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Software Review of:
Adobe Acrobat
Glad I Didn't Finish that Review


K. Joyce McDonald is a self-employed Technical Writer now celebrating her tenth anniversary as a PC Alamode columnist.

From the January, 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Alamode frequently produces issues dealing with utilities. I don’t use many utilities in my line of work or play. In the course of planning my articles for this magazine, I try to make notes about any utilities I do use so that I can write about them when the need arises. 

In early June of this year, I made the following commentary in my “Future Column” notes regarding a utility that I did use fairly frequently:

Adobe Acrobat — Utility from Hell

I have been a technical writer for ten years now, and one of the constants in my career has been my growing distaste for Adobe Acrobat. Yes, you can tell me all the great things that it does and how it makes it possible to print documents just as they were created, and how you can share documents across platforms. I still hate it.

Acrobat is the only program that I have on my computer because I'm forced to have it. Otherwise, I would never allow anyone to install it. It is also the only program that, when opened (often against my will by an unfortunate click on a Web page) it causes my computer to reboot.

Being in job search mode of late, since I was laid off in March, this happens quite often. The result: If my computer reboots, I cross that prospective employer off my list. I'm sure this causes no loss of sleep for prospective employers. But someday, when the job market picks up, I'll remember those dorks that forced me to download the application from hell and politely hang up when they call.

Boy, am I glad I didn’t finish that article.

In my most recent contract, I used Acrobat and PDF Writer extensively, and have to admit that I have gained a grudging admiration for the product, the company and the way it is marketed. But what has changed is not just my attitude. Acrobat 5.0 is a completely different animal from the older versions (4.something and lower) that I previously despised.

My biggest objection to Acrobat came from the fact that opening an Acrobat window caused Windows 98 to crash, especially if I had Windows Explorer running when Acrobat opened. Since many Websites don’t warn you that clicking a link will open Acrobat, I wasted a lot of time reopening Windows 98 and my other programs on my old, slow computer.

I have not had such difficulties with the newer version of Acrobat on either my old slow computer or my fast new Windows XP laptop. What has intrigued me, however, is an option within the Acrobat Tools menu, called Create PDF Online. This feature has that “Why didn’t I think of that” quality I previously reserved for Amazon.com and Post-it notes.

For those of us who require PDF Writer both to make printing more predictable and to protect source documents, this feature is a lifeline, a lifeline that is available free of charge for the first five uses. After that, you choose your weapon: $9.99 monthly, $99.99 annually, full version $249 or $99 for an upgrade.

The process is quite simple, offering you several options for file creation, security and delivery of the finished product. To start the process, select Create PDF Online from the Acrobat tools menu (or log into the Website if you don’t have Acrobat.) The first time you use it, you must create a login ID and Password and use it for subsequent PDF creations.

Once logged in successfully, you click the “Select a File” link, and click the “Browse” button. The file window allows you to choose a file to open on your local machine before clicking “Continue.” The upload process presents a progress gauge, and takes a while, even with a broadband connection. My 3 megabyte Word file took about five minutes via cable modem. The actual conversion is done later and delivered to you according to your preference.

Once the file is uploaded, you set the conversion options. Optimization options include Web, eBook, Screen, Print and Press. You can choose PDF compatibility to allow your new file to be opened with any version from 3.0 to 5.0. You can select a page range to convert, the default being the entire document. Security options include No Security, Printing 40 Bit and No Printing 128 bit. You can also choose the delivery method, including e-mailing a link or an attachment or allowing you to return later to download the file from your personal conversion history location. When the conversion is finished, a Web page displays the file statistics in your browser.

I have used up my trial membership and am now ready to select from one of the paying options. With the paid version, I hope to get an upgraded Acrobat that allows me to put “sticky notes” onto a PDF file. Who would have dreamed that I would ever pay money for Acrobat?

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