Adobe Acrobat 5

[DTP Reviews]
[Vector Reviews]
[Bitmap Reviews]
[Web Reviews]
[3D Reviews]

[3ds max 6]
[3DSOM Pro ]
[Acrobat 7]
[Acrobat 6]
[Acrobat 5]
[Acrobat 4]
[Acrobat 3]
[Acrobat Capture 2]
[Advanced Render 2.5]
[Articulate Presenter 5]
[AutoEye 2]
[AutoEye 1]
[Bryce 5.5]
[Camtasia Studio]
[Canvas X]
[Canvas 9]
[Canvas 8]
[Canvas 7]
[Canvas 6]
[Canvas 5]
[Captivate 1]
[Carrara 5 / Pro]
[Carrara 4 / Pro]
[Carrara Studio 3]
[Cinema 4D 9.5]
[Cinema 4D 9]
[Cinema 4D 8.5]
[ColorDrive 1.5]
[CompuPic Pro 6]
[CompuPic Pro 5]
[Contribute 2]
[Corel Designer 12]
[Corel Designer 10]
[Designer 9]
[Designer 1/8]
[CorelDraw X3]
[CorelDraw 12]
[CorelDraw 11]
[CorelDraw 10]
[CorelDraw 9]
[CorelDraw 8]
[CorelDraw Office 9]
[CorelDraw Premium 9]
[Creative Suite 2]
[Creative Suite 1]
[Deep Exploration 3]
[Deep Paint 2]
[Deep Paint 3D 2]
[Digital Image Suite 9]
[Director MX]
[Director 8.5]
[Director 8]
[DreamSuite 1]
[Dreamweaver 8]
[Dreamweaver MX 2004]
[Dreamweaver MX]
[DrawPlus 8]
[Expression 3]
[Expression 2]
[Eye Candy 4000]
[Fireworks 8 ]
[Fireworks MX 2004]
[Fireworks MX]
[Fireworks 4]
[Fireworks 3]
[Fireworks 2]
[Fireworks 1]
[Flash Professional 8]
[Flash MX Pro 2004]
[Flash MX 2004]
[Flash MX]
[Flash 5]
[Flash 4]
[Flash 3]
[FlashCom MX]
[Flightcheck 3]
[Flix Pro]
[Fontographer 4.1]
[FrameMaker 6]
[FrameMaker 5.5]
[FreeHand MX]
[FreeHand 10]
[FreeHand 9]
[FreeHand  8]
[FrontPage 2003]
[FrontPage 2002]
[FotoFusion 3]
[Generator 1]
[Genetica 2]
[Genuine Fractals 3.5]
[Genuine Fractals]
[GoLive CS2]
[GoLive CS]
[GoLive 6]
[GoLive 5]
[Headline Studio 1]
[Illustrator CS2]
[Illustrator CS]
[Illustrator 10]
[Illustrator 9]
[Illustrator 8]
[Illustrator 7]
[Image Doctor]
[InDesign CS2]
[InDesign CS]
[InDesign 2]
[InDesign 1]
[ImageReady 1]
[ImageStyler 1]
[Intellihance Pro 4]
[Intellihance 3]
[KnockOut 2]
[KnockOut 1.5]
[KPT 7]
[KPT 6]
[KPT 5]
[KPT 3]
[LiveMotion 2]
[LiveMotion 1]
[Mystical Lighting ]
[Mystical Tint]
[Namo WebEditor 5.5]
[NetObjects Fusion 7.5]
[OnOne Photoshop Suite]
[PageMaker 7]
[PageMaker 6.5+]
[PageMaker 6.5]
[PagePlus 6]
[PagePlus 5]
[PagePlus 4]
[Paint Shop Pro X ]
[Paint Shop Pro 9]
[Paint Shop Pro 8]
[Paint Shop Pro 7]
[Paint Shop Pro 6]
[Paint Shop Pro 5]
[Paint Shop Pro 4]
[PSP Album 5]
[PSP Studio]
[Painter IX]
[Painter 8]
[Painter 7]
[Painter 6]
[Painter 5.5]
[Painter 5]
[Painter 4]
[Painter Essentials 3]
[Photo Album 6]
[PhotoDeluxe BE]
[PhotoDraw 2000 2]
[PhotoDraw 2000 1]
[PhotoFrame 1]
[PhotoGraphics 1]
[PhotoImpact 11]
[PhotoImpact 10]
[PhotoImpact XL]
[PhotoImpact 8]
[PhotoImpact 6]
[PhotoImpact 5]
[PhotoImpact 4]
[PhotoImpact 3]
[Photo-Objects 2]
[PhotoPaint 8]
[Photoshop CS2]
[Photoshop CS]
[Photoshop 7]
[Photoshop 6]
[Photoshop 5.5]
[Photoshop 5]
[Photoshop 4]
[Photoshop Album 2]
[Photoshop Album]
[Ph/shop Elements 4]
[Ph/shop Elements 3]
[Ph/shop Elements 2]
[Photoshop Elements]
[PhotoSuite 7 ]
[PhotoSuite 5]
[PhotoSuite 4]
[PhotoSuite III]
[PhotoSuite II]
[PhotoTools 2]
[Picture Publisher 8]
[Piranesi 4 ]
[Piranesi 3]
[Portfolio 3]
[Poser 6]
[Poser 5]
[Poser Pro Pack]
[PrintOffice 2000]
[PrintOffice 1]
[PressReady 1]
[Publisher 2003]
[Publisher 2002]
[Publisher 2000]
[Publisher 98]
[Pxl SmartScale]
[QuarkXPress 6.5]
[QuarkXPress 6]
[QuarkXPress 5]
[QuarkXPress 4]
[Real-Draw Pro 3]
[Real Draw Pro 2]
[Sapphire Plug-ins]
[Satori 3]
[Satori 2.5]
[Sketch and Toon]
[SketchUp 5]
[SketchUp 4]
[SketchUp 3]
[SketchUp 2.1]
[SnagIt 6.2]
[Streamline 4]
[Studio 8]
[Studio MX 2004]
[Studio MX]
[Studio Pro 2 ]
[Swift 3D 4 ]
[Swift 3D 3]
[Swish 1]
[Swish 2]
[Test Strip 3]
[Texture Maker 2]
[Toon Boom Studio 3]
[Toon Boom Studio 1]
[Type Manager Deluxe]
[Vector Studio 2]
[Vector Studio 1]
[Ventura 10]
[Ventura 8]
[Ventura 7]
[Virtual Painter]
[Vue 5 Esprit]
[Vue 4 d'Esprit]
[Vue 5 Infinite]
[Vue 4 Professional]
[Web3D 2]
[Web3D 1]
[WebEasy Pro 5]
[WebPlus 8]
[Windows Draw 6]
[Windows Draw 5]
[Wright Design 1]
[Xara Xtreme]
[Xara X1]
[Xara X]
[Xara 2]
[Xara 1]
[Xara3D 6]
[Xara3D 5]
[Xenofex 2]
[Xfrog 3.5 / 4.x]
[XPress 6.5]
[XPress 6]
[XPress 5]
[XPress 4]
[xRes 2]

