Monday, November 22, 2004

Adobe Acrobat Professional, released last week in its 7.0 incarnation, is an amazing tool for those who must put documents together in ways that can be easily read, annotated and shared. Used properly, this program can revolutionize the way an organization transacts business.

Too broad a claim, you say? Consider: this new version will take a hodgepodge of files, Microsoft Word and Excel documents, pictures, and Adobe’s own PDF (Portable Document File) documents and assemble them into one “super PDF,” which can be arranged and rearranged at will.

The final product would be smaller and less subject to tampering than any other method of document assembly I’ve seen. This could mark a new way of developing corporate reports and even book-length documents.

If you are using Microsoft Outlook on a Windows-based PC, it gets even better: The new Acrobat Professional will convert selected e-mail or an entire Outlook message folder into Adobe PDF files. The e-mail’s attachments and hyperlinks are retained, the company said, and the new PDF files contain bookmarks for each e-mail message — sorted by sender, date and subject.

Revolutionary? I think that’s a rather modest term, when you consider all that’s available. The price tag for the professional version is a steep $449 — but the capabilities found in the software will be invaluable for many in business, government and education. The $159 upgrade price for current users of Acrobat Professional is a bit easier to handle, but also well worth it.

Adobe also released a new version of its free Acrobat Reader — and it’s well worth downloading because of its interaction with some of the new features in Acrobat Professional 7. I can never say enough good things about Acrobat; details on all these items can be found at

• “The cult of Mac” is not only a worldview, but also the title of an amazing, if slightly scary, book by Leander Kahney, $39.95 from No Starch Press in San Francisco. Yes, you will read about the people with Mac tattoos and haircuts, and the fellow who makes furniture from cardboard Mac boxes, but you will get much more of the “backstory” behind the soon-to-be-21-year-old Macintosh, its culture and its devotees.

Having been a Mac user for more than 14 years, I know there is something about Macs, even older and less-than-functional ones, that inspire loyalty from users that goes way beyond anything else in the computer world.

Mr. Kahney’s informal history of the Mac is interspersed with trivia and delightful details, and intriguing photos, and is wrapped up in an entertaining style. This is a coffee table book that only a geek might love — but it’s also one lots of people will enjoy reading.

• Unfortunately, poor communications are still practiced by several folks on the Internet, such as, one of the larger Internet Web registrars and Web hosts, as well as by Comcast Communications.

Both companies are seemingly steadfast in their refusal to have an easy-to-find “network status screen” on their customer support sites.

Instead, customers have to dial in to a telephone line, work through an automated directory, and then, maybe, get a straight answer to a given question.

• E-mail or visit

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