An inside look: Adobe's upcoming Acrobat 9 Pro for Mac

Posted:
in Mac Software edited January 2014
On June 2 Adobe will announce Acrobat 9. In this exclusive preview, a seasoned Acrobat user takes a look at what features Adobe claims are fresh in the release, what has really changed, and whether the new version is worth the price of upgrading.



What's New in Acrobat 9



The short answer: surprisingly little. Adobe has renamed some features that have been around for quite some time, added a few enhancements to existing features, and baked in other features previously available from third party developers. Overall, my initial impressions are that Acrobat 9 falls far short of groundbreaking.



While Adobe lists many features as "new", most of them are little more than existing features in a new wrapper, or features you could buy from third-party developers as plug-ins to Acrobat. Here's a comprehensive list of what Adobe is touting as new along with my take on it:



PDF portfolios



This renamed feature was called Packages in previous versions of Acrobat. It does have an updated interface, and some splashy graphics allow you to cycle through the various PDF files that are housed inside of the PDF portfolio. You can change color schemes, so the portfolios can be more customized and look more visually appealing. The core functionality of merging together multiple PDF files remains unchanged from previous versions.















Convert paper documents to PDF



This feature has been around since version 3 of Acrobat, so there is nothing new here except a new engine powering the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) of scanned text, which can help make scanned PDF searchable.







Convert web pages to PDF



Another long-time feature that has been around for more than a decade. It never worked very well, so if they've finally gotten it to function correctly, it's difficult to justify charging users to upgrade.



Compare PDF documents



Another feature that surfaced way-back-when, is also being listed as new. The only thing new about this feature is that it now sports a wizard to walk you through the process, and the end-product report showing what has changed has been updated slightly.



Search across multiple PDFs



While the interface is slightly modified, search capabilities are basically unchanged from version 8 to version 9.



Use Acrobat.com for shared reviews



Acrobat 9 adds the capability to use Adobe's servers to facilitate the review of PDF files. You can upload the file to be reviewed to Acrobat.com, and then reviewers can download the file and add comments to it. This will be great for small business owners who need to facilitate reviews with users, but large business are unlikely to send their sensitive data to Adobe's servers for hosting.







This feature uses the same capabilities available now on Adobe's Share service, which will become fully functional when Acrobat 9 ships in June.



Collaborating in online meetings



Adobe will launch alongside a new version of Connect, which was previously known as Breeze under the Macromedia brand. ConnectNow is described by Adobe as "a personal web-conference tool, to conduct real-time meetings on your desktop."



This feature already exists in Acroabat 8, and except for the new name, it remains little more than Adobe's way of trying to nudge your into their Connect product, hoping you will use it instead of products such as LiveMeeting, WebEx or GotoMeeting.com.



Use Acrobat.com to upload and share large documents



This is a new feature, and lets you use Adobe's server in place of an FTP server. The cool thing is that it works from both the paid version of Acroabt and from the free Adobe Reader. Large business that are security sensitive may not like to share their files on Adobe's servers, but this will certainly be appealing to many smaller businesses.







Collaborate Live



A real-time review and chat session lets you share your document with others, once again using Adobe's servers to host the sharing.







Electronic forms



Acrobat 9 will also let you create PDF forms and convert scanned documents to PDF. Acrobat 8 already automatically recognizes form fields. As such, Adobe has simply updated the interface and made it a more refined step-by-step process to change the way forms are created.







Collect form data



You can now route your form data through Adobe's servers, making it easier to collect data from PDF forms that you have distributed. But, like many "new" features, this has been available for many years from a third-party software developer, Form Router. Adobe's implementation works only with PDF forms, while Form Router's lets you work with all types of forms such as HTML or Info Path. It's a great feature for small to mid-sized businesses, but large corporations are not likely to want their form data sitting on Adobe's servers.







On page 2 of 2: Track forms; Include Flash content in PDFs; Add comments to videos; Create interactive presentations; 3D; View and interact with PDF maps; Redaction; and Should you upgrade?



Track forms



If you share a form, you can determine who has completed and returned it. This could be useful for HR departments or compliance forms that require completion from a larger group.















Include Flash content in PDFs



Adobe has enhanced the support for multimedia files created in the .swf format. This is an enhancement of an existing feature in Acrobat 8.



Add comments to videos



If you use Adobe video editing products, you know that you can comment and annotate video frames using PDF annotations. Acrobat adds this capability. While it is cool, I don't see too many production houses or movie studios rushing to adopt Acrobat as a result of this enhancement, and the average user doesn't generally want to add a sticky note to a particular frame of a movie.



