The Emperor Has New Clothes
Considering Acrobat 9 has been out for almost two and a half years (a long time—software years are like dog years), Acrobat X is surprisingly short of new features. Granted, Acrobat X (read ten) is a mature program and new, exciting features are harder to come by but for other programs, Adobe has simply borrowed ideas from plug-in developers (or licensed them), so it makes me wonder why they didn’t do that for version X.

Of course, there are some major differences in this version but it’s mostly the interface that’s new. There were about six different ways to access the Commenting tools in version 9, now there are two in version X: the Tool panel and the Quick Tools feature. (There’s a View>Comment menu, but that simply opens the Tool panel.) The new interface will take a little while to get used to, but generally it’s an improvement over the convoluted interface of the past three or four versions.

Of the new features, Quick Tools is one of the handiest since many of the toolbars are gone. Quick Tools allows you to add the most commonly used tools to the Toolbar; unfortunately, they can no longer be moved from the Toolbar and float over the document or be docked to the sides of the monitor. With larger monitors and dual monitors, not being able to relocate the toolbars is a drawback.

Complaints aside, there are lots of improved features (which technically do include some new features). PDF Portfolios are streamlined and easier to use, plus they include the ability to add live Web content and embed custom fonts in the portfolios. Batch Sequences in version 9 have been upgraded and are now called Actions; they’re easier to create and use. Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 are now supported. Saving PDFs as a Microsoft Office export has been improved too, giving cleaner and better formatted output. Adobe Reader for Windows now can open PDFs in Protected (or sandbox) mode, preventing any malicious code from affecting the users computer. I.T. departments will love this.

Some features have been dropped from version 9—mainly from the Pro Extended version. These include no more built-in video conversion, 3D graphics embedding, no more Geospatial support, and Presenter is no longer included with Acrobat. The video conversion and Presenter has been dealt with in the Acrobat Suite (more on the Suite later). Three-dimensional graphics and geospatial viewing is still supported; so older PDFs will still work. Adobe has offloaded the creation of 3D and geospatial PDFs to third-party companies (there are even discounts for these third-party products if you’re upgrading from Pro Extended).

The Acrobat Suite includes Acrobat X Pro, Photoshop CS5 (not Extended), Captivate 5, Adobe Media Encoder CS5, LiveCycle Designer ES2, and Presenter 7. This is a nice packaging of presentation software that you previously had to purchase separately or buy the Technical Communications Suite (and possibly end up with some unused software). However, the Suite is available for Windows only. Except for Presenter and the some missing features in Acrobat Pro, there’s no reason there couldn’t be a Mac version of the Suite.

The Macintosh version of Acrobat X Pro is still the poor stepchild in the Acrobat family. This version is still behind the Windows version in that it doesn’t include the powerful LiveCycle Designer ES2 and the Microsoft Office PDFmaker. I understand that these products and features are Windows-only, but I’d think that the price of the Mac version would be slightly less than the Windows version.

I like this version but wish there were some new features, such as more prepress editing features (à la Enfocus PitStop Pro) and more comment export to other Adobe programs such as InDesign.

Company: Adobe Systems Inc.
Price: $449 (Upgrade: $199)
Web: www.adobe.com
Rating: 4.5
Hot: New interface is more efficient (after awhile)
Not: Could have more new features

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