absurd.

Acrobat 9 Pro stresses print features ahead of multimedia or Office integration features. However, it’s worth mentioning the other two for comparison.

The Standard version lets you create, open and edit standard PDFs, but it lacks pre-flight ability, so it can’t write PDF/X files.

At the top end, the Windows-only Acrobat Pro Extended replaces Acrobat 3D 8, but with more features and a lower price. It’s supposedly for specialised sectors, like architecture and CAD, as it can embed 3D file formats. However, it also includes Adobe Presenter, which converts PowerPoint presentations into PDFs.

As ever, you get the Distiller standalone utility for converting PostScript or PDF files to PDFs, but it’s virtually unchanged, and the increased capabilities of Acrobat itself mean you hardly ever need it.

The Windows version of Pro includes LiveCycle Designer ES, a creator for Adobe’s enterprise-level document server. The Windows version can also create a PDF with one click from Autodesk AutoCAD, Microsoft Visio, and Microsoft Project.

All editions can create the new PDF Portfolios, which allow different file formats to be grouped together in a single PDF with presentation playback features such as layout, welcome page, thumbnails, header and a colour scheme. It’s an effective and easy way to set up multi-element files with sophisticated content that can be played by anyone with the free Reader.

PDF Portfolio launches a subsidiary creation menu, where you drag files into the active window and they are saved into a single PDF wrapper. This can be set up as a presentation in its own right, with a choice of four pre-set layouts, a home page, opening thumbnail and so on. Any file format can be included in a PDF Portfolio. Acrobat and the Reader can play or preview digital audio, video, 3D and interactive graphics, plus PDFs and stills content. Flash (SWF) and Flash Video (FLV) files can be played back in all versions, but only Pro Extended will convert other video formats to FLV — unless you own one of the Creative Suite bundles with Flash.

Even if a format cannot be displayed directly (for example a QuarkXPress document), you can still extract it and launch it into its original application, if you have it.

The Pro and Pro Extended versions allow you to compare two PDFs, highlighting differences automatically.

Web capture can now include playable Flash in its PDFs. Internet Explorer users can choose to capture a cropped area of a page, but as there’s no current IE for OS X, again, Mac users can’t do this.

Acrobat 8’s PDF 1.7 was recently accepted as an ISO standard (ISO 32000), which means that Adobe can’t just release another version whenever it feels like it. However, it can add extensions. Acrobat 9’s PDF Optimizer menu offers both Acrobat 8 and 9 compatible PDF 1.7 forms. So far, Adobe hasn’t explained if there’s any real difference, but Acrobat 8 will open an ‘Acrobat 9’ PDF 1.7 — after showing a warning that it may not be compatible.

Any PDF from 1.3 to 1.7 can be created. Using the preflight menu, Pro (but not Standard) can output and verify all of the professional print PDF/X subsets, plus PDF/A for archives and the engineering PDF/E. The preflight menu gains an option to embed an audit record of the test result into the PDF metadata.

Backing all this is a useful new Standards Panel in Acrobat 9. When you open a PDF that apparently complies with an ISO standard such as PDF/X or PDF/A, this is flagged up with a blue ‘i’ in the Navigation panel. Clicking on this opens a panel that shows the document’s conformance and verification status, with menu links to preflight and verify the file if needed.

At the time of writing Acrobat.com, Adobe’s free hosted service was still in Beta and not fully functional, so we’re partly reliant on Adobe’s description of what it will offer. It will operate somewhat like Apple’s .Mac and iDisk online sharing service, but with additional PDF file conversion, live collaboration and instant messaging, including audio or videoconferencing, and other features predominantly aimed at corporate users.

The free service will include hosted storage space, but Adobe will charge for extra space and for some additional future functions.

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