Create interactive presentations



Adobe has combined several pre-existing capabilities to make it easier to create multimedia presentations delivered in the PDF file format. This makes it easier to create PDF files with narration, movies, and video. But if you've ever seen the work of PDF Pictures, you'll know that most of these options can be achieved with the current version of Acrobat.



3D



Adobe has added a 3D Reviewer to combine multiple CAD formats into one PDF file for reviewing. With Acrobat 3D sales being slow, and Adobe needing to drop the price of its stand-alone Acrobat 3D product, it is no surprise to see these features added here.



View and interact with PDF maps



Adobe appears to be eying Google Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth. They've added the ability to search, measure, and mark up geospatially-enabled PDF maps. This feature had been available through a third party developer for a number of years, and Adobe has now built it into Acrobat.



Redaction



Acrobat 8 added redaction features that were essentially a copy of those available from third-party plug-in developer Appligent. Acrobat 9 expands these features by borrowing from InDesign, allowing it to find things like patterns of Social Security numbers and permanently remove them from a PDF file. Lawyers and courts can get this feature much less expensively by sticking with the current version of Acrobat and getting the plug-in from Appligent.







Should you upgrade?



If you are already using Acrobat 8, you'll likely find few compelling new features in Acrobat 9 to warrant an upgrade. Acrobat 9 may have been better labeled as Acrobat 8.5. It's not worthy of a full release, and lacks the type of innovation you would expect from a major revision coming from an industry leader such as Adobe.



If you are thinking about buying Acrobat 8, you'd benefit from waiting a few weeks until you can get a free upgrade to version 9. If you don't already have the professional or standard version of Acrobat, it's still a good tool to own -- but this latest upgrade really appears to fall short of its mark.



Ron Freedom is a new contributor to AppleInsider. His views and opinions are solely his and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of AppleInsider.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    the cool gutthe cool gut Posts: 1,714member
    For GODS sakes, I hope it launches faster - not that I really care - Preview handles most of my needs just fine.
  • Reply 2 of 28
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by the cool gut View Post


    For GODS sakes, I hope it launches faster...



    Amen good man, amen.
  • Reply 3 of 28
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Ron Freedom sounds like another alias for Prince McLean.
  • Reply 4 of 28
    kasperkasper Posts: 941member, administrator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Ron Freedom sounds like another alias for Prince McLean.



    Well, it's not him.



    Best,



    K
  • Reply 5 of 28
    w00masterw00master Posts: 101member
    Does anyone really use most of the features in Acrobat? On the Mac side, I definitely do not. Preview more than handles everything that I need. On the Windows side, I don't know anyone who uses any of the features in Acrobat besides viewing. Hence, I always recommend users download FoxIt to view pdf instead. Acrobat, imho, is such a resource hog that is nearly unusable.
  • Reply 6 of 28
    In the Windows world Acrobat is a pretty good product and is a must. On a Mac I can read, save, and edit virtually every document format into a PDF, even scanned images, right from Mac OS X. True I can't create forms or OCR, but those couple of features just don't seem to justify spending several hundred dollars for the software. Am I missing something?
  • Reply 7 of 28
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by w00master View Post


    Does anyone really use most of the features in Acrobat? On the Mac side, I definitely do not.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TheFatWookie View Post


    In the Windows world Acrobat is a pretty good product and is a must. On a Mac I can read, save, and edit virtually every document format into a PDF, even scanned images, right from Mac OS X.?



    I'm with you two. On Windows I'd at least need Acrobat Reader, but I haven't had any Acrobat product on my Mac for years.
  • Reply 8 of 28
    mdcatmdcat Posts: 79member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by w00master View Post


    Does anyone really use most of the features in Acrobat? On the Mac side, I definitely do not. Preview more than handles everything that I need. On the Windows side, I don't know anyone who uses any of the features in Acrobat besides viewing. Hence, I always recommend users download FoxIt to view pdf instead. Acrobat, imho, is such a resource hog that is nearly unusable.



    Agree. There's also http://www.media-convert.com/
  • Reply 9 of 28
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by w00master View Post


    Does anyone really use most of the features in Acrobat? On the Mac side, I definitely do not. Preview more than handles everything that I need. On the Windows side, I don't know anyone who uses any of the features in Acrobat besides viewing. Hence, I always recommend users download FoxIt to view pdf instead. Acrobat, imho, is such a resource hog that is nearly unusable.



