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Jewish World Review
Sept. 22, 2006
/ 29 Elul, 5766
Adobe's smart new Acrobat
It's axiomatic as has been noted here before that Washington, D.C.,
is a city that largely runs on the use of forms. And, as noted before,
it's my belief that Adobe System's Acrobat Professional software is one of
the most important tools a form creator or user can have in their
Such a belief is only enhanced with the arrival of Acrobat Professional 8,
announced Sept. 17 by the firm, carrying the same $449 retail of previous
versions, with a $159 price for upgrades from existing version 7 users. If
you want to skip the rest of the review, here's my advice: run, don't
walk, to your phone and order a copy. When it ships in a few weeks, you'll
be very, very glad you did.
The Acrobat portable document format, or PDF, is one of the more
important, if unheralded, benefits of the computer revolution. A PDF file
can be created on a PC running Microsoft Windows, commented on by a
Macintosh user, and read by someone with a Linux-based PC, and vice-versa
or any combination thereof. The PDF is a pretty "universal" document
exchange format that offers added security on demand: you can set things
so that no one at all can change or modify a PDF document, something
less reliably done in Microsoft Windows and practically unable to be done
with some other programs.
This new Acrobat release, of which I reviewed a Beta copy of the Windows
version, does things with documents that many of us will stand up and
cheer over. For example, it will take a raft of Microsoft file types
Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations and let
you merge them into a single PDF document or into a virtual package where
each document is its own "unit." Either way, preparing reports, briefing
books and the like just became a lot easier. Under the "package" method,
digital signatures on each document, as well as that document's security
settings, can be preserved.
Speaking of security, the ability to "redact" documents is enhanced in
this new version as well, which will not only mark out text sections
better than in previous versions, but also, if needed, include the
appropriate Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, codes, which would allow
the reader to understand why a passage has been so designated. Those whose
job it is to release sensitive files will likely value such a feature.
Those who share documents for commenting will have some powerful features
to work with as well, including a way to make a group review more easily
accomplished. Those who get a document to review, using either Acrobat
Professional 8 or the Acrobat 8 reader a free program due for release
along with the pro version will be able to add their comments, while
noting who else has seen the document and has commented. That way, only
one person will question the spelling of a word, instead of 15 folks.
Another high spot of this program has two benefits: the Acrobat
Professional program will scan a PDF document for possible "form fields"
that can be filled in. Ideally, this should work without flaw; in real
life, I found a roughly 75 percent success rate on an eight-page form I
downloaded from an Internet site.
That's not perfect, but creating only a few form fields manually is a lot
better, in my opinion, than having to do all of them. Overall, this is a
nice feature to have.
Beyond nice, though, you can then use Acrobat Professional to collect the
form data, aggregate it into a "comma separated value" list and then let
you export the data to a spreadsheet or database program such as FileMaker
Pro. How useful something like this can be to a small business or
organization is not difficult to imagine.
More details on the software will be found, I'm sure, at
http://www.adobe.com, or by asking anyone in your office whose smile is
exceptionally wide these days.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2006, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com