With approximately 525 million free Adobe Readers distributed over the past two years, Adobe's portable document format (PDF) dominates the digital document market. But many groups within that audience aren't served very well by a one-size-fits-all document program. Adobe plans to continue its efforts to address that with the just-released Acrobat 8.
“There were a significant number of AEC users in the Adobe customer base,” said Patrick Aragon, Adobe's senior project manager for Acrobat. “So, Adobe made a decision, beginning in Acrobat 6, to expand support in that direction.”
While it sports a more stylish interface that has the look and feel of former Macromedia products like Flash (Adobe acquired Macromedia in April 2005), Acrobat 8 is more than just a pretty makeover. For the first time all Acrobat products will have one-click access to Acrobat Connect hosted meeting and collaboration software (formerly Macromedia Breeze). The refined interface allows users to access several features from a Getting Started menu, including combining and creating PDF files, interacting with PDF forms, and reviewing and collaborating on existing documents.
Specifically for AEC professionals, the new features of Acrobat 8 are designed to provide more real-time collaboration on construction documents, faster AutoCAD conversion, sharing of PDF documents across distance and offices, and more shared reviews that allow people in different places to see each other's comments in real time.
With the release of Acrobat 8, digital signatures will be available for the first time with the free Adobe Reader software, allowing anyone who owns Acrobat 8 Professional to enable Building Team members with only the free Reader to sign documents digitally. New security features, such as the ability to lock content, and a content redaction feature have been added for security and easier collaborative reviews through the Web or Acrobat Connect. Acrobat 8 Professional also allows AutoCAD DWG files to be converted to PDF files even if a user's computer does not have AutoCAD installed. As long as the program utilizes OpenGL for its 3-D foundation, Acrobat 3D can essentially capture what it sees on the computer screen.
Shared reviews of PDF files are possible by using Acrobat or the free Reader to access a shared network folder, a shared workspace on a Share-Point server, or even on a Web server. A participant in a shared review can see comments posted by others, track the status of a review, and retrieve documents. Because PDF is a published specification, third-party software developers can create their own Acrobat plug-ins and PDF creation or viewing products.
“The .u3d format (open, industry standard format leveraged in Acrobat 3D) is another example of our interest in supporting the CAD markets and that format fits us very well,” Aragon said.
Form field recognition is new in Acrobat 8. An automated process replaces several steps needed in Acrobat 7 to create interactive fields for use as surveys, forms, and other internet-posted PDFs.
“Collaboration and ease of use were the things we heard about the most from AEC professionals,” Aragon said. “So those were some of the areas that received the most attention in creating Acrobat 8.”
The Adobe Acrobat family includes Acrobat 8 Standard, Acrobat 8 Professional, Acrobat 8 Elements, Acrobat 8 3D version, and Acrobat Connect. Acrobat 8 Standard and Acrobat 8 Professional will be available in stores in November.