[Home / What's New]
[DTP / Publishing]
[Vector Drawing]
[Bitmap / Photo Editing]
[Web Design]
[3D Software]
[All Reviews]
[All Articles / Tutorials]
[Book Search / Shop]
[Site Map / Search]

you can help support the site with a direct donation or by shopping via the following links:


Thank you!



Minor improvements across the board and some important behind-the-scenes advances make Acrobat 5 an even stronger publishing platform.

At some time or other every computer user will have come across an Adobe Acrobat PDF (portable document format) file. The huge strength of PDF is that, using the Acrobat Reader application, anyone can view the document layout as it was designed with all fonts and images exactly as intended. Adobe provides the basic Reader for free but, if you want to create your own PDFs and make the most of your PDF-based workflows, you really need the full Acrobat program.

In many ways then the real heart of Acrobat is the bundled Distiller application that takes the PostScript output from any application and converts it to PDF. Under normal circumstances however this entire process is invisible, hidden by the Acrobat printer driver that makes creating your PDFs as simple as selecting the Print command. As such, the visible face of the Acrobat suite is the Acrobat application itself, a glorified, value-added version of the free Reader.

With version 5 this has seen a largely cosmetic overhaul to give the program a more Office-style feel. The biggest difference is that the previously vertical toolbar is now positioned horizontally and has been split into separate toolbars for controlling editing, commenting and so on. You can also expand drop-down buttons and drag toolbars onscreen as floating palettes. The Navigation panes have also seen some minor changes with automatic thumbnail and bookmark generation and a redesign that has moved command icons to the top of the panes.

In keeping with the new more corporate feel and focus, Acrobat 5 has been designed to work with network deployment tools to enable customisable installation to thousands of desktops across a network. The tight tie-in with Microsoft Office has also been deepened so that Word users will find a new Acrobat menu providing access to a new Convert to PDF command and even an option for converting and automatically emailing the resulting PDF.

