Price When Reviewed: £205 plus VAT
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This is the first major upgrade to Acrobat for two years, and is intended to take Adobe’s Portable Document Format further into the corporate/office market and the new worlds of ebooks. There are also useful new features for professional designers and printers too.
PDFs can be viewed and printed on practically any computer platform, without needing access to the original creator program or fonts. As before, Acrobat 5 is actually two main programs plus utilities and plug-ins. Distiller converts applications files to PDF via the print menu, or PostScript-to-PDF via hot folders. Acrobat itself allows PDFs to be viewed, edited, printed and given multimedia content, hyperlinks and security privileges.
Acrobat Reader is the third component, for viewing and printing PDFs directly or through a Web browser plug-in. It’s free and available from Adobe’s Web site or from CDigit.
The most obvious change to Distiller 5 is the ability to create the new PDF 1.4 format – this appeared as a Save/Import option for Adobe Illustrator 9 last year, but wasn’t supported by Acrobat 4. Distiller still writes PDF 1.2 and 1.3 formats for compatibility with older viewers. In fact, none of the four pre-set job options (for press, print, screen and ebook) actually write PDF 1.4. You can select it and save as a personalized Job Option though.
PDF 1.4 preserves true object vector transparency from Illustrator 9, meaning that it’s still editable if you re-open the PDF in Illustrator. Acrobat 5 and the new Acrobat Reader 5 display and print transparency correctly. Usefully for professional print, Acrobat 5 can be set to display and print overprint and trapping areas, for instance where an area of yellow ink is printed over cyan to give green. Acrobat 4 would ‘knock out’ (delete) the underlying cyan area to give plain yellow.
Acrobat 5 is also pitching for corporate business though. It automatically installs two buttons into the main toolbar of Microsoft Office 97 or 2000 applications (Windows only). Both create a PDF using the current Distiller settings, but one automatically emails it. Acrobat 5 menus have been redesigned to appear more Office-like.
The new Tagged PDF feature is initially only available in PDFs created by Word 97/2000 for Windows. PDF line endings are normally fixed, but with Reflow selected in Acrobat 5 or Acrobat Reader, lines now reflow to grow or shrink when you alter the viewing window size – handy when viewing on Web browsers or a tiny screen on a handheld computer (Adobe has released a beta Acrobat Reader for Palm OS).
Acrobat 5 is a worthwhile advance on its predecessor – particularly for printers, designers and ebook publishers.