Acrobat 9 Pro: The Designorati Review

Note: Also see Jeremy Schultz’s Adobe Acrobat 9 Extended overview, focussing on specific features that that edition brings you.

The new Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro is out in the wild and it’s looking good to us.

Who, inside and outside of design, doesn’t find themselves reading a PDF from time to time? Adobe’s making the Acrobat Reader (latterly, simply “Adobe Reader”, to make it distinct from the Acrobat PDF creation product) free for the downloading might have seemed a risky idea when they did it at first, but in retrospect it seems genius. PDFs have made platform-independent document presentation real; a PDF I generate from any PDF-generating application will almost certainly be readable by anyone else who has Reader … or now, any number of applications that understand PDFs.

Moreover, the PDF standard has grown wings, with the various PDF/X formats and PDFs being integrated into production workflows industry-wide.

It only makes sense, then, that Adobe should grow Acrobat to meet this challenge. And that’s just what we have here with Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro (with packaging that harmonizes with Adobe’s CS3 product line, though a stand-alone application). There are new features that seem to make Acrobat straddle the bridge between content aggregator and content creator, collaboration features that allow more dynamic sharing, and PDF workflow support that can really whip your PDFs into press-ready shape.

PDF Portfolios

By far, as an independent designer, the most exciting feature of Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro is the PDF Porftolios. We’ve already explored them here.

What a PDF Portfolio is is a new way to aggregate different sorts of content into a single PDF viewable by Reader 9. That in and of itself is nothing new, but with Adobe’s integration of Flash technology into Acrobat we get a great new way of presenting content in motion. Where you included a screenshot before, now you can include actual video clip content.

Acobat 9 PDF Portfolio Blue

The Acrobat 9 Pro PDF Portfolio allows the user to create dynamic, easy and fun to use compilations including video, documents, all with a website-like interface.

It’s a feast for the eyes and with the Adobe walk-through way of putting it all together, the learning curve is especially short. I’d recommend looking into upgrading for this reason alone.

New, Improved Plays-Well-With-Others

Collaboration is everywhere you go these days. When you work on line, you’ll have to share … or at least show someone else what you’re doing.

The new Acrobat also comes with an online Partner … Acrobat.com. Registration is free there, and it offers the user the use of one of the most interesting new features of Acrobat 9 Pro – Synchonized Views.

Everyone reading this is familiar with a certain difficulty in collaborating by email: the necessity of describing the change you want to make succinctly and clearly by the written word. It’s not always possible to be on a conference call or in a chat room. What Synchronized Views do is allow one person to point out areas in a document while having other people see what it is that is being pointed out in real-time, on their computer screens. The result should be a much more organic collaboration process, more intuitive.

The new Acrobat.com also allows sharing by keeping your files in a place where you control access – things can either be public or limited to certain colleagues you store in an online address book.

Acrobat.com is, in our experience, easy to navigate, easy to get on board on, and rather intuitive as well.

PDF Production–Reinforcing the Workflow

PDFs have moved into quite sophisticated areas. With the maturing of the standard and the outgrowth of the PDF/X standards, PDFs are not only ready for prime-time, they’re ready for press time as well. Acrobat 9 Pro includes new tools that support the role PDF plays now.

Overprint Preview is still here, of course, but now it has intelligence. It can be configured to activate automatically on viewing a PDF/X file, but also any PDF file if the user so chooses. The enhanced Output Preview with Object Inspector makes finding problems such as live text and too many spot colors very simple indeed – the interface for that we found clear, direct, and informative.

The Color Conversion dialog has been completely redesigned from Acrobat 8, and now includes the ability to select items by attributes. Command sets can be saved as presets for later use and exported for distribution to colleagues as well. Preflighting has been enhanced, but you don’t need it to check standards compliance – it’s now a menu item in the Preflight menu, which checks against and allows conversion to the most used standards.

All This, and It Runs Like A Champ

Acrobat 9 Pro offers a lot, and in some cases, hits it out of the park. But our first impression had, ironically, nothing to do with that. We were thrilled with how nimbly the program runs, even on an older computer.

This author tested his copy on his PowerMac G4 desktop. The icon bounced in the dock just once and the program was ready to use … up and running in under a second. Loading a reasonably large PDF of about 3 MB only made it bounce once more. While running, the program ran quick and responsively.

We don’t know how Adobe pulled this one off, but this is one bit of tight programming going on here.

Recommendation and How To Buy

We were pleased with a great deal about Acrobat 9 Pro. The new tools can potentially provide a great deal of value to creators and collaborators. The PDF Portfolio enables more impressive sharing and promotion, and collaboration with the new tools is easier than ever before.

We feel that Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro could well become an indispensable tool to designers and creators all over, and recommend that everyone who can, check into upgrading. You’re really missing out if you don’t.

Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro has a street price of $159 for the upgrade and $449 for the full product. It requires a minimum of Windows XP on a 1.3 GHz or faster processor or Mac OS X 10.4.11 on a G4 or better PowerPC or Intel Mac. Complete details can be found at Adobe’s Acrobat site.

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