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Adobe enhances collaboration

All types of documents can become important artifacts of knowledge work—word processing, e-mail, Web pages, paper forms, spreadsheets, engineering drawings, images, etc. Collaborating around those artifacts in increasingly interconnected, extended and ephemeral networks, however, becomes a challenge when colleagues and customers work in different languages and locations, on different computing platforms running different applications.

Adobe Systems' Portable Document Format (PDF) became a stalwart option for converting disparate file types into a common format that can be protected and shared, preserving the integrity of both appearance and accessibility.

The latest release of Adobe Acrobat, released at the end of 2004, adds new options and capabilities. With Version 7.0, the Acrobat product family has grown:

  • Acrobat Professional ($449) offers advanced control over engineering and design documents, such as computer-aided design applications or publishing solutions. Professional's Windows version includes Adobe's LiveCycle Designer for intelligent forms.

  • Acrobat Standard ($299) is intended for those who need to create, manage and protect PDF documents from multiple applications, without some of the advanced capabilities included in Acrobat Professional.

  • Acrobat Elements is an enterprise-license version for organizations that need PDF creation capability on every desktop.

  • Adobe Reader (free) is the multiplatform viewer now available for operating systems ranging from Windows and Mac, to Linux and Solaris, to Palm Symbian and Pocket PC.

Extended collaboration

All of these products (except for Reader) will convert to PDF from any application that has a print function, after installing a PDF driver as a printer definition. However, Acrobat provides quick, tailored conversion from Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Project, Visio and—in the Windows version of Acrobat Pro and Standard—Publisher, Access and Internet Explorer. From Microsoft Outlook, PDFs now can be created from individual, selected or folders of e-mails with attachments and hyperlinks intact. Those and other document and message formats, once converted, can be combined into single PDF files.

Acrobat Pro and Standard can also use one-step page scanning and character recognition to create compact, searchable archives.

Acrobat Professional, Standard and Element will allow users to protect documents with passwords, certificates and other security controls. A new, separate enterprise application, LiveCycle Policy Server ($50,000), allows organizations to apply access policies and manage permissions for PDFs no matter how many copies of a document are distributed.

Acrobat 7.0 Professional and Standard will convert and distribute documents for review by others, then manage the process and, as reviewers respond, collate comments from multiple reviewers into a single Acrobat document, or export those comments to the original Word for Windows 2002/2003 document. Users of Acrobat 7.0 Professional can also include colleagues who may only have Version 7 of the free Reader. When recipients open the document in Reader, they automatically will see a set of commenting tools.

Creative knowledge

Acrobat Professional 7.0 is also now included in Adobe Creative Suite Premium ($1,229), which rolls its image and layout applications, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, GoLive and other applications, into a single package. Creative Suite includes Adobe's new workflow tool, Version Cue, which helps creative professionals find files, track versions and share digital assets.

Phil Smith, IT director at Schadler Kramer Group Advertising in Las Vegas, introduced the suite in his organization and saw a dramatic increase in productivity from using Version Cue.

"It reduces a lot of our creative downtime," he says. "They don't spend so much time worrying about whether they've got the right version or the approved artwork, so the majority of their day can now be spent concentrating on the creative aspects of their job, rather than having to manage all the technology hurdles," he says. "Four out of the six art directors we have actually told me they have probably regained an hour a day."

Steve Barth at Global-Insight writes, teaches and consults on personal knowledge management and knowledge worker productivity, e-mail barth.km@global-insight.com

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