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Adobe Expands Acrobat For Collaboration

Adobe Systems  unveiled its re-branded online conferencing software today with embedded collaboration features in one of the Web publishing company's core products, Acrobat.

Renaming Macromedia Breeze conferencing software Adobe Connect, the company said Monday it will leverage the ubiquity of PDF files and Flash presentations to enable connections between different work groups, such as artists, lawyers and architects.

Adobe's Acrobat application is getting a makeover, with better collaboration playing a central role.

As part of that push, Adobe has added a "Start Meeting" button in Acrobat 8 and the free Acrobat 8 Reader applications.

Either in a hosted or local version, Connect or Connect Professional offers online conferencing to any Flash-enabled user, including whiteboard, screen sharing, chat, along with video and audio.

Connect Professional additionally supports more conference participants (more than 15,000 compared to 15 for basic Connect), as well as VoIP and other extended capabilities.

Among the improvements, Acrobat 8 gains a "Getting Started" window, where tasks such as "Create PDF," "Forms" or "Combine Files" are grouped. The change makes Acrobat more approachable to a wider range of users, Adobe officials told internetnews.com.

Security is another highlight of the update. Users requiring greater data security, including stripping meta data from files or true redacting of passages.

For Acrobat Reader users, version 8 includes the ability to save forms, an ability missing from the prior version of Acrobat Reader.

"This is the biggest launch since we acquired Macromedia," Ricky Liversidge, Adobe's Director of Product Marketing, told internetnews.com.

Adobe is competing with Microsoft and others for a share of the online document market. In June, Microsoft agreed to remove a PDF alternative called "Metro" from its upcoming Vista operating system, as well as drop plans to integrate a "Save as PDF" function in Office 2007.

Acrobat Connect has a montly $39 fee per user, while the Professional version is available for license.

Connect will be available free beginning in November and through the end of the calendar year, according to Adobe. Connect Professional is expected to be available in December.

PDF users number 528 million while 98 percent of Internet ready computers include a Flash player, according to Adobe.