- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2004

One of the paradoxes of the digital age is that some of the best information on computing topics can be found in print, not online.

One of my favorite applications — vastly underappreciated by computer users — is the full version of Adobe Acrobat, which lets you edit and create Portable Document Format, or PDF, files, and strip down a PDF file into useable components.

Building a PDF file can be a bit daunting, however, and there are tricks that can elevate everyday users of Adobe Acrobat into a rarified atmosphere of near-metaphysical mastery of the program. This knowledge can come from years of working with the software, from tedious and expensive classes, or it can come from a man named Taz Tally.

Mr. Tally is a veteran of graphic arts, and a flat-out expert when it comes to Adobe Acrobat 6. His new book, “Acrobat 6 and PDF Solutions” (Sybex, $34.99, www.sybex.com) will take you into realms of PDF creation you might never have imagined: collaborative document creation, “pre-flighting” of your work, even e-book creation. There are 30 pages on creating Acrobat-friendly forms, which, in turn, you can send to people to fill in (onscreen) and send back to you. This is a blessing for anyone who’s had to collect massive amounts of data from a variety of people.

The book includes a CD-ROM with a variety of add-on applications that can aid in PDF creation and management, as well as example and project files that can be used with exercises in the book. This makes the book an “interactive” tool for those determined to master Acrobat, a group I hope to join at some point.

Mr. Tally’s style is crisp and direct, and his book’s examples are helpful and educational. This volume is essential for Acrobat users, and if you are serious about this software.

Windows PC users will likely feel the same way about PC World magazine, now in its 22nd year of publication (www.pcworld.com). Though slimmer (180 pages for April 2004) than in the days of the PC industry boom, this monthly is packed with useful information that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

The article of greatest interest to me is “The Cheapskate’s Guide to Printing,” which examines ways to make inkjet and laser printing less costly, in terms of ink and paper. From the slightly creepy (recycle one-sided office castoffs to print rough drafts at home) to the more sensible (office products chain Staples will pay for repairs if one of their recycled/reloaded inkjet or laser cartridges damages your printer), the tips are solid, creative and helpful. I was impressed that the magazine went to experts at the Rochester Institute of Technology, in New York State, for an analysis of the “total cost of ownership” of several inkjet printers.

This is the kind of analysis and reporting that computer magazines can do very well. It’s what makes PC World a regular read for me. Another good feature in the issue, by the way, centers on ways to find things faster on the Internet, adding tips for Google and other popular search engines.

There’s tons of computer information out there, much of it of dubious value. Having authoritative sources, whether it’s a good book like “Acrobat 6 and PDF Solutions” or a renowned monthly such as PC World, make wading through this thicket of data a bit easier.

E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us.

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