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Acrobat, like many mature products targeting a wide range of users, suffers from feature bloat. Sadly, this streamlined interface is not an improvement. Instead of merely navigating through some 20 menus on the application bar and toolbars to find a particular function, as you did in Acrobat 9, you must now search through the application bar menus, the icon toolbars, and three sidebar-styled task panes loaded with vertically arrayed commands—nearly half of which are hidden by default.
To send a PDF for either a shared or email review, you must remember that those commands are no longer in menus, but now in a section of the Comment task pane. On one hand, the task pane's commands look more intuitive than the copious menus of previous versions. And, Adobe has recognized that most of us now use widescreen monitors.
Some commands, like design mainstay Preflight, and the critical Accessibility Setup Assistant, now live only in the Edit menu—an unlikely place. Both commands—and many more—can be added to the Tools task pane by clicking the tiny button at the top of that window and enabling the display of the Print Production and Accessibility panes.
A new Quick Tools bar across the top of the Acrobat X window provides access to common commands. By default, Quick Tools includes buttons for creating, opening, saving, sharing, and printing PDFs, adding sticky notes and highlights, and inserting, deleting, and rotating pages. You can easily customize the Quick Tools bar to include nearly any command available in Acrobat.
Designers can easily access the controls and tools they use while keeping the programmer-centric features out of the way. Thus, instead of throwing the kitchen sink at every user—or squirreling away features and commands in obscure places—the program should ask users at installation what they want to do with Acrobat.
Acrobat already contains copious wizards: Document presentation packages One of the most exciting improvements in the new Acrobat is the expanded and highly customizable PDF Portfolios feature. A PDF Portfolio distributes a set of electronic files—not only PDFs but any files—in a single package offering a professional, pleasing, optionally branded experience.
The PDF Portfolio, once opened in Acrobat or Reader, provides a visual interface for viewing, editing, or extracting the included documents and media. The PDF Portfolio interface is highly customizable with engaging layouts, configurable themes and colors, and background images.
Although Acrobat 9 Pro offered nine layouts, those available in Acrobat X are nicer, more modern, and through their options, actually include all of the layouts available in the last version.
You can import additional layouts from Adobe as well as third parties via a button in the Create PDF Portfolio wizard. Even after you start a portfolio, you can switch between any stock or imported layout, and then customize the colors, fonts, and backgrounds individually or by selecting pre-built visual themes.
Improved, more elegant PDF Portfolio layouts make for compelling, easy-to-use document distribution and presentation packages.
Using a visual point-and-click builder dialog box, you can chain together any number of commands and functions into a macro-like action. These actions can be shared among other Acrobat X users. Although the possibilities of actions are endless, the ones included with the program offer examples of what you can accomplish, such as initiate document reviews, reduce file size, perform secure redactions, and more.
Whether starting from a pre-built action or from scratch, just about anything you can manually do to a PDF in Acrobat can be performed via an action. The new Action Wizard lets you build complex document processing macros in a simple point-and-click interface. Until now, Reader users have been unable to mark up and comment on PDFs unless the file creator specifically enabled that feature.
With this version, Reader X users can highlight text and add sticky notes to any PDF file, regardless of whether the PDF producer activated the advanced Reader commenting features in Acrobat 9 or earlier versions. If your PDF readers need even more document modification capabilities, such as digitally signing a document or adding drawing mark-ups like callout boxes, arrows, and stamps, the creator must still enable that function in Acrobat X Pro. The command has moved, however.
Files can also be Reader-enabled automatically as part of the process of creating a shared review. The ability to highlight text and add notes is standard in version 10 of Adobe Reader.
Microsoft Office export The PDF file format was originally conceived as a final distributable unit—meaning that content distributed as a PDF would never need to be converted to or extracted for other uses. Despite that, frequently we want to get textual content out to a word processor and tabular data into our spreadsheet applications from finished PDFs.
Adobe has addressed these needs by improving content export functionality over time. The types of documents varied from entirely textual single-column pages with lots of formatting many fonts, colors, and styles to multi-column documents with floated and anchored images and inline tables.
I then saved these PDFs as Word. It took Acrobat X Pro longer to convert the same documents than Acrobat 9 Pro, but the results were well worth the extra minute or two. With few exceptions, I was astounded by the visual fidelity of the conversion. In each of my test documents the text formatting was beautiful—fonts, sizes, colors, even bullets and numbers were preserved, although the bullets and numbers came across as selectable text, as opposed to non-selectable graphic ornaments.
Images were included in the Word documents where they existed in the PDF, positioned if not precisely in the right places on the page, at least as close as Word's limited understanding of layout allowed. The results I got from exporting tabular content to Excel and XML spreadsheet format were also impressive. Formatting came through crystal clear, including most cell strokes and background shading.
That conclusion is based on tests such as creating PDFs from different sources, combining multiple PDFs, running OCR on scanned documents, searching for keywords in documents, and using various wizards. Speaking of searching, there is no longer a Find or search field visible in Acrobat X Pro.
Adobe says its test users had no trouble invoking a search on their own without the box. However, you can insert a Find text button which gives you a field when you click it into that space, if you want to.
In addition to a handy feature that shows you the strength of your password, Acrobat X also boasts some other niceties. While scanning a document, Acrobat now automatically detects whether the document is in color or grayscale, adjusting options to compensate. OCR character recognition has also been strengthened to return fewer misspellings on scanned documents. A new Read Mode unclutters the interface, maximizing the space available for reading, and showing a navigation bar only when you hover your mouse over the document.
Acrobat X Pro is tightly integrated with online and server systems, too. Documents may be sent for review via Acrobat. Burke, a Portland-based design and print and e-publishing workflow expert, is principal of Workflow: Creative working with studios, agencies, and publications around the world.
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