Price: 265 . 425 . 619 . 1249
Pros: Upgraded PDF creation and editing package introduces PDF Portfolios; more PDF/X support; standards panel; embedded preflight audits; improved Web capture; native Flash playback support.
Cons: Limited new functions for print designers; UK pricing double the US price; Mac users are denied lower-cost entry-level and high-end specialist versions; Distiller user interface remains confusing.
The Pro and Pro Extended versions allow you to compare two PDFs, highlighting differences automatically.
Web capture can now include playable Flash in its PDFs. Internet Explorer users can choose to capture
a cropped area of a page, but as there’s no current IE for OS X, again, Mac users can’t do this.
Acrobat 8’s PDF 1.7 was recently accepted as an ISO standard (ISO 32000), which means that Adobe can’t just release another version whenever it feels like it. However, it can add extensions. Acrobat 9’s PDF Optimizer menu offers both Acrobat 8 and 9 compatible PDF 1.7 forms. So far, Adobe hasn’t explained if there’s any real difference, but Acrobat 8 will open an ‘Acrobat 9’ PDF 1.7 – after showing a warning that it may not be compatible.
Any PDF from 1.3 to 1.7 can be created. Using the preflight menu, Pro (but not Standard) can output and verify all of the professional print PDF/X subsets, plus PDF/A for archives and the engineering PDF/E. The preflight menu gains an option to embed an audit record of the test result into the PDF metadata.
Backing all this is a useful new Standards Panel in Acrobat 9. When you open a PDF that apparently complies with an ISO standard such as PDF/X or PDF/A, this is flagged up with a blue ‘i’ in the Navigation panel. Clicking on this opens a panel that shows the document’s conformance and verification status, with menu links to preflight and verify the file if needed.
At the time of writing Acrobat.com, Adobe’s free hosted service was still in Beta and not fully functional, so we’re partly reliant on Adobe’s description of what it will offer. It will operate somewhat like Apple’s .Mac and iDisk online sharing service, but with additional PDF file conversion, live collaboration and instant messaging, including audio or videoconferencing, and other features predominantly aimed at corporate users.
The free service will include hosted storage space, but Adobe will charge for extra space and for some additional future functions.
In a Windows environment Acrobat 9 Pro is the mid-priced option, mainly of interest to designers and professional printers who want to use PDF/X files. However, printers mainly use PDF/X-1a or PDF/X-3, which can be created by Acrobat 8 Professional if you’ve got that already. For Mac users, Pro is the only option if you want to upgrade from 8. Sadly, Adobe’s UK prices are a rip-off.