High-end PDF creation

Confusion reigns about Acrobat. Many people mistakenly believe that 'Acrobat' refers to the free PDF (portable document format) reader that's supplied with many applications. In fact, that product is known simply as Adobe Reader. It's easy to see how the mix-up came about: in the past Adobe used to call this program Acrobat Reader.

Using Acrobat Professional 8.0, PDFs can be created from a range of document types and merged into a single continuous document that you scroll through sequentially like a book, complete with page numbers, or used as a repository for all sorts of research elements. These can be extrapolated so specific chapters, paragraphs or illustrations are included in the PDF without having to chop out and reference items by hand. Office applications retain their attributes when saved as Acrobat PDFs. Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes emails can also be fi led and combined in this way, using a built-in tool called PDFMaker.

Since a PDF is in essence a snapshot of another document with both fonts and graphics embedded within it, it's ideal for publishing work. Supply a layout as a PDF and the printer has an exact copy of how the pages ought to look typographically, as well as image- and colour-wise. And having an electronic proof is an invaluable fallback if things should go wrong and you have to make a claim for shoddy workmanship.

This latter aspect is what makes Acrobat Pro useful for many tasks besides creating PDFs for their own sake. As a fixed, non-editable document, PDFs are a fantastic way of publishing lengthy reports and other important documents on the Web or a company intranet. They can be compressed to very small file sizes, downloaded on demand and encrypted to make them tamperproof.

This makes them far and away more useful than a word-processed document. You can prevent others being able to copy-and-paste text, graphics or both, making plagiarism and copyright theft far harder. You can encrypt PDFs for sending via email as well as locking up the document itself.

This means that PDFs can be invaluable in all sorts of scenarios such as legal offices, architectural practices and design agencies, as well as governmental, educational establishments and for public bodies.

Acrobat is extensible, so you can embed page, keyword and section links and include hyperlinks to online and offline Web pages and other documents. Acrobat works well, for instance, with Flash - another big gun in the Adobe arsenal.

It's useful for collaborative projects too. PDFs can be shared around a team with everyone invited to add comments, corrections and other input directly on to the document, or as footnotes that others can selectively see and add their own feedback.

Version 8.0 includes Start Meeting. With this you can share the same work screen with others as you collaborate via a Web-conferencing session. For advanced Microsoft Office users, there's the option of using Share-Point, too. Acrobat's Live-Cycle Designer allows you to create forms for online research purposes as well as standard day-to-day form filling. There are also templates for expense claim forms and purchase ledgers, and letter-based documents requesting a job quote.

You can import your own standard forms. We were quickly able to edit the Customer satisfaction survey template for our sample startup company to solicit feedback on how well our first few customers had found our performance.

For users needing to digitise and archive documents using a scanner, create secure, extensible electronic documents, produce professional marketing documents and other publications plus automate form and questionnaire creations, Acrobat 8.0 Pro will be a good fit. However, not everyone will require its full arsenal of electronic document-creation and management tools.