Review: Can Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional Compete In Workflow Space? - InformationWeek

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Review: Can Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional Compete In Workflow Space?

Adobe Acrobat 8 Profes-sional is moving headlong into the workflow space with its new form editing features.

Adobe Acrobat 8 Profes-sional is moving headlong into the workflow space with its new form editing features.

Acrobat 8 now supports form saves and digital signatures for Reader extensions, with capabilities that allow users to save forms on local hard drives without a LiveCycle plug-in.

The new saving feature eliminates the need to print PDF forms or e-mail forms immediately after filling them. As forms are distributed via e-mail, new workflow capabilities automatically merge results into a PDF package file.

The new PDF packaging model can combine PDFs with signatures and security passwords, even when Acrobat users do not have authoring access to the files. The package option is essentially a wrapper for multiple PDF files. The combined files are not changed in any way and all the properties associated with each file are transferred over the packaged target file.

Combined files are viewable in the same package with Reader 8. Since the packaging model does not change the documents, it can be used for legal work. The only distinction is that packaged files can have different properties when users move between documents. Features of Reader 8, such as viewing, print and search, are well integrated with the packaging model.

Acrobat 8 arrives with auto field detection, which automatically identifies form fields when parsing and converting new documents. The process takes mere seconds and speeds up form creation. CRN Test Center engineers found it extremely accurate.

Acrobat 8 now offers improved redaction capabilities. In the past, when redacting text, users manually made copies of originals and then highlighted sensitive text with black markers and rescanned the copies into PDFs. This manual and laborious process has always been prone to errors, so to circumvent this, Acrobat 8 arrives with new redaction tools to remove text as well as file metadata.

To expedite redaction work, Acrobat has a search tool that identifies phrases and places them in a redaction UI. In this UI, each instance of a phrase or sentence containing a target word can be quickly marked for redaction. Once a redacted file is saved, text is completely removed.

Another good feature in the redaction tool is the examine document dialog, which can find hidden text in a document and metadata that contains redacted phrases. Like the redaction search, items marked for possible redaction are placed on a list—useful when performing final cleanups.

Acrobat arrives with a commenting tool that operates similarly to Microsoft Word. Users can add sticky notes in PDFs, strike-through text and even mark inserted text. PDFs are not changed when adding comments but instead are layered with annotations. Commenting is a powerful editing model because it allows users to add annotations without changing original text. This feature is enabled to Reader extensions, so users with Reader also can make comments. Multiple comments from different PDF instances also can be reconciled into a single file.

Acrobat now can store comments on a central server, allowing users to share reviews via e-mail workflows. The server can simply be a network folder, a WebDAV folder or even a Microsoft SharePoint Workspace that is shared amongst Acrobat users. As long as users can read and write to a common place, comments can be shared.

Acrobat 8 is far more customizable than any previous version and is beginning to behave more like a development editor—all of the tool bars and features can now be changed in the UI. Overall, Acrobat has been redesigned to reduce its learning curve.

Acrobat 8 Professional is $449. Adobe offers four levels of technical support, including programming and workflow automation help. The company did not disclose its reseller margins.

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