Office integration is Acrobat 5's main focus.

One area that is particularly important to workgroups is security and Acrobat's existing password protection for opening and editing files has been expanded to offer far greater control. Using the new Document Security command with its Standard Security option you can precisely control what changes are allowed, such as commenting or form-filling, and also set whether printing is possible and to what quality. You can also choose between a new industrial-strength 128-bit encryption system or the backwardly-compatible 40-bit option.

Alternatively you can decide to base your security settings on a Self-Sign Security system of digital signatures. Acrobat provides an out-of-the-box Public-Private key solution along with support for third-party certificate providers such as Entrust and Verisign. Acrobat 5 now lets you email colleagues to exchange certificates and these can then be used as encryption keys so that only members of the circle can open the file. For legal contracts and other sensitive business documents this ability to tightly control who has access to a document is crucial.

Acrobat 5 also sees a significant revamp of its collaboration and review functionality. In fact the existing Comments tools are left unchanged, apart from the new ability to search and filter comments, but the underlying system is all new. Now, instead of passing the same file sequentially around the workgroup or having to pool comments from separate versions, it's possible to share comments on a single centrally-held master. The increase in efficiency, particularly when deadlines are tight, is enormous.

Document review can now be handled through a central Web-hosted file.

There's a slight snag in that you can't share comments directly from within Acrobat itself. Instead you must load your Internet browser to access the PDF and download and upload comments from there - though clearly this has major advantages too in terms of universal access. The good news is that the system works with a variety of standard protocols such as Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) and, if you don't already have a shared data repository, this is easy to set up via ODBC, Microsoft Office Server Extensions or as a shared network folder.

Apart from document review, the Web-hosted PDF also comes into its own for form processing. For the end user the most noticeable change here is the addition of a spell checker, but the real changes are behind the scenes. To begin with Acrobat 5 now adds new Calculate and Validate tabs to the Form Tool's dialog so that you can quickly total an expenses list or check an identity number without having to resort to Javascript.

For those who are happy programming, the most significant change is the ability to submit form data via the ODBC and XML protocols to tie in with back-end databases and processing systems. Most advanced of all is the ability to set up dynamic forms where, for example, entering that you have dependents generates new fields on the fly. Unlike the other form handling capabilities however, dynamic forms need the end user to be using the full Acrobat program rather than the free Reader so is only suitable for closed workgroups.

Another focus of Acrobat 5 is the ability to re-purpose content so that the PDF is not necessarily the end of the line (unless set as such for security reasons). Using the Export>Extract Images command you can now save all images above a given size to JPEG, PNG or TIFF. Alternatively, using the Save As command, you can save each page of your document to these formats or to PostScript or EPS. To keep your text editable you can save your document as RTF (rich text format) complete with much of its formatting.

Most of Acrobat 5's new features have a strong corporate bias, but Adobe hasn't forgotten the importance of PDF as the exchange medium for high-end designers. To begin with Acrobat now shares the same ACE (Adobe Colour Engine) as Photoshop 6 and Illustrator 9. With the same colour choices in each program this should ensure accurate and consistent colour throughout the design process. It also means that you can use the new View>Proof Colours command to simulate how your work will come out under different press conditions. There's also an OverPrint Preview option which uses composite colours to simulate the appearance of overprinted process and spot colours.

Acrobat's print capabilities have also been boosted with an all-new Print dialog. Amongst other improvements this lets you rotate and centre pages, override halftone settings and transfer functions and tile areas of an oversized page. In addition, with its support for the new 1.4 PDF format, Acrobat can now handle transparency in the same way as Illustrator 9 trading off vector-based quality against bitmap-based speed. Transparency support is undoubtedly a major step forward for Acrobat but even so, without a print preview or any imposition capabilities, Acrobat's print capabilities are still seriously underwhelming.

Print control has been improved.

The same is true of many of the remaining new features that Adobe is pushing. The program's existing Batch capability has been extended so that you can now apply virtually any function to a collection of PDFs. Pre-supplied options include printing, changing security and Web-optimizing. Also helping to squeeze the most out of your files is the new PDF Consultant tool which can be used to inspect, analyze and repair PDFs and strip out unused bookmarks, links and so on.

All very welcome but hardly exciting. There's nothing here to catch the eye like version 4's Web Capture capability for converting Web pages to PDF (though this has been extended with support for CSS and Javascript). Where's Acrobat 5's killer feature?

