7.0 Professional allows you to convert files to portable document format (PDF). This
format's primary advantages are platform independence and preserving the appearance
of your document. For example, if you distribute a Word document, you may find that
its appearance changes due to the fonts that are present or absent on the recipients'
individual computers. This can affect the appearance and feel of the document or
the pagination resulting in unwanted page breaks. With PDF, you can be confident
that what you publish will look the way you want it to.
Compared to its glamorous sisters, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and GoLive, you
may find Acrobat relatively dowdy - instead of creating magical, colorful or flashy
documents, it merely converts files generated elsewhere to PDF. But wait a minute
- try to imagine your life without PDF! We'd have multiple competing standards for
documents each of which could require a separate reading program, and even if they
were all free like Acrobat Reader it would still be a very tiresome situation. On
the other hand, Mac OS X can print directly to PDF just as easily as to a printer,
so why should anyone pay money for Acrobat Professional? Let's see...
- 500 MHz PowerPC G4
- Mac OS X 10.2.6 and
- 512 MB RAM (1 GB
- 500 MB available
- iMac 17" 800Mhz
- iMac 17" 1 Ghz
Installation places Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Professional, Acrobat Distiller 7.0 and Acrobat
Uninstaller in a folder in your applications folder; for some reason, you don't get
an up-to-date version of Adobe Reader. In addition, you get a new printer driver
and a new toolbar is added to Microsoft Office applications. (Acrobat Distiller,
not covered in this review, is a companion application for converting postscript
files to PDF.)
The change to your Print dialog adds the Adobe PDF 7.0 option to your list of printer
Adobe PDF 7.0 print drive
The printer driver's
Adobe PDF Settings dropdown lists contain the following options:
Adobe PDF - Print Dialog Options
PDF/A is an ISO standard for archiving PDF files while PDF/X is a standard for exchanging
PDFs - in both cases the PDF must pass a compliance check which generates a text
log that you can read after you create a PDF to that standard. You would use one
of these settings if compliance with these standards was required in your work environment.
Otherwise your choice of option will depend on your requirements for accuracy and
file size. This is explored in detail later in the review.
Integration with Microsoft Office
Here is the new Office toolbar - the left button creates a PDF from the document
you have open, the right button does the same and places it as an attachment in a
PDF Office Toolbar
Creating a PDF from a Word file
I created a small document containing 3 levels of structured headings in Microsoft
Word and capriciously added a 2.4 MB image of my dog without any consideration of
the needs of the eventual audience for print quality versus download speed.
Here is how the resulting 2.6 MB document looks in Microsoft Word - note the document
map on the left which shows you the three levels of headings.
Document in Microsoft Word
I created a PDF from
this Word file using the built-in Mac OS X capability and each of the Adobe options.
I named each resulting PDF file according to the creation method and sorted them
by size, largest first. Here is a snapshot of the Finder window showing all the files
including the Word original:
Various PDF output test
All methods produced
a file that looked correct and was readable online. However, as you can see, the
built in Mac OS X PDF saving did a poor job with regards to file size - the PDF was
4 times the size of the Word original. The higher quality Acrobat settings produced
a file approximately the same size as the original, but the standard and smallest
file size options produced relatively tiny files that still looked good on screen.
The difference between 11.1 MB and 96 KB is huge when you consider download times
And now for the crushing disappointment of the whole exercise. Bookmarks, just like
the Word document map illustrated above, allow you to navigate a long document and
read it online without printing it. I knew that the Mac OS X PDF print would not
create hierarchical bookmarks from the Word heading styles. I was dumbfounded to
discover that Acrobat 7.0 "Professional" for Mac OS X will not do this
The Windows version includes the Adobe PDFmaker application which offers a window
allowing you to define which Word styles become bookmarks: this function is entirely
absent in the Mac OS version.
Worse still, the help for Acrobat appears to be written for both Mac and Windows
versions and rather than coming out clean and saying the Mac version doesn't do automatic
bookmarking, the help evades the issue in a manner that leaves discovery of the awful
truth in the hands of the hapless user.
