Acrobat Goes Flash 

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A visit to a location near London’s Regent Part Zoo brought news of the latest version of Adobe Acrobat PDF creation product as Michael Fereday reports.
Adobe Acrobat 9

Several years ago, when I had fewer grey hairs and a slimmer waist line, two companies went head-to-head with products designed to create documents in digital format enabling them to be read by everybody in their original state.  The eventual winner was Adobe with its Acrobat product and PDF format while the WordPerfect offering disappeared into obscurity.  Now up to version 9 the latest edition of Acrobat has, according to Rob Tarkoff, senior vice president of Adobe's Business Productivity Business Unit, been designed "to fundamentally change how professionals communicate and collaborate using electronic documents".

Adobe has added a number of new features to this latest version of Acrobat.  Not surprisingly one of these new features is the integrated support for Adobe Flash - if you own the technology then why not use it in your other products.  As a result you will be able to have cross-platform sharing of video, animations and applications, such as Flash Widgets, in Acrobat and Acrobat Reader.  Users will have the means to convert a variety of video formats to Flash for seamless playback without the need for a special media player and even include Web services to deliver content such as games, maps, and real-time stock quotes from within PDF.

Introduced with this new version of Acrobat is PDF Portfolios.  With this concept you will be able to bring together documents, drawings, emails, spreadsheet, video, audio and maps into a single compressed Portfolio file.  Various professional developed templates will be included with the package and these can be used to integrate content, define navigation aspects, and give a polished look and feel to the whole package.

Built into this latest version of Acrobat is the ability to convert complex Web pages and associated links into PDF while enhanced Optical Character Recognition technology allows for the converting of paper documents into PDF with search capabilities.  You can also work and interact with PDF maps that have the ability to display latitude and longitude details when a cursor is placed on a location plus the ability to measure distance in miles or kilometres.

New modules, entitled Presenter and 3D Reviewer, have been added.  With Adobe Presenter you can jazz up slides with video, voice-over commentary, demos and interactive quizzes and then output the content to PDFAdobe 3D Reviewer enables you to work more closely with CAD designs, create exploded views and animations within the PDF environment.

The use of forms has been enhanced in Acrobat 9.  A new Forms Wizard leads you through the process of creating forms from paper or electronic documents while giving the user the ability to add, edit, and name fields.  A Tracker facility can provide details as to when and who has completed forms.  You can also enable users of the free Acrobat Reader to fill in and save PDF forms locally.

Another area showing improved functionality is that of co-operation and the sharing of documents.  Acrobat 9 allows members of a team to view and respond to input from others using the new hosted service feature (currently available in beta).  Collaboration between users will allow for one party to walk others through a PDF document in real-time with control over the page and line location.  Even those restricted to the use of Adobe Reader will be able to digitally sign documents and take part in shared document reviews.

Along with the free Adobe Acrobat 9 Reader, there will be three versions of Acrobat 9 which Adobe claims will load approximately 50% faster than the previous version.  The top of the range Acrobat 9 Pro Extended is a Windows only product and has the premium price tag of £619.  Available for both Windows and Mac platforms, Acrobat 9 Pro is expected to be priced at £425.  As with the Pro Extended, Acrobat 9 Standard will only be available for Windows and has been priced at £265.  Upgrades will be available.

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