Adobe Acrobat 5 Shows Good Form

New database and Web-based capabilities improve workgroup collaboration and form creation, but markup tools still lacking.

In its new Acrobat 5, Adobe Systems concentrates on upgrading business-oriented features to make workgroup collaboration easier. Acrobat lets you control access to, share, and print documents created by any application, while preserving the document's layout and formatting.

Like earlier editions, version 5 allows multiple users to add comments to documents that are saved in Acrobat's Portable Document Format. But now users who have the full $249 version of Acrobat 5 (not just the free Acrobat Reader) installed can introduce annotations via Web browsers, rather than exclusively within the Acrobat application.

Unfortunately, the markup tools still don't work well with data in tables. When using my shipping version to try to highlight the Comments box in a PDF version of PC World's Top 10 Digital Cameras, for example, I couldn't avoid snagging the camera's name and the vendor's phone number and Web address as well. A new spelling checker in Acrobat 5 contains 20 dictionaries, but you can't use this tool to check body text--only comments and form fields.

Another advance: You can now post highly formatted Acrobat documents online with embedded forms--an order form, say--and make the form data interact with a database. An easy-to-use dialog box helps you create your forms. For example, if you want to create a menu of shipping options, just enter the text for one option and then click Add. In addition, you can arrange for menu items to come alive (such as by making a movie play or executing a JavaScript) when the user's mouse pointer hovers over them, using preset actions that look as though they have been borrowed from Adobe's GoLive HTML editor.

If you're a graphics professional who wants to share, display, and print image-laden layouts, Acrobat 5 lets you view and print PDF files containing transparencies created by Adobe Illustrator 9 or Photoshop 6. Acrobat 5 now uses the same color-management system as these applications.

Acrobat 5 should smooth workflow, especially for those doing business over the Web.


Acrobat 5

PRO: New database capabilities enhance its Web-based form duties.

CON: The software's markup tools still don't work well with tables.

VALUE: Business users and workgroups probably will benefit most.

List price: $249 ($99 upgrade)


From the August 2001 issue of PC World magazine

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