As if that wasn't bad enough, what about the usability principle of removing rather
than graying out a control if there is no action the user can take to enable the
control? There is a bookmarks tab option menu in the Windows version called "New
Bookmarks from Structure". In Windows, the option is enabled and creates bookmarks
from your document's structured headings. In the Mac version, this menu entry is
permanently disabled. The only thing I could do to enable it would be to buy a PC,
Windows and Acrobat 7.0 Professional for Windows.
Acrobat "New Bookmarks from Structure" - permanently disabled
If your profession
involves creation of long, highly structured text documents, Adobe Acrobat for Windows
does allow a professional user to make a professional PDF, whereas the Mac version
does not. With the Mac version of Acrobat, you can create bookmarks manually. Here's
how: you pick through the PDF document line by line, selecting each heading and turning
it into a bookmark using the Add Bookmark option from the context menu or the cmd-B
shortcut. That gives you a top - level bookmark for each heading. Next you need to
drag each bookmark to nest it into its proper level in the hierarchy. This took a
couple of minutes for my 5 page document - imagine how tiresome it would be to do
it for a 100 page document, and redo it every time the original was changed.
Creating a PDF from multiple files
With the Acrobat option to create a PDF from multiple files, you can select a bunch
of files and hey presto, now you have one PDF with each file bookmarked. If the files
are photos, you can set slideshow options and play the slideshow in Acrobat. As well
as photos, this option can take in PDFs, HTML files, text files and more but not
unconverted Word files. If the PDF files are bookmarked then the bookmarks appear
under their parent document.
This is particularly useful for situations where multiple files form a larger document
and you want to be able to search the whole document.
Although there are tools to add text, drawn objects and form fields to the page,
you always need a starting point, which can be a file, a web page, something imported
from your scanner or the contents of your clipboard - but it can't be nothing. There
is no "File New" in Acrobat.
Commenting and Reviewing
The premise of Acrobat's Commenting and Reviewing features are that you would generate
your original document, let's say in Word, convert it to a PDF using Acrobat and
then send it out to your team for review using Acrobat or, if you choose, Adobe Reader.
For a Word original, I am already at odds with the whole concept. It's good to be
able to prevent a document from being changed when it's out for review. But eventually,
you want to be able to accept or reject the revisions to the original. I don't see
the point of being able to comment on the PDF, since it would take extra work to
get the comments into the original Word document. (Acrobat for Windows can do that
extra work - the Mac version apparently can't.)
Of course, if your PDF document isn't generated from Word but from an application
that has no commenting features, or perhaps from a group of files from different
applications, then the capability to work collaboratively to review and finish the
PDF is tremendously useful. Acrobat allows an author to circulate a document for
review using email or a browser, allows the reviewers to highlight, underline and
cross out text in a PDF as well add comments, stamp the document just like you would
with a rubber stamp on paper, and finally allows the author to view and work with
all the comments. Here is the window showing some of the commenting capabilities
(as well as hand-created bookmarks):
Acrobat PDF version of Word document
It's worth noting that the "diane" marking the author of the comments in
the tab at the bottom of the above screenshot comes from my Mac OS X short user name
and can't be changed in Acrobat. The "Diane J Love" in the "Reviewed"
stamp above the comments tab is populated from my OS X long user name but can be
changed in Acrobat.
While Mac Acrobat offers the capability to navigate the layers in a layered PDF,
I have been unable to find any way of creating a layered PDF using Acrobat on the
Mac. Layered PDFs can be created by Windows users from Windows Autocad or Visio files.
I was unable to create a layered PDF from a layered Photoshop file; my attempts to
create layered PDFs from layered InDesign and Illustrator files also failed, even
when I tried to export from Illustrator to Autocad and turn the resulting file into
Support for forms is another area where Acrobat for Mac OS X provides the basics
but seems to lag behind the Windows version. The help on this topic is frustratingly
bad; at every turn, it extols the virtues of the Windows version's added application,
Adobe Designer; it totally fails to explain how forms in a PDF work; it doesn't even
discuss the forms tools that are available in plain old Acrobat-without-Adobe-Designer.
