Adobe unveiled an online community Monday with a word processor; file storage and sharing; and deep tie-ins to a newly Flash-enabled Acrobat 9.
The online push for Acrobat is a bold move for a brand perhaps best associated with the free and nearly ubiquitous Acrobat Reader, which opens print-ready Portable Document Format, or PDF, files. Now, PDFs will play movies.
The announcement comes in advance of the release of Acrobat 9 document-creation software, which adds dynamic features such as integration of animation, dynamic maps, 256-bit encryption, and improved forms.
The free Acrobat.com beta includes the Buzzword word processor. Its ConnectNow Web conferencing and desktop sharing tool enables chatting via text, video, and voice. The hosted services invite file storage and sharing with the capability to convert up to five documents to PDF.
Buzzword and companion tools would provide interactivity lacking in leading online word processors such as Google Docs.
Users can store files on Acrobat.com and join each other in virtual meeting rooms to share identical document views in real time. The site also can host data from forms created in Acrobat software.
Acrobat 9 document-creation software will arrive with a slew of support for creating interactive, secure documents and integration with Acrobat.com.
Acrobat users can convert MOV and WMV files to Flash content that can be embedded within PDFs alongside audio content and even 3D models. The free Acrobat Reader 9 will play the movies, eliminating the need to open other media players.
The new PDF Portfolios feature in Acrobat 9 lets users drag and drop content into a portfolio, then choose from myriad layout and presentation options.
Mapping features only in Acrobat Pro Extended 9 preserve geospatial coordinates and enable users to mark locations and measure distances.
The next Acrobat will take snapshots of Web pages and convert entire pages or chunks of them to a PDF that preserves links and animation.
Developers can tweak layouts with Flex Builder 3 or Flash CS3.
Adobe also tried to make it easier to for companies to make pages match visually with themes and custom logos, and it improved tools for comparing documents.
For creating online forms, Acrobat 9 adds intelligence to recognize content for conversion to fillable fields. And a forms tracking dashboard will show, for instance, the status of responses to a mass party invitation e-mail and let a user send reminders to guests. Responses can be sorted, filtered, and exported to spreadsheets.
Acrobat 9's security enhancements enable users to add 256-bit encryption, used by banks online, to PDFs.
Redaction tools, a key selling point of Acrobat 8, will offer searches for numeric patterns in addition to multiple words and phrases. A company could, for example, find every accidental mention of a social security number or top-secret product being developed and black out the potential leaks from a PDF with one blow.
Business users could opt to access documents at Acrobat online or via SharePoint workspaces, network folders or WebDAV.
Acrobat 9 comes in three flavors, set for stores in the coming weeks: Standard at $299 or $99 to upgrade, Pro for $449 or $159 to upgrade, and Pro Extended for $699 or $229 to upgrade. Pro Extended also comes with Adobe Presenter, which plugs into Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 for adding interactivity to presentations.
We'll have a review of Acrobat 9 software once we receive final code, and we'll share our experiences soon with Acrobat.com beta.
I still groan when I have to open a PDF file from the Web (my PCs make loud grinding noises), so I'm curious to see how the new tools might make PDFs faster to open as well as more dynamic to explore.