By Pariah S. Burke Macworld.com | on December 15, 2010
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Pros: Professional presentation and distribution packages for PDF and other document types; Powerful document processing; Point-and-click macro system; Nearly perfect content export to Word and Excel; Reader X can now highlight and comment on PDF files by default
Cons: Menu commands and tools spread all over the application; Many features hidden behind easily missed customize button; Find box removed
Acrobat X Pro's PDF Portfolio feature packs five portfolio layouts in the box--Click-Through, Freeform, Grid, Linear, and Wave. 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.
Automating repetitive tasks
If you're always looking for ways to automate repetitive tasks, Acrobat X Pro's new custom actions--built with the Action Wizard--is just what you've been waiting for. 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.
New Reader commenting tools
Although this review is about Acrobat X Pro, the PDF creation tool, PDFs are created to be read--often with the free Adobe Reader. Therefore, improvements to Adobe Reader X's experience are important to PDF producers.
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. In fact, users of Adobe Reader X can even comment on specific video frames embedded in a PDF.
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. Now, you must choose File -> Save As -> Reader Extended PDF and then select either Enable Adding Text in Documents (that are not fillable forms), Enable Commenting & Measuring, or Enable Additional Features.
The additional features are the ability to save form data from a fillable form, sign a signature field, digitally sign the document, and use all of Reader's built in commenting and drawing mark-up tools. Files can also be Reader-enabled automatically as part of the process of creating a shared review.
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.
Acrobat X is the best version yet, exporting accurately formatted content to Microsoft Word, Rich Text Format, and HTML, and XML and tabular data to Microsoft Excel and XML spreadsheet formats. Within Acrobat X, simply choose File -> Save As and pick the desired output format from the submenus.
I tested PDFs created from Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress, and Microsoft Word documents. The types of documents varied from entirely textual single-column pages with lots of formatting (many fonts, colours, and styles) to multi-column documents with floated and anchored images and inline tables. I then saved these PDFs as Word (.docx) and Word 97--2003 (.doc) formats. 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.