The user interface also has some deficiencies - the menu options for actually adding
form fields won't be found under the Forms Tasks toolbar button, nor under the Advanced
-> Forms cascade menu. Instead you have to know to look under Tools -> Advanced
The essential fact that you have to grasp about form fields in Mac OS X Acrobat is,
they really have nothing to do with the underlying document. It's like they're on
a clear plexiglass layer on top of the document. Trying to set up form fields in
the original document (e.g. Word) is a waste of time - all you need is the field
You will be able to create form fields, define validation, perform arithmetical calculations
to a spreadsheet.
For some time, the PDF medium has lagged behind the web in offering accessibility
to people with disabilities. In order to be accessible via assistive technology such
as the screen readers used by blind people, the information in a document must be
available as text.
This is a more subtle problem than just supplying alternate text for each picture
or graphic. Semantic information, such as "this document consists of a main
section called "Sporting" with subsections called "Spaniels",
"Retrievers", "Setters" and "Pointers"..." is
conveyed visually by text size and presentation; to make it available via a screen
reader, this semantic information must be tagged, in a very similar way to the heading
styles in a Word document. Also, text must be tagged to state what language it is
in - otherwise how will the screen reader know how to pronounce it?
The big surprise here is that Acrobat had no difficulty tagging all the headings
in my test Word file; it didn't need me to manually apply bookmarks first. It reported
that I hadn't supplied an alternate text for the picture or stated the language.
I was able to supply the alternate text for the figure and the only difficulty I
had defining the language was the absence of "dog latin" in the list of
available alternatives. Acrobat can also speak a document aloud to check how a screen
reader might render it.
Partially sighted people may use a high screen magnification, and consequently have
difficulty following a complex newspaper style layout. Acrobat allows the PDF author
to define the articles on the page in a manner that makes them accessible as a list
to the reader.
All in all then, Acrobat provides a set of tools that you will find useful if you
are a conscientious provider of accessible PDF documents.
Owning Acrobat breaks the paradigm of a PDF file being an immutable plexiglass-clad
look-but-don't-touch copy of a document. Once Acrobat is installed on your machine,
the hitherto harmless act of double clicking a PDF for read-only access now fires
up Acrobat and gives you the capability break into that PDF and do things to it,
whether accidentally or deliberately. The same goes for other Acrobat users who obtain
Acrobat provides features to control what other people can do with your document
both in Acrobat and in Adobe Reader; for example you can:
- define a password
to be entered in order to open the document;
- define a permissions
password to restrict printing, editing and changing the document's security settings;
- create a digital
ID or use a digital ID created elsewhere to certify approval of a document's content;
- define security policies
to store frequently used security settings and apply them to documents.
7 Professional for Mac OS X is capable of producing PDFs with a variety of optimizations
for smallest file size, high print quality or standards compatibility; it has valuable
features for making PDFs accessible, making one PDF from multiple files, creating
forms, collaborative commenting, annotation and reviewing and security. Frustratingly,
it lacks important features compared to its Windows equivalent, but costs the same,
$449 as a standalone package. The most unbelievable deficiency for the review team,
who are familiar with the Windows version, is its inability to generate bookmarks
from headings in Microsoft Word files; this is an essential task in producing a usable
PDF of a large technical document. It's also disappointing that the help describes
features only available in the Windows version and that menu items for functions
that are absent in the Mac OS X version are present but permanently disabled. It's
difficult to recommend Acrobat 7 Pro as a stand alone product at it's retail price
and it's current lack of features. As apart of the CS2 bundle, however, it is a nice
tool to have, and the only tool, really, for creating efficient PDFs on the Mac.
- capable of producing
tiny PDFs from large documents
- features for creating
and checking accessible PDFs
- create one PDF from
multiple source files, adding headers and footers
- create interactive
- comments, reviewing
and graphic annotations
- can't generate bookmarks
from heading styles in Microsoft Word documents
- help describes features
that are only available in the Windows version
- can't create layered
PDFs from Mac OS X available file formats
- menu items for functions
which are absent in Mac OS X version are present and permanently disabled
2 1/2 out of 5 Mice