Herald rating: 4.5/5
Most people who have mastered switching on a computer and going online will be familiar with the ubiquitous Adobe Acrobat or PDF file format. Acrobat was developed to preserve the visual integrity of documents on just about any computer platform or printer.
Over the years it has tried to be all things to everyone, some say to its detriment - documents can be slow to open online or unnecessarily large.
A lot of the problems come down to not making appropriate settings when creating a PDF from applications such as Microsoft Word, without much user control over things such as file size or printability.
While most people should have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which installs with many software applications, and many can export a PDF from their favourite application, few are aware of the value of having the full Adobe Acrobat application, which allows you to take control of PDFs.
Now at Version 7, the application has been split into three flavours. Acrobat Elements contains the essential tools and is available in low-cost volume licences. Acrobat 7.0 Standard has much the same features as the previous version, with improvements. Acrobat 7.0 Professional has all the bells and whistles.
Acrobat 7.0 Standard seems lighter and opens significantly faster than its predecessor, even in a browser window. The interface is clear and easy to use.
As well as creating PDFs from anything that prints, there are specialised controls in all Microsoft Office apps, the ability to create PDFs from web pages, or parts of a web page, or from your scanner.
Files from various applications can be assembled into a single PDF, with other files added as attachments.
There is a broad range of commenting and review tools.
With accessibility settings, as well as security and encryption options, and the ability to restrict levels of printing, copying and alterations, it is a powerful but very approachable platform for taking control of PDF documents.
Acrobat 7.0 Professional, on the other hand, is a juggernaut. Installation is heavy, using the extensive features requires plenty of power, and a high-spec PC is essential. But this is an industrial-strength PDF-development platform for a wide range of industries.
Most offices will appreciate the fact that commenting and reviewing can now be done with the free Acrobat Reader, but the document must be enabled for review using Professional.
Review tools now include dimension and measuring tools which, together with new large formats and Professional's AutoCAD integration, will appeal to architectural and engineering offices.
Professional can also embed multimedia and sound files, plus 3D objects with lighting effects and navigation. The Windows version includes an interactive form designer, which integrates with Office applications.
The printing industry is still the biggest target for Professional, with new correction, previewing and pre-flighting tools for improved accuracy and reliability.
Macintosh users may be disappointed to find that plugins they acquired for the previous version no longer work in 7.0 because of the extent of the changes for that platform.
This is a feature-rich upgrade, and Acrobat is a must-have in most offices. Acrobat Professional is comprehensive but too much so for most users.