Adobe Opens The Door A Crack?

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?

Going To PDF And Back

Here’s a list of services and products that create documents in Adobe’s Acrobat “Portable Document Format” (PDF). (Much of this is drawn from Merle’s article on WebProNews)

(This list will be expanded on and updated at loose wire cache, this blog’s more permanent library.)

Software to convert files to PDF

Software that creates PDF files from other files:

PDFMoto: A Web publishing system that converts documents you create in any Windows application into PDF. They offer several different versions, so pricing varies, but they do offer a free version that is limited to 50 documents.

PDF995 : Free software that allows you to create PDF documents as easily as hitting the “print” key from within any application. The free version has an advertising splash page that comes up everytime you run the program but you can purchase “keys” for $9.95 each to remove them if they bother you.

Txt2PDF: a Perl 5 program that converts your old text docs to PDF format. Runs on any platform that supports Perl. From $40.

Gymnast: freeware text to PDF creator for Windows.

CutePDF Printer: totally free. This software has no annoying ads or banners. Choose print from within any application to create a PDF instantly.

Win2PDF: Windows NT, Win 2000 or XP. From $35 to $70.

PDFCreator: an open-source project on, installing as a printer driver. (Thanks cmswire for this one, and pointing to the original story.)

pdfFactory: quite advanced PDF creator, including multiple documents into one PDF, preview and font embedding.

Suites that include PDF conversion

The following office suites include PDF printing as part of the standard package:



WordPerfect Office 11

Other products, such as PaperPort ($100 to $200) and PaperMaster Pro ($200) will allow you to scan or convert a file to PDF as part of the program’s overall document management system.

Online Services

Services that

Adobe Look in the left hand column for the button that says “create PDF online.” You can create up to five documents free; after that you’ll need to pay $10 a month or $100 per year for unlimited usage.

GoBlc Free online conversion service that will email you the results.

Software to convert PDF files

Software that turns an Acrobat file into something you can edit in another program

PDFConverter: converts PDF to Microsoft Word (this won’t work with scanned image PDF files) ($50)

OmniPage: converts any kind of PDF file into an Office document; will also scan or convert an existing document into PDF ($600).