Few people would say that it’s fun to edit PDF documents, but it should become easier with Acrobat XI, Adobe's new release for Mac and Windows. The latest version of the PDF creation and viewing software offers deeper integration with Microsoft Office than in the past. In addition, Adobe aims to speed up PDF workflows with simplified e-signatures and Web forms, touchscreen capabilities, and hooks into cloud services.
The features are designed to attack the “document productivity gap” that can cost a 1000-person company nearly $16 million a year, according to IDC research.
Among the highlights are a new, click-and-drag tool that enables text and image editing within PDF documents. To create a PowerPoint deck that mirrors themes from last month’s presentation, for example, you can grab an old PDF, edit it with Acrobat or Excel, and combine it with other PDFs and Office documents. PDFs can be exported from Acrobat to PowerPoint, Word, RTF, or XML spreadsheet formats.
“This is basically opening up the value of content stored in all those PDF files out there and letting people do more with them,” said Ali Hanyaloglu, an Acrobat evangelist. Adobe says there are some 1.2 billion PDFs on the Web—up from 250 million two years ago.
Now, within Acrobat you can resize and rotate images, add links, bookmarks, forms, objects, and files, and edit tables. When editing text within a paragraph, it will flow without being interrupted by line breaks. Plus, there are built-in options for saving and retrieving content via Acrobat.com, Office 365, or SharePoint.
Adobe’s Portable Document Format tools continue to move away from their original focus on print-friendliness and toward workflows that blend the desktop, tablets, smartphones, and the cloud.
To enable electronic signatures that would hold up in court, Acrobat XI is integrating with EchoSign, an Adobe company specializing in eSignatures and Web contracting. (EchoSign integrated with Reader software in January.) Signing a PDF won’t take much more than typing your name within a form field, or writing it with your finger on an iPad. On Windows 8 tablets, Acrobat XI Pro can be used in Touch Mode, spreading out icons for easier navigation by fingertips. An IT admin can turn on Touch Mode remotely for an iPad user, with Citrix Receiver running Acrobat in a virtualized version of Windows.
Adobe projects that the roughly 1 percent of contracts signed on the Web will expand to 50 percent in the next couple of years.
Form-based time sink
Adobe also cites an IDC research finding that workers lose some 11 hours of productivity a week dealing with paper forms or searching for documents in various file formats and locations. And roadblocks to collaboration, such as delays in gathering approvals for important documents, eat up an average 12 hours a week.
To address such problems, Acrobat’s integration with Adobe FormsCentral is meant to streamline Web and PDF form creation and collection. You can gather forms data on any device without needing to transcribe it manually, and analyze data with quickly drawn tables and charts. The free, mobile Acrobat Reader XI will let you mark up and fill out PDF forms on a tablet or smartphone, and store them at Acrobat.com.
Among additional new Acrobat features, there’s more flexibility for customizing sets of tools within the program's workspace. And a new Make Accessible option steps users through making PDFs friendlier for people with disabilities.
Twenty-five percent of companies have suffered information leaks in the past year, according to IDC. To further address business security, protected modes for Acrobat and Reader limit the ways users can access PDFs. A new Restrict Editing option requires a password to tinker with a file. You can also encrypt, redact, and remove hidden information within Acrobat and protect PDFs within Office.
IT pros get more options for managing Acrobat on multiple PCs, including support for Apple’s Remote Desktop tool for managing Macs. Admins can streamline PDF management across an organization by establishing a series of uniform steps for users to follow via an Action Wizard. Actions, for instance, can walk a user through securing, optimizing, archiving, and publishing a PDF in one step. And with Microsoft App-V support via Citrix XenApp, a company can centrally manage Acrobat and Reader XI as a virtual application for tablets.
On the Mac
This new version of Acrobat takes the Mac platform into account in several areas that it had not previously, and a number of capabilities that used to be available only for Windows have now been extended to the Mac in the Acrobat XI Pro edition.
For example, Mac users will be able to avail themselves of quick access, open, save, check-in, check-out, and add properties features for documents stored in SharePoint document libraries. Mac users also can now convert Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files to PDF with the Create PDF from File command and Actions. Mac users can also now preview, convert, and combine Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files to PDF with the Combine Files command. They can create fillable PDF forms from existing documents, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, and create a PDF file from clipboard contents. There's also a convert Web page to Adobe PDF add-on for Firefox.
A free Customization Wizard tool lets Mac users pre-configure the Acrobat installer for use in organizations that use Apple Remote Desktop.
Mac-only features in Acrobat XI Pro let users create PDF files from captured screens, windows, or selections and use the ICA interface (a proprietary protocol) when scanning documents to PDF. Adobe also cites advancements around IT documentation for the Mac, including introducing the PList for IT managers.
System requirements and pricing
Only the $449 Acrobat XI Pro edition for Windows and Mac covers all the new features, although the Windows-only, $299 Acrobat Standard does offer the new editing and signing goodies. An upgrade from Acrobat X costs $199 for Pro or $139 for Standard. EchoSign and FormsCentral each start at $15 per month. EchoSign costs $40 or more per month for a team of up to nine people, and goes all the way up to $399 for a Global account of 10 or more users, which enables corporate branding. Academic pricing is available through the Adobe Education Store.
For Acrobat XI Pro, Adobe recommends 1GB of RAM on either a Microsoft Windows XP SP3 32 bit or SP 2 for 64 bit or newer system, or a Mac running OS X 10.6.4 or later. The packages are expected to ship within the next month.