Acrobat 8: The Newest Upgrade

               Acrobat 8 is suddenly here, following closely behind the recently released Acrobat 7. Though many users are still using an older versions like Acrobat 6 or even earlier Acrobat 8 contains new features that are important to be aware of.  Many of the features in Acrobat 8 are not new, but this Acrobat 8 has added some new features that set it apart from its typical print based features.

More ways to create and combine

There are numerous new ways to create PDF files in this version. While not exciting to most of us in the printing industry it is important to note that there are newly added applications that have built in ways to create Acrobat PDF files embedded in them. This is important for the business world and these applications include new applications such as Lotus Notes.

Combining PDF files is now easier that ever, and Acrobat 8 has a powerful feature which allows ordering and listing of both PDF files and specific pages from files to be included in a destination PDF file. While combining these files Acrobat can change the order of and optimize the documents to a particular specification. Although Acrobat could combine PDF files before, the new function is more powerful and will probably eliminate the need for many of the stand-alone ‘combine’ utilities that are popular and often used for controlling and combining large numbers of PDF files.

 Fixing and Editing PDF Files

The original idea of PDF files was to have a file that couldn’t be edited, but without editing and correction utilities such as Enfocus Pitstop it is doubtful that Acrobat would have ever been successful. Clients who aren’t fixing PDF files all the time often resist the extra expense of programs such as Pitstop. Acrobat 8 finally now has some correction and repair functions included in the cost of the Professional version.

One of these features can take out headers and footers, and also can add and place custom headers and footers into a pdf document. Perhaps even more important are a set of ‘Fix’ features that can repair or change problems with PDF documents. While not as powerful as Pitstop Acrobat 8’s preflight and repair features are a step in the right direction. Users and use predefined preflight and repair functions, or can edit and create their own custom preflight and repair functions.

Collaboration – More than Ever

If there is one new direction fir Acrobat in which it stands out, this direction is improved collaboration. The new version of Acrobat 8 contains many new and more powerful collaboration tools including one called Acrobat Connect that is almost like an Acrobat version of Webex.

The basic collaboration tools have been expanded so that anybody can use them regardless of version. This means that as long as you set them up using Acrobat Professional, any user including Acrobat Reader users can participate in commenting and collaboration. These collaboration methods have been designed so that anyone can set up a PDF for collaboration without having to be an IT professional. Primary methods include sharing a PDF via a network for collaboration, or emailing. The shared PDF sits on the network and records changes and comments. The email PDF is sent by the user, and then when returned PDF’s are opened the other users comments are automatically compiled in a master document for the originating user. Both of these methods of collaborating can he set up using a wizard that walks the user through how to setup and distribute these documents which is a huge improvement. In previous versions the concept of collaboration was daunting. With the wizard it is much friendlier and easier to understand and implement collaboration with Acrobat. This new version allows enhanced collaboration between users reviewing the same documents, and streamlines the process of collecting comments. Another new feature is redaction. With this inappropriate items can be permanently redacted from PDF’s.

The biggest new addition to collaboration in Acrobat 8 is Acrobat Connect. With Acrobat Connec users can host an online meeting  Thease meeting allow you to host a virtual meeting room. The standard service allows up to 15 users to connect, and the Professional Service allows you to host up to 2500 people in an unlimited number of meeting rooms. Meeting can include video conferencing, audio, recording of the meeting and many other features designed for collaboration. In our segment of the industry the collaboration features could easily be used just to go over basic proof content and changes ‘in person’ with a customer.

Prepress

There are only a few new prepress features in this version of Acrobat. Many of the items in the prepress toolbar are familiar from Acrobat 7. The most important features are the ability to perform fixes and improved preflight capabilities. The new version also allows placement of other items and objects into PDF files. The Touch-Up object tool can now be used to to check and modify the color space, scale, and orientation of selected objects. Acrobat 8 promises tighter integration via color settings and other preferences with the upcoming Adobe Creative Suite 2.3

Forms

Acrobat has always been able to create interactive forms, but now comes with a bunch of form templates such as invoices, expense reports and other commonly used forms. (Some features such as this are only available in Windows only.) Like the collaboration feature, there is now a wizard to guide users through adaptation of a preexisting library of forms, or creation of forms documents from scratch. This wizard also includes tools to help with automatic submission of forms data once the forms are filled out.

Reader Features

The Reader has been strengthened with the ability to enter and save forms with data, as well as to fully collaborate and use the same collaboration tools and forms creation tools as found in Acrobat Professional.

Product Continues to Mature

With the release of Acrobat 8 the product continues to mature and move forward. The collaboration and connect features seek to move the product beyond its current use as a document container. These features are important ad Microsoft releases its XML Paper Specification (XPS) format which is designed to be a free version of a portable document specification. In addition the new edit features mean that for some users Pitstop will become less of an essential tool. As with any Adobe product, Acrobat 8 is an essential upgrade.

About the author: Ron Ellis is a prepress consultant specializing in workflow training and integration. He worked in the commercial printing industry for 18 years and brings a strong background to all aspects of prepress. He has consulted on numerous CTP installations and he provides color management, integration, training, workflow development, and troubleshooting solutions to the graphic arts community. He can be contacted at 603-498-4553 or through his web site at www.ronellisconsulting.com.