Jewish World Review June 13, 2003 / 13 Sivan 5763

Adobe Acrobat 6.0 scores

By Mark Kellner | I'll never forget a question the woman from an accounting software company asked when I told her I created invoices in Microsoft Excel and sent the spreadsheets to customers: "What's to stop them from changing the numbers?"

"Well, ahh, nothing," I stammered, as I froze dead in my tracks.

Whether it's an invoice, a resume, a proposal or a screenplay for the next Academy Award winner, sending documents in files created with standard office productivity applications leaves room for a fair amount of foul play.

This is one of the reasons that Adobe Systems, years ago, came up with the Portable Document Format. A PDF file can be locked down, and secured so tightly that no one can change the final product. That's a good way to make sure your million dollar contract doesn't become one for a million cents, as well as to deliver a printing project for a client so it cannot be changed at the production house. Sometimes you need that level of security.

Creating PDF files has been a bit haphazard: several software programs claim to be able to create these; under Apple Computer's Macintosh OS X operating software, saving a print file as a PDF is a regular option. But not all PDFs are created equally; for my money, the best solution is to use Adobe's Acrobat software, which can not only create but also edit non-secure PDF files.

Adobe Acrobat has recently appeared in its 6.0 version, and in a variety of formats, ranging from "Professional," at about $449 per copy, down to $28 per copy for "Acrobat Elements" - if you're buying 1,000 copies at one time for a corporate installation. Along with the Professional version, which will be of greatest interest to graphics designers and engineering professionals who use programs such as AutoCAD and other design software, is a "Standard" version for $299. The standard version will be sufficient for many business users since it, like the professional, will work seamlessly with Microsoft Office applications and the Windows version of Internet Explorer.

Think of Acrobat, for a moment, as a "silent assistant." You want a version of a document people can see and comment on, while retaining the original text? Acrobat will do that for you. Need to fill in a form? No hassle here, if the form's been created as a PDF document. Want to save a Web page, or a whole Web site, for review? Once again, it's PDF to the rescue, via Acrobat 6.0.

Using tools in the program, as well as those it will add to Office and Explorer, such functions are a click or two away in most cases: create the document in Word or Excel and you can review, comment and pass it around with ease - and in file sizes generally far smaller than those of Word or Excel. Form creation is a bit trickier: I've had success with OmniForm from ScanSoft, in creating a PDF-based form; but Acrobat seems a good program with which such forms can be completed.

Saving a Web site with Acrobat has its appeals: you can print out a site in a scale to fit standard business-size paper, while retaining all the formatting, color and illustrations of the Web site. Again, file sizes are generally much smaller than those created when saving directly from a Web browser. There's also the convenience of a single PDF file versus the many files a Web browser will save for you.

But the ability to save (and e-mail) PDF files from office applications can't be underestimated: such a feature is a great security measure, and a good time saver. Other programs can do similar functions, and Corel Corp. says it has added its own PDF-making feature to the latest versions of WordPerfect and the Quattro Pro spreadsheet. But this is a world dominated by Microsoft Office, let's be honest, and the integration between Acrobat and Office is superb.

And for those seeking to self-publish books, magazines or newsletters, the PDF format is a perfect compliment to your desktop publishing tools, as well as a way to "repurpose" content for other uses and even device platforms - there's an Acrobat "reader" for handheld devices now available.

Security, convenience and consistent results: all these can be obtained using Acrobat, and if your business - or your life - depends on such functions, Acrobat 6.0, in any flavor, could be essential to your prosperity and peace of mind. More information can be found at; the software is in most major retailers and online stores now.

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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