In fact the program does have rather more to offer than appears at first - much of it hidden away in the revamped Preferences dialog. To begin with, there's the Web Buy option which enables the easy licensing of downloadable copy-protected PDFs. There's also a new Distiller "eBook" default job setting which sits somewhere between the smallest Web-optimised "Screen" and the more workgroup-oriented "Print" options.

Going along with this new eBook drive are Acrobat's new accessibility features again available from the Preferences dialog. You can now override the colour scheme in a PDF to set your own text and background colours to improve readability. Alternatively, Acrobat now supports third-party screen readers which synthesize text into speech. Under the Display option is another major new feature that Adobe mysteriously seems to be downplaying - its support for CoolType. This is a sub-pixel colour aliasing system that improves the quality of text rendering - though only on LCD-based displays.

The biggest change of all though - and one that Adobe doesn't even mention on its various launch press releases - is the presence of an entirely new viewing mode. Next to the Actual View, Fit Page and Fit Width icons is a new option, Reflow. Select this and, if your PDF has been tagged correctly, the current page's text will automatically reflow to fit the current window size. Change the window size or zoom, and the text automatically reflows to accommodate!

The new Reflow view in action.

This is completely different to Acrobat's usual fixed layout view and quite a shock when you first come across it. After all, surely the whole strength of Acrobat is its high-precision page layout with formatted text and graphics all fixed in place? That's certainly true in most circumstances, but not when trying to view a page on a small screen. For easy reading on a handheld, an uncluttered, reflowing layout is essential.

Ultimately then the biggest advance and the one for which Acrobat 5 will be remembered is the move towards eBooks and handheld reading - a crucial part of Adobe's "any time, any place, any device" Network Publishing initiative. Unfortunately for Adobe it can't make a song and dance about this as its handheld software is still in development (its Palm OS Reader has just gone into public beta), while the ability to tag content for screen reflow is currently restricted to captured Web pages and converted Office documents (though no doubt a new InDesign and FrameMaker are in the pipeline).

At the moment then Acrobat 5 must be judged on its existing merits. With improvements to its security handling, Office integration, team working, form handling and prepress control it's a worthy release if hardly exciting. Behind the scenes though Acrobat's new support for XML and ODBC, PostScript-based transparency, secure eBook handling and in-built re-purposing make it a stronger-than-ever cross-media publishing platform for other applications to build on.

Chances are that you'll be coming across a lot more PDFs in the near future.

Ease of Use
Value for Money

ratings out of 6

Software / Upgrade
Save $$!   Save ££!
Books / Reference
Save $$!   Save ££!

System Requirements: Pentium or higher, 32MB of RAM, 115MB of disk space, Windows 95 (OSR2), 98, ME, 2000 or NT 4.0 (SP 5 or 6), CD-ROM

Tom Arah

May 2001

Hopefully you've found the information you were looking for. For further information please click here.

For free trials and special offers please click the following recommended links:

For further information on the following design applications and subjects please click on the links below:

[3D], [3ds max], [Adobe], [Acrobat], [Cinema 4D], [Corel], [CorelDRAW], [Creative Suite], [Digital Image], [Dreamweaver], [Director], [Fireworks], [Flash], [FreeHand], [FrameMaker], [FrontPage], [GoLive], [Graphic Design], [HTML/CSS], [Illustrator], [InDesign], [Macromedia], [Macromedia Studio], [Microsoft], [NetObjects Fusion], [PageMaker], [Paint Shop Pro], [Painter], [Photo Editing], [PhotoImpact], [Photoshop], [Photoshop Elements], [Publisher], [QuarkXPress], [Web Design]

To continue your search on the site and beyond please use the Google and Amazon search boxes below:

Web independent, informed, intelligent, incisive, in-depth...

All the work on the site (over 250 reviews, over 100 articles and tutorials) has been written by me, Tom Arah It's also me who maintains the site, answers your emails etc. The site is very popular and from your feedback I know it's a useful resource - but it takes a lot to keep it up.

You can help keep the site running, independent and free by Bookmarking the site (if you don't you might never find it again), telling others about it and by coming back (new content is added every month). Even better you can make a donation eg $5 the typical cost of just one issue of a print magazine or buy anything via or (now or next time you feel like shopping) using these links or the shop - it's a great way of quickly finding the best buys, it costs you nothing and I gain a small but much-appreciated commission.

Thanks very much, Tom Arah

[DTP/Publishing] [Vector Drawing] [Bitmap/Photo] [Web] [3D]
[Reviews/Archive] [Shop]  [Home/What's New]

Copyright 1995-2005, Tom Arah, Please get in contact to let me know what you think about a particular piece or the site in general.