Adobe Acrobat 7 review
Acrobat 7 focuses on advanced workflows based around the Intelligent Document Platform. It's an impressive, even seminal, release but individual users won't necessarily benefit.
Review Date: 20 Jan 2005
Reviewed By: Tom Arah
Price when reviewed: Standard, £245 (£289 inc VAT); Professional, £395 (£464 inc VAT). Upgrade Standard, £79 (£93 inc VAT); Professional, £135 (£159 inc VAT)
When Acrobat was first launched in 1993, Adobe had high hopes that the Acrobat PDF (Portable Document Format) would become the universal computer exchange standard and herald the advent of the paperless office. As it turned out, the rise of Microsoft Office and the Internet put an end to that dream, but Adobe never gave up on its office-based aspirations. With this latest version, and its central role in Adobe's Intelligent Document Platform, Acrobat makes its most determined bid yet to put Acrobat technology back at the heart of office-based workflows.
The secret of Acrobat's success lies in the freely available and ubiquitous Adobe Reader program, but to take advantage of it you need one of the paid-for Acrobat applications (Elements, Standard or Professional) to create your PDFs. Key to this, though usually working in the background behind the convenient Adobe PDF print driver, is Acrobat Distiller. It's this essential utility that takes a PostScript-based print-to-disk file from any application and converts it to PDF as an exact electronic replica. Distiller has now been updated to version 7, complete with support for Acrobat 7's new PDF 1.6 format and a new proposed ISO standard, PDF/A, intended for the archiving of electronic documents. Otherwise, there's relatively little that's new - other than the largely cosmetic revamp.
Distiller remains central to the universality of Acrobat, but for the most important office applications (essentially Microsoft Office applications), Adobe extends Distiller with its PDFMaker capability. This offers one-click PDF authoring direct from the application along with support for extra features, such as bookmarks and live hyperlinks within converted Word documents. With each release, Acrobat improves its Office integration, and version 7 is no exception, with the ability to convert Publisher publications and multiple Access reports - though surprisingly, this new support is limited to Acrobat Standard and Professional, as is the case with the majority of new features.
More regularly useful is the new PDFMaker support within Outlook. Now you can quickly convert selected messages or entire folders to a secure and permanent PDF archive, with Acrobat automatically adding bookmarks to enable you to quickly access your emails by date, sender and subject. Another nice feature is the automatic inclusion of email attachments, and Acrobat 7 now offers a dedicated Attachments pane for handling these. When creating an email you can also now automatically convert an attachment to a 128-bit encrypted PDF for secure communication, as well as set up standard security policies for regular reuse. Combining multiple attachments from different sources into a single correctly ordered PDF report has also been made easier with the ability to preview PDFs during assembly. You also have more control when adding headers, footers and watermarks to give your combined PDF report more coherence.
The main Acrobat Standard and Professional applications aren't only focused on authoring, they're also designed to help you make the most of your PDFs - which includes a significantly shorter startup time. One area that has been crying out for attention is managing large numbers of PDF documents, and Acrobat 7 obliges with its Organizer window. This offers a typical Explorer-style tree view of your hard disk, providing a preview thumbnail and file details for all PDFs in the currently selected directory, and a large preview of the currently selected file. Even better, you can now quickly access PDFs based on usage history, or via drag-and-drop Collections, containing, say, all the PDFs associated with a particular job. The Organizer also comes into its own for printing, combining and opening multiple PDFs at a time.
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