- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2010

For many readers on the day after the 2010 midterm elections, creating and manipulating documents may not be at the top of the agenda. But, trust me, no matter who won what on Tuesday, the paper (or paperless) flood of ideas, platforms, legislation, position papers and so on will come. And that’s just from the 2012 campaign organizers.

This reviewer has long been an advocate of Adobe Corp.’s Acrobat software, and the recent release of various Acrobat X products (i.e., version 10), gives no cause to reconsider. Acrobat is the best way to work with so-called PDF (or Portable Document Format) files that’s out there today.

A quick recap, though, on why the PDF format is so important. PDFs can be read on a variety of devices (iPad through PC through Mac and Linux) but also can be “locked” to prevent tampering. Think about your most recent expense report. Wouldn’t you like those numbers to be secure? Thought so.

Why Acrobat X? First, it’s a cross-platform solution, running on Windows and Macintosh systems, which cover about, what, 98 percent of all desktop/portable computers? There are other PDF programs, but they’re generally platform-specific. Having a cross-platform application is a greater guarantee of file compatibility, I think.

Second, Acrobat X builds on the previous Acrobat versions while not destroying old familiarities. I’ve worked with a Beta version of Acrobat X Pro for a little more than a month now and have used it to edit, comment upon and otherwise interact with mission-critical PDFs at least once a week. Everything worked just as the older versions did even though the new features were accessible.

According to an Adobe news release, there’s a fair amount to celebrate: “Acrobat X delivers new guided Actions to simplify multistep document preparation and publishing processes; completely new customization capabilities in PDF Portfolios unify multiple file types into a compelling presentation. New document services available at Acrobat.com give individuals the ability to collaborate more efficiently. Integration with Microsoft SharePoint enables consistency of PDF documents across the enterprise; re-use of content is now easier with higher quality export to Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.”

In more practical terms, you can more easily string together a group of PDF files into a “portfolio,” group tools used in various actions into a single on-screen “palate” and automate a sequence of document actions for easier and faster processing through a work group.

If you create “fillable” PDF forms — and, please, if you create PDF forms, make the darned things fillable — you can let users fill in and save the forms using the (free) Acrobat Reader X software. This is a boon to users everywhere, if only enterprises and organizations would act on it in the same exceptionally helpful manner the Internal Revenue Service does. (The IRS has oceans of fillable forms on its Web site, and this truly makes life easier for all involved.)

But as nice as it is to get stuff into the PDF format, it’s also important sometimes to get things out of that format. If a PDF file isn’t locked down for security, you can export it into Word or Excel, as noted. And Adobe’s claim seems to be true: I exported a PDF document, including letterhead, into Word just before writing this review. The export was flawless, absolutely flawless.

Ease of use? Acrobat X has that well in hand. The menus are clear, tools are easily available, and there seems to be very little in the way of a learning curve. You can scan a document into PDF quite easily, and there are tools to convert HTML Web pages or e-mail to PDF as well.

The Acrobat X Reader is free and offers a lot of capability, including commenting tools, something once restricted to the paid-for products. The Acrobat X standard and pro versions come in at $299 and $499, list price, respectively. Upgrades for owners of previous versions are less than half the new-copy price. Details on all of these items can be found at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat.html. It’s very much worth a visit.

E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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