Acrobat 8 review:

Acrobat 8

The Combine Files wizard steps you through packaging varied file types, such as a Microsoft Word letter, an Excel spreadsheet, and a variety of JPEG and GIF images to make one print-ready, PDF file. You can grab selected page ranges from within a Word document or pick individual worksheets from an XLS file, leaving the unnecessary stuff out of your final PDF. It's easy to optimize file sizes and to drag and drop the components to put them in the order you want. In about four minutes, we bundled more than five Word, Excel, JPEG, and PDF files totaling 227KB into a nine-page PDF of 101KB. You can export your PDF files to JPEG, TIFF, HTML, XML, text, and other formats. In addition, a "Send to FedEx Kinko's" option within the File menu allows remote, paid printing at that brand's stores around the country.

Acrobat 8.1 also adds new integration with Microsoft Office 2007, such as the capability to create a PDF file by right-clicking the mouse from within supported applications. Microsoft Outlook 2007 can now preview multipage PDF files within e-mail messages, just as it already displays Office documents. And Mac users will be able to view Flash movies within Adobe Acrobat and Reader 8.1 instead of using QuickTime.

To prevent your document from revealing secrets, Acrobat 8.1 makes it easier to apply redactions that permanently black out sensitive text.

What if your intelligence report contains the name of an undercover operative? In the past, people suffered when text they had blacked out in Microsoft Word was wrapped into a PDF file that unpeeled the highlighting and revealed sensitive sentences underneath. Now, Acrobat lets you black out text permanently, even letting you search for keywords to erase so that you won't miss one. Alas, as more people adopt this feature, it may not bode well for investigators and journalists hoping to dig up data that used to be sloppily buried.

After you Apply Redactions, Acrobat 8.1 forces you to inspect metadata, annotations and comments, bookmarks, and so on for other tidbits you might want to keep under wraps. Once you're ready for other eyes to see your new PDF file, the Secure and Sign drop-downs from Acrobat 8.1's toolbar help you to add 128-bit encryption and a digital signature to protect your intellectual property.

Adobe provides many support resources at its Web site, such as Flash tutorials, user forums, FAQs, and a searchable knowledge base. Acrobat's online resources are well-organized and thorough. However, Adobe's four support plans, from Bronze to Platinum, are costly. Installation help by phone is available only via a toll telephone number, for instance. You'll need to sign in to get customized help online.

So far, we find Acrobat 8.1 to be a more useful and intuitive tool than its ancestor, although you don't need to plunk down hundreds of dollars unless you're really craving the security features.

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