Acrobat 5, by Adobe
Posted: 26-Sep-2003

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Adobe Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Craig Ehrlich Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Adobe Acrobat is a program that genarates 'portable' documents, meaning documents that can be emailed, posted on the web, distributed on CD-ROM or other media for viewing or printing applications in what Adobe calls "portable document format", or PDF format.

How useful Acrobat can be for you really boils down to two things:

  1. The type of work you do on your computer
  2. The precision you require for the projects you work on

Acrobat's really dominates its competition because Adobe not only designed the program, it also designed the file format. Not to be confused with Acrobat Reader (which only views PDF documents), Acrobat 5 generates PDF formatted documents, allows you to edit them, and includes a host of great features.

Text and graphic editing tools:

  • Text editing
  • Text re-formatting
  • Text addition
  • Simple vector-based shape and line creation

NOTE: Text editing features require that the PDF file actually have text to edit.

Navigational tools:

  • Creating bookmark links within the file
  • Creating thumbnail links, big and small
  • Creating clickable buttons within the file
  • Creating an link-based outline of your document

Most of Acrobat's features are located in it's toolbar. The toolbar has an Adobe-palette feel to it. This familiarity helps users to become comfortable with this program.

The bookmark, outline link and thumbnail views are all docked on the left side of the screen. In the viewer program, these view options give you alternate ways of accessing PDF files, and is especially useful when they are lengthy and complex.

Acrobat's strength lies in how it generates the PDF document. It does it by capturing the poscript file created when printing from another software program, and then converts it into a PDF file. Basically, any program you are able to print from can create an Acrobat file. Now, how good a file is created varies by the program, although most programs are able do a fine job generating a PDF.

One notable program that did not generate high quality PDF files was VirtualPC. For some reason, the PDF documents came out at low resolution. Word, Internet web pages, etc., all performed very well, creating nice cross-platform files.

Creating PDF Documents
This is the magic of the Adobe Acrobat program. Most users will use Acrobat to create PDF files to send to others and use in their printing and on-line projects. Acrobat provides users two printer drivers to create your PDF documents: Distiller and PDFWriter. Each is designed for different users.

Distiller gives you a large number of options to control your PDF output. It is your 'machine shop' to manage your output, whether it will be designed for print, on-line posting or publishing. With it you can control the types of text, line art and graphic compressions, font embedding options, and more.

PDFWriter is a more user-friendly driver. It simplifies the output without overwhelming the non-technical user with complex options. To top it off , it includes the most useful output options.

When it comes to PDF creation, Acrobat does have some competition. A few other programs also create PDF files. One of them, Print2PDF, is a $20 shareware application, and it gives you many of the options of PDFWriter, but without the extras of the complete Acrobat program. This is a viable option for users who don't want or need to fiddle with a PDF file after creating them. Likewise, OS X's PDF output capabilities appear to be even more simplistic, but also lacking the full features of PDF editing contained within Acrobat 5.

Acrobat 5 is a fantastic program with a lot of nice touches to fashion really useful electronic manuals, brochures, simple presentations for on-line and print uses. The program's usefulness increases given that the PDF format is a worldwide standard being used and viewed by just about everyone, using Adobe's Acrobat Reader and web plug-ins.

I recommend this program as a definite asset to anyone's software toolbox. The gems of this product are Distiller and PDFWriter. If all you want is to create PDF files, then Print2PDF may be enough for you and easier on the wallet. However, if you want to manipulate those PDF files, or would like more extensive options during the creation process, then Acrobat 5 is the tool to use.


  • Easy to use
  • Many features and powerful options
  • Works with most programs that can print


  • High price tag (many of its features are more than what an average Mac user will use)

Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice