Editors' note: This review, originally based on the final beta, has been updated to reflect the final, release version of the program.
With the file formatting in Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional, your carefully written, thoughtfully presented, and beautifully illustrated presentation will come across in a Portable Document Format (PDF) file just as you intended it, no matter who reads it on what platform. And although some other software utilities now allow you to save or convert PDF documents and even let you do basic PDF work, Adobe's Acrobat line of products remains the premier option, with the latest productivity enhancements. The latest version adds new collaboration tools, organization, and other office-related features but at a price: system performance. Those with top-end PCs or Macs should have no trouble, but everyone else will notice some performance decrease with all the new bells and whistles within the Professional edition. Also available is the Standard version, which costs $200 less and sacrifices a few of the most workgroup-critical features but still provides the most essential functionality without as much of a performance hit. Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional is available for Windows 2000 and XP and Mac OS X. For Windows, simply download or start the installation from the CD. To get up and running with a Mac, drag the Acrobat 7.0 Professional folder (again, either as a download or from a CD), which contains Acrobat 7.0, Acrobat Distiller, and an uninstaller, to your Applications folder--no wizards or complex installation decisions required. The app comprises more than half a gigabyte, however, so copying the files can take a while on a computer with a slow hard drive.
The interface is unchanged from 6.0, with the exception of new toolbar buttons for Commenting and Markup, Send for Review, Security, Signature, and the single-button Create PDF option. There are also new tabs along the left side of the document window that allow you to access reader comments and file attachments.Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional introduces a host of good new features. Adobe also claims that newly generated PDF files result in smaller file sizes than with previous versions of Acrobat, which is true, allowing you to e-mail or post larger documents than you could before.
Tight integration with Microsoft Office 2003 allows you to convert most Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files within the applications themselves to PDFs. Acrobat 7.0 can also make PDFs of captured Web pages--but only in the Windows version. Mac users also miss out on the Windows version's capability to convert Outlook e-mail and Publisher, Visio, Access, and Project files, though this is because there are no Mac versions of those products. However, the Mac version shares with Windows PDF conversion for AutoCAD projects, complete with the ability to embed 3D objects.
Acrobat 7.0 Professional also gains security features, including custom password protection for PDF files; a thumbnail-based organizer; new commenting tools, such as virtual sticky notes; and the ability for users of the free Acrobat Reader 7.0 to review documents and add their own comments. Collected reader comments then appear in their own PDF document, which you can search and index later--handy for office collaboration on team projects.Adobe offers a wide range of free support options for Acrobat 7.0 Professional on the company's Web site, including user forums, which often feature "expert guest hosts" who pop in with answers, as well as links to user groups and FAQs. The various site options are fairly easy to navigate, as they are organized around product lines as well as specific issues or design topics.
Phone technical support is a roll of the dice, however; it might just be a free tech-support call, but you won't know until after you've placed the call. Installation and product-defect support is always free, but other problems may or may not carry a fee. When you call Adobe's technical support, you'll be asked for a credit card number first, and a support technician will determine whether your issue qualifies for free support after he or she listens to your complaint. If Adobe decides to charge you, the tech will ask whether you want to continue and quote you the expected costs associated with your call.