    On how old of a computer again? At least acrobat reader works fine for me on five to six year old computers.
  • Reply 10 of 28
    Is it possible to get an actual preview or review of the new version? This feels like just another attempt by Appleinsider writers to bash Adobe whenever they can. So yeah, maybe some of the "new" features were already there under a different name, but the reviewer called many of them improved. Improved how? Are all the improvements worth the upgrade?
  • Reply 11 of 28
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,183member
    Who knows of any free or shareware whiteboard apps for group collaboration? There used to be several out there that ran on OS9 years ago, I haven't seen any good ones since.
  • Reply 12 of 28
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by w00master View Post


    Does anyone really use most of the features in Acrobat? On the Mac side, I definitely do not. Preview more than handles everything that I need. On the Windows side, I don't know anyone who uses any of the features in Acrobat besides viewing. Hence, I always recommend users download FoxIt to view pdf instead. Acrobat, imho, is such a resource hog that is nearly unusable.



    For viewing alone, I agree. Preview is much quicker, especially when searching larger texts. Acrobat 8 is also a lot less stable than 7. Its interface has become bloated, with forms fields being the worst "improvement" - obviously to push saddened users to their higher-end products. I can only imagine what a disappointment Acrobat 9 will be.



    Ron provides a pretty complete review, by the way. Thanks.
  • Reply 13 of 28
    stashmanstashman Posts: 90member
    Being a CS3 user I have Acrobat 8 Pro (or Crapobat as we call it) installed, which is horrible and slow, especially when opening a document! First thing I did was to set the system default to open PDF's in Preview as again as this is way way faster. Has Adobe spent anytime fixing the load time?
  • Reply 14 of 28
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,737member
    Acrobat's a pretty complex program that has to check a number of things as well as load a number of things. It performs slowly on a G4, not so badly on a G5, and pretty well on a new 3.06 GHz iMac.



    If people don't need what Acrobat offers, and it's likely that few here do, then Preview is fine. But when you do have to do sophisticated work in PDF, then Acrobat is required.



    There's a very good reason why a number of industries use it as a standard. Preview was not created as a counterweight to Acrobat.
  • Reply 15 of 28
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,737member
    Whether this is worthy of a full number upgrade, is in the mind of the user.



    We don't know what, if anything, Adobe did under the hood. I remember when we went through this with Photoshop 5. There weren't a raft of new features, though there were some big ones. The majority of work had gone into rewriting the code from the ground up. Users didn't see that.



    I wouldn't belittle the fact that Adobe added a number of good, useful, and popular features from third parties as has been done in the overview. This is important, and means that it won't be required to find, and pay for them. Users who need those features will be happy.



    Consolidating other features which, in some cases, were a pain to use, into new, more logical, sequences is also a good improvement.



    Overall, the new version looks to be easier to work with, and will allow more to be done from the program itself without having to add sometimes poorly integrated third party additions.



    Seems like a pretty good upgrade to me. I'd like to get my hands on it.
  • Reply 16 of 28
    trboydentrboyden Posts: 165member
    Don't remember seeing an official press release from Adobe on this, and I attended the Adobe Partners presentation on this that clearly stated this info was under NDA. Nice job AI.
  • Reply 17 of 28
    schalliolschalliol Posts: 11member
    I saw a few features I think worthy of an upgrade in my case. I have a standalone Acrobat Pro 8 and a few CS3 Suite licenses that include it. If we want to upgrade to CS4 suites at some point, does anyone know how to avoid paying double for the package?
  • Reply 18 of 28
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,271member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by trboyden View Post


    Don't remember seeing an official press release from Adobe on this, and I attended the Adobe Partners presentation on this that clearly stated this info was under NDA. Nice job AI.



    Hey...the "insider" in the name ain't there for just show.
  • Reply 19 of 28
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,737member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by schalliol View Post


    I saw a few features I think worthy of an upgrade in my case. I have a standalone Acrobat Pro 8 and a few CS3 Suite licenses that include it. If we want to upgrade to CS4 suites at some point, does anyone know how to avoid paying double for the package?



    You're allowed to install the CS Suite, or any components purchased separately, and use it at the same time on two machines. That's the best you can do there. If you have two purchased copies of CS, then you can use it on four machines, etc.
  • Reply 20 of 28
    kim kap solkim kap sol Posts: 2,987member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by trboyden View Post


    Don't remember seeing an official press release from Adobe on this, and I attended the Adobe Partners presentation on this that clearly stated this info was under NDA. Nice job AI.



    You must be new here.
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