Acrobat 4.0, by Adobe
Posted: 10-June-2001

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Adobe Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Adobe Acrobat software lets you convert any document to an Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) file. Anyone can open your document across a broad range of hardware and software, and it will look exactly as you intended - with layout, fonts, links, and images intact.

The typical use of Adobe Acrobat is to convert a document from another format (such as from a word document, page layout document, web page, or any other format that allows you to print) into a PDF document. This is done quite easily by going to the Chooser, switching the print device to Acrobat PDFWriter, and then choosing to print the document from within the design application. The document is automatically converted to a PDF file, with options to view immediately and include authorship information.

The conversion feature alone is worth a lot, as it provides a method to share a document without having to worry about what the receiving person might have on their computer. All they need is Acrobat Reader, and if they don't already have it (which would be unusual), it's a free download from the web.

Some of the more powerful features of Acrobat are the features availabe from the Acrobat application. Acrobat allows you to open up a PDF document, and perform various edits and optimizations on the file. You can optimize the PDF document for viewing on a computer screen, printing to an inkjet or laser printer, or perform pre-press optimizations.

The stuff that I found fun were the features for manipulating the document. Acrobat is able to interpret text so that you can edit text, change the font, color, size, and much more. The best part is its font simulation so that fonts are displayed correctly whether or not the recipient of the document has that font installed on their system or not. For fine adjustments, you can move both text and objects, and you can crop the document. Acrobat also includes tools for highlighting text and drawing lines.

The more interesting tools, however, are the interactives ones, such as inserting video or audio, creating live web links and e-mail links, or creating little notes (such that you click on the note icon when viewing, and a small window pops up with information that you entered). It also includes a nify Form tool that allows you to create forms just like on a web page.

Acrobat includes a lot of import and export functionality as well. You can import data directly from a scanner (provided you have the plug-in installed), from graphics images, text, other PDF documents, and form data. It provides export of annotations, form data, and postscript.

Acrobat also comes with Acrobat Distiller, a nifty little utility that converts postscript files to PDF. For years I've had postscript versions of some old ISO Standards that I have been wanting to convert to documents, but there's way too much text to type it all in. I ran the document through Distiller, and it immediately converted it to PDF. While that was a great leap forward, due to the age of the postscript file, the quality was still lacking. I tried using the text tools in Acrobat to adjust the font view, but that didn't work. It recognized the objects as being text, but assigned them T fonts (temporary fonts which I was unable to change to another font). I was, however, able to select all the text, and then paste the text into a Word document. It did a really decent job of translating the text. There was some text conversion loss due to form control interpretations (e.g., every occurrence of "ff" and "ffi" were translating to a non printable character, but using Word's replace function, I was able to fix relatively easily). In Word, there was quite a bit of formatting that I needed to do, but a year ago I would have never dreamed I would have gotten this far with a postscript file.

Besides the inability to get the fonts recognized within Acrobat and preserve formatting of a postscript file, I didn't have any other problems with the software. It worked great, and did everything else that I needed it to do. There appears to be features advertised for the Windows version which don't appear to be implemented in the Mac version, but since I don't use Windows, I didn't feel the pain until I read about it.

Not having used Acrobat 3, I could not say whether the upgrade to Acrobat 4 is a big enough step to shell out $99, but for the Distiller and the font simulation and font manipulation, I would say that it's well worth it. The full version cost, however, seemed a bit steep to me. For the pre-press professionals, I can see it being worth the cost, but for us average users, it would be nice to see a version without the pre-press functionality at a lesser price.


  • Easy and fast conversion to PDF
  • Powerful font manipulation of PDF text
  • Font simulation that displays fonts whether font exists on computer
  • Distiller application for converting postscript files to PDF


  • Text manipulation did not work with postscript converted PDF files
  • Mac version lacked some of the Windows features
  • A lower price model without pre-press support would benefit average users

Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice