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Adobe expands PDF push

Adobe Systems is aiming to broaden the use of its Portable Document Format, with the announcement of a new tool for its GoLive Web authoring package.

Publishing software giant Adobe Systems is expanding its campaign to push the use of PDF, with the announcement Monday of a new tool for its GoLive Web authoring package.

The GoLive PDF, or Portable Document Format, module will let Web designers using GoLive easily convert HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) pages into files based on PDF, a popular format for distributing documents over the Internet.

Adobe is in the midst of a wide-ranging effort to expand business use of its publishing products, with much of the strategy centering on the widely used PDF technology, used for creating stable and easily shared versions of static documents such as forms and catalogs.

The company is working to make PDF more of an interactive document, capable of exchanging data with back-end business systems and handling functions such as electronic signatures, through the addition of instructions based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), the lingua franca of Web services. Adobe last month announced a server version of its Acrobat software for creating PDF documents, capable of automatically adding interactive functions to PDF documents as they're retrieved.

"Adobe PDF has become a mainstay in Web publishing, and developers are looking for streamlined ways to deliver their content in the PDF format," Susan Prescott, an Adobe vice president, said in a statement.

The PDF push comes as Microsoft has shown renewed interested in electronic documents with the announcement of XDocs, an addition to its Office productivity software that will enable creation of XML-based electronic forms.

Joshua Duhl, document and content technologies analyst for research firm IDC, said it makes sense for Adobe to try and capitalize on the popularity of the PDF format. But the corporate push poses numerous business challenges, from building new kinds of sales teams to arranging for the consulting services that will be necessary to tie Acrobat into back-end systems.

"This is part of a major shift for them," he said. "It requires some internal changes, like building an internal sales force and doing 24/7 support...The actual integration of Adobe products with something like a CRM (customer relationship management) solution--that's going to take a lot of expertise. They're going to need to partner with some of the major consulting groups and make it easy for system integrators to make it work with other applications."

Besides the overall PDF effort, the new Web authoring extension is also an effort to bolster GoLive. Adobe acquired the Web design package three years ago from privately held GoLive and has yet to make much headway against Macromedia and its market-leading Dreamweaver package.

The GoLive PDF module is set to be released before the end of the year, and will be available for GoLive users to download for $20. The module will also be included in a new version of Adobe Web Collection, a package that includes GoLive, Adobe's Photoshop image editing application, and the Illustrator design package. The new version of Web Collection will go on sale late this month for $999.