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Adobe's Acrobat Flips For Collaboration

In its quest for the paperless office, Adobe Systems is gearing up for sweeping changes to its Acrobat and Reader platforms.

The San Jose, Calif.-based Web publishing software giant announced the upcoming release of version 7.0 of its Professional and Standard software. The new offerings for making Portable Document Format (PDF) files and the corresponding free downloadable Adobe Reader version 7.0 platform will be available by the end of the year. The upgrade will be marketed to professionals in document services, marketing, IT services, government and education.

The most notable change is the ability for Acrobat 7.0 Professional customers to give users feedback on a PDF file including content from scanned paper, spreadsheets, and presentations. Previously, both parties had to purchase the Professional version of Acrobat to trade their 2-cents worth of comments.

The new platform will also allow Web-enabled access to Yahoo Search, formatting for e-mails and attachments, and review policies that can revoke access or even expire documents in a pre-set number of days.

Adobe senior product marketing manager Marion Melani said the new feedback ability is great for companies with consultants and/or contractors who may not want to shell out the entire USD$449 suite just to solicit feedback.

"With Acrobat 6 and others you had to associate a password to the PDF file that put a set of restrictions on the PDF documents," Melani told internetnews.com.

Outside of the usual creation and conversion technologies, Adobe said Acrobat 7.0 and Adobe PDF lets workgroups assemble documents from multiple sources, create intelligent forms, and collaborate on projects inside and outside the firewall with improved security. The latest versions also tap into the growing numbers of 3D computer-aided design (CAD) content.

Acrobat 7.0 Professional also supports an expanded number of print standards such as PDF/X and Job Definition Format (JDF) specifications. JDF product definitions ensure accurate job submissions to Adobe PDF print workflow systems. PDF/X is an industry standard for graphic arts file exchange, which virtually eliminates the most common errors in file preparation.

The latest update also includes all the benefits of Adobe's Intelligent Document platform, which includes mixing with Adobe LiveCycle software. The improvements lets designers create XML and PDF forms that can be incorporated into back-end systems. Also, The Acrobat 7.0 family ties into Adobe's LiveCycle Policy Server. The platform lets organizations set and manage document policies for helping control access to a PDF document.

The company said its Acrobat version 7.0 would also be integrated to Adobe Creative Suite Premium, which it launched back in October 2003.

The Acrobat 7.0 family also takes advantage of Adobe's close relationship with Microsoft as the new Creator line dovetails with Office products such as Outlook, Excel, and Internet Explorer. While Adobe has acknowledged the advancements of Linux and open source operating systems and Web browsers, Melani said the company will stick close to widely used platforms like Windows and Macintosh.

"[The Mozilla foundation's browser] Firefox is taking market share away from Internet Explorer, but we have to address what are the predominant formats being used in the marketplace especially in government and education, and that includes Windows and Mac," Melani said.

The company currently has an open source version of its Acrobat Reader available, albeit an older version 5.0. The 7.0 Reader is expected in the first half of 2005. Melani said Adobe's readers for Linux and other open source distributions are critical for addressing non-PC environments.

"We have a version of our reader in Linux that Sony is taking for a car-navigation system for the Japanese market," Melani said.

The new versions are being offered for the same price as before (US$449 for Pro - US$299 for Standard) with upgrades from previous versions starting at USD$99. The platforms will ship for Windows and Mac machines starting in December, and in French, German and Japanese in early 2005. The products also will be available through Adobe's Open Options licensing programs, which begins at US$39 per seat for a 100-seat license.