Adobe Systems officially announced that version “X” (ten) of its flagship Acrobat line of desktop products will ship within 30 days. Info-Tech Research Group Lead Analyst Tim Hickernell got his first peek at Acrobat X four months ago and has been beta testing it since. He shares the highlights of the new version and his comments.
For about the third time in its 15 year history, Acrobat has received a new user interface. Adobe has always struggled to get the right balance between adding lots of new features and making finding those features intuitive for end users. This time, they seem to have gotten it right.The new tool pane definitely reduces clutter and is easy to use, despite being new.
This is likely to be the most valued Acrobat X feature by end users in the enterprise. While Acrobat has always supported robust PDF-based workflows using email, Adobe is aware that most organizations use SharePoint for document collaboration. Indeed, Info-Tech’s own surveys reveal that 71% or organizations use some version of SharePoint and over 80% intend to have one of the two versions of SharePoint 2010 implemented by year-end 2011. With Acrobat X, users can now access SharePoint sites to store and retrieve documents, taking full advantage of SharePoint version control and any workflows that exist in the site. This will especially benefit organizations that use PDF as the format for document reviews with external parties, such as regulators, when maintaining document fidelity is essential. This feature also enables organizations with a whole new PDF form-based workflow option, using SharePoint instead of email or the large enterprise Adobe LiveCycle servers.
Acrobat.com Online Reviews
If you don’t recall Adobe Document Center web service, you’re not alone. Document Center was a prototype service to allow web-based PDF reviews with anyone with web access and the Adobe Reader. With Acrobat X, Adobe has now added such a feature to its Acrobat.com set of web services. So a valid holder of an Acrobat X license can use Acrobat to create a PDF, enable it for review with the Reader, then upload it to Acrobat.com and invite users to participate in the online review. This feature, plus SharePoint integration, finally brings simple review workflows to users without the need to circulate a PDF via email.
If you’re one of those advanced users who needs to analyze a set of form data collected from PDF Forms, but don’t need large scale data analysis tools, you’ll probably like the new data analysis tools included in Acrobat X. You can aggregate and even perform simple filtering on collected form data right inside Acrobat, without having to export to Excel or another data analysis tool.
Perhaps the most important new feature for true PDF and Acrobat Professionals is a new version called “Acrobat X Suite.” While Acrobat has always shipped as part of Adobe’s Creative Suite, PDF professionals on the business side of the house, rather than the design side, have always been forced to select a Creative Suite version that doesn’t really do everything they need. The previous Acrobat Pro Plus v9 helped address this user segment, but did not go far enough to enable business users to be independent in the creation of rich PDFs and interactive PDF Portfolios. Acrobat X Suite now bundles Acrobat X Pro, Photoshop CS5, Captivate 5, Adobe Media Encoder CS5, Adobe Presenter 7 and LiveCycle (forms) Designer ES2 for a MSRP of $1199 ($799 upgrade from qualifying products). Business Process Management design experts should investigate this version before upgrading to the lesser Acrobat X Standard or Pro versions.
In summary, Acrobat X is all about usability, security and enabling business process management professionals. Business professionals using older versions of Acrobat and whose organizations are committed to SharePoint, should consider upgrading to Acrobat X Standard, Pro or Suite; BPM extremists should definitely consider Acrobat X Suite. Creative professionals will likely be OK with Acrobat 9 as part of CS5 for now, but upgrade pricing is available for CS5 users. Info-Tech recommends all IT shops evaluate the free Reader X and consider upgrading soon, to take advantage of the new Protected Mode sand-boxing.