REVIEW: Acrobat 9 Pro Extended And The Power of Flash

Presenter for presentations

This is the big news: now that Acrobat 9 comes with full Flash functionality, there’s a new rich media authoring tool that comes with Acrobat 9 Pro Extended: Adobe Presenter. It’s not an application as much as it is a plug-in for PowerPoint that extends its multimedia abilities and lets it produce PDFs that fully leverage the new Flash capabilities. Creating a presentation with Presenter is rather easy—there’s not that many buttons to it, and the features are self-explanatory. Unfortunately I don’t own a copy of PowerPoint for Windows so I couldn’t try creating my own presentation, but here are the features Presenter offers you:

  • Add and modify presenter profiles so end users know who the presentation is coming from
  • Configure Adobe Connect Pro servers to deploy your presentations over the Internet. Note that Adobe Connect Pro Server is a separate service.
  • Add or record your own audio and synchronize it with animations such as page turns
  • Incorporate multimedia, including SWF or video. You can also capture video from a webcam and/or do simple edits to the video, including trimming, muting sound and adding special effects such as fades.
  • Use the Quiz Manager to add quizzes and surveys. You can set up question properties and Presenter will add slides for each question added.
  • Customize the general design of the presentation


Acrobat 9 Pro Extended presentation bar

Presenter is relatively simple and easy to use. Click the link for a larger view.

Presenter outputs a presentation PDF that is easy to operate thanks to Acrobat 9’s Flash functionality. Presentations have a control bar (navigation, playback status, sliders, timers, volume control and full screen toggle) and also a sidebar that lets you view a presentation outline, slide thumbnails, slide notes or search for text within the presentation. When taking a quiz, the sidebar is used to display the questions and will mark answered questions as correct or incorrect.


Acrobat 9 Pro Extended PDF presentation

Presenter allows you to create easy-to-use presentations like this one, with multimedia and interactivity. Click the image for a larger view.

I believe Presenter is the single most exciting thing about Acrobat 9 Pro Extended: those who use PowerPoint to create presentations will be able to take everything to a whole new level, and do it without a high learning curve. Presenter also seems to be fairly mature, and strangely enough on the Adobe Web site it’s classified as “Presenter 7,” even though I’ve not heard of it until now. The reason is because Presenter has been around under the name Breeze, which was a Macromedia product. Presenter sports Breeze’s logo, as does Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro, and the box art for Presenter and Acrobat Connect Pro are very similar. It seems the presentation creation tools found in Breeze have found a new home in Acrobat 9 Pro Extended.

A quick note about Flash Video

If you read the Acrobat 9 family overview, you’ll learn that Pro Extended alone has the ability to convert video to Flash Video (FLV) format. All Acrobat 9 products have Flash functionality so they all support FLV and also H.264 formats like QuickTime. You can insert these formats with Acrobat 9 Pro, but anything else will run into an error. Acrobat 9 Pro Extended can handle all these formats and others such as Windows Media files, and convert them to FLV on the fly.

Conclusion

If you are a Mac user, Acrobat 9 Pro Extended is not an option for you unless you have an Intel Mac, a virtualization application such as Parallels Desktop or VMWare, and a copy of Windows XP or Vista. Unless you have all that software and hardware already, or you are a Windows PC user, the move to Pro Extended will carry a steep price tag beyond the US$699 price tag (US$229 for the upgrade). It depends on your work, but the nature of Pro Extended’s enhancements are such that it’s only worth the extra cash if you work with 3D, maps or presentations and can make beaucoup bucks with the new features. There are plenty of presentation and 3D applications out there, but Acrobat 9 Pro Extended can help leverage those applications with PDF’s power and ubiquity.

I think it’s a relatively hard sell, since there are few features that Acrobat 9 Pro doesn’t have and the industries it serves are niche. For my own uses, Acrobat 9 Pro will work most of the time. But I guarantee you that, sometime, somewhere, Acrobat 9 Pro Extended will be a lifesaver for someone when it’s needed most.

Acrobat 9 Pro Extended
Adobe Systems
No rating (feature review only)
US$699 full, US$229 upgrade