What’s this baby got under the hood? Based upon the new PDF specification version 1.5, Acrobat 6.0 comes in a couple of different versions, from an enhanced Adobe Reader for the free browsing and printing of PDF files, to the full-blown Acrobat 6.0 Professional, which includes all prepress and media/collaborative markup tools available. Collaborative markup and approval tools have been greatly enhanced in the new version, and will be of interest to publishers and content creators as a means to communicate amongst themselves in the production stages of PDF documents.
The new professional version has ability to utilise and manipulate layers in PDF files, separate PDF files (and preview separations) in Acrobat natively, and flatten transparent PDF elements upon printing, just to name a few noteworthy new features. Preflighting tools based upon those of Callas Software’s PDF preflighting history are also implemented natively in Acrobat 6.0 The software comes pre-loaded with a number of profiles for numerous media.
There is a new Distiller with 6.0 Professional, which of course can distill PDF 1.5 compliant files, in addition to implementing One Button PDF creation tools for Microsoft Office and web-browsers.
The new version of Acrobat is a program that is designed around modern operating systems. Mac OS 9 is not supported, and requires 10.2 or later on the Mac. Windows requires an NT class machine or newer, so if you need to run Acrobat Professional and have an older workstation, it is time to go shopping for a new CPU first. The lack of support of Mac OS 9.0 is already causing a stir among many graphic-professional users, many of whom are not running OS X, and are being forced to upgrade to take advantage of many of the new features of Acrobat 6.0.
Is that all? Some of the new features that should pique the interest of the prepress industry are Acrobat 6.0’s native settings for the generation of prepress standard PDF files such as PDF/X1a, and PDF/X3, as well as a fully functional JDF Job Ticket functionality. This is a sign that Adobe is getting serious about PDF being a true workflow product for the prepress industry. This is the first time JDF functionality has been implemented by Adobe themselves, having been the domain of the systems vendors up until now. With 6.0, JDF is brought to any user of Acrobat Professional, which will serve to greatly broaden the user-base which is able to utilise JDF in their workflows. I look to see that JDF will become much more ubiquitous as Acrobat 6.0 becomes the norm. Adobe just quadrupled the number of users who could produce and edit JDF-based documents by adding that feature natively.
The elegance of software that has had ten years to evolve is evident in numerous features and functions of Acrobat 6.0. I found the Print dialogue particularly interesting in its ability to provide a thumbnail preview of the job to be printed. (No more guessing if the file will fit on the paper as configured.) This, as well as applications consistency between the layer features of Acrobat, and other Adobe applications means that there is a lot to be familiar with if you know other Adobe applications, and a subsequently small learning-curve. I found myself chuckling at some of the slick new features when I first got a look at 6.0, and there are so many new features that almost weekly now, I find some new and interesting feature. Acrobat has grown into a mature, and professional product from the humblest of beginnings at Adobe. It is just a matter of time before you get a PDF/X file from 6.0 (PDF version 1.5.)
The uses of PDF files are so varied, that it can be difficult to say which features of Acrobat 6.0 are the best or killer new features in a brief article. The beauty of PDF is that it truly can be all things to all people. Most users will not care or wonder what a PDF/X file is, and that is something that we tend to forget. We think that we are the most important users to a company like Adobe, when in reality, we are probably more trouble than we are worth. We (prepress/printing) have a lot of issues that are not easily resolved, and we complain incessantly about why it did not separate, or handle spot colors, or bounding boxes etc. It has taken ten years for Acrobat to mature to the level of a truly complete application, from the idea of a file-format such as it has. While not perfect, 6.0 is the most significant update to Acrobat since 3.0. I am encouraged with the inclusion of JDF tools as well as transparency, layers, and prepress-specific tools and features. Adobe has been listening to what was problematic with our industry, and has done an admirable job at bringing solutions to market. There are always users who want more features, and there will always be updates to address them. Discussing that however will have to wait for Acrobat 7.0. AP
Chris Heric is a US-based prepress consultant. He specialises in the area of PDF and is the track chairman for the PDF for print Conference at Seybold.
Contact Chris Heric via email: firstname.lastname@example.org