Wired reports that the upcoming version of Adobe Acrobat Reader — the free version of its authoring software that lets folk read the resulting Portable Document Format, or PDF files — will let “users make comments or editing changes for the first time, if the original creator of the document uses Acrobat 7.0 and authorizes it”.
A more carefully worded version is on Adobe’s website that says that “when enabled by Acrobat 7.0 Professional authors, you can now leverage robust commenting tools and actively participate in document reviews.” What “leverage” means here is anyone’s guess, but it sounds like a weasel word that doesn’t quite mean “access” or “use”. (Interestingly, a longer piece on the PDF Zone makes no mention of this feature.)
Still, if true this is a great idea and long overdue, and while Adobe claims, Wired says, that it’s part of a “larger goal to turn Acrobat into a flexible platform for assembling documents from beginning to end, making it a more useful collaboration tool among workgroups”, it probably has as much to do with the burgeoning industry of third party tools that let folk make and alter Adobe documents quickly and more cheaply than the Adobe Acrobat authoring program allows ($450 for the Pro version, $300 for the Standard edition). If you want everyone in an organisation to use PDF, you can’t expect them all to shell out several hundred bucks just to add a few comments to a document as it passes their desk. (Check out my list of alternative Acrobat software.)
I’m a fan of Acrobat but hate the price, and also the interface, particularly the menus, which look like they’ve been put together by Martians. Adobe is apparently addressing that too, collapsing menu structures, according to TechSpot, “so you don’t have to go out through lots of different hierarchies”. Hear, hear.
I can well understand that Acrobat is great for pushing documents through organisations where lots of people need to throw in their tuppennies’ worth. But I guess for most people what is really needed is a three stage process: a good, clean, intuitive editing environment, a good, clean intuitive commenting environment, and a straightforward document lock-down, where the final document looks the same on all computers, all printers but can, where relevant, be easily accessed and the contents copied and pasted elsewhere. To be honest, I’ve never found any of these stages particularly easy with Acrobat. Is it just me?