Adobe and Macromedia continue to prove that
application software seems to develop more effectively if kept out
of the hands of Microsoft. I’ve recently installed and used Acrobat
6, and this is a major facelift and upgrade in terms of recent times
for this product.
Since Acrobat 5 was first introduced, just
about the entire world of reprographics and design has consolidated
around the Acrobat PDF format as the common carrier for type and
design files, and in version 6 just about everything has been
completely revised and not just “rubbed down with an oily rag” – and
the result is something that looks and feels more like an
application than a viewer. Many applications that started life in a
Mac environment (like Quicktime) tend to feel just plain wrong on a
PC, as far as I am concerned, but now the Mac roots of Acrobat are
less obvious – even if Adobe still lives very much in the Mac world
with its captive audience of graphics designers..
The first thing that grabbed me about this
release was the help system
and its use of a scaleable text window.
Hard to describe, but if you get the chance try it, and then you’ll
want all help schemes to work this way. And guess what? It’s an
Acrobat file in a “run time” reader window! So they are indeed
preaching to the converted.
There is also now a “How To” panel on the right
alongside the main window that forces users to appreciate that this
product is a mutli-skilled application and not just a portable
This version now assumes a big screen and shows
the benefits of software that can cut free from the constraints of
the need to support “lowest common denominator” displays. It really
needs 1600x1200 pixels to fly, so yah-boo to all you trendy
types who had got into 1600x1200 on cheap 19” and 21” displays but
then sacrificed acreage to go trendy with a flat screen display of
Acrobat buttons appear on the toolbars of most
installed applications, and the process of creating a PDF from
within applications more reliable – I always got the feeling that
the “integrated” version 5 Distiller was on a bit of a wing and a
prayer, and frequently yakked on a word file without giving a
reason. Although version 6 feels more in confident in use, it still
takes Word firmly by the scruff its neck – and doesn’t let go until
And I was intrigued to see an Acrobat button
appear on the Internet Explorer button bar – this version now
converts web pages to pdf directly, and allows you to add selected
pages to a pdf so you can accumulate the bits of a web site you want
in a single file.
There is now also extended support for various
embedded video and sound formats; layers have arrived – and so this
is fast becoming a hybrid of many things ranging from PowerPoint, to
RoboHelp and even Flash.
At its simplest, Acrobat allows for more
intelligent searching of a word doc file (or archive of files) than
MS provides, and at it’s most complex, Acrobat provides a range of
features for complex colour print process work and reviewing.
I can think of nothing negative to say about Acrobat 6. The pdf
always was a considerably underestimated format and most users
barely scraped the surface of its capabilities. This edition of
Acrobat explains and guides the user through its features
(especially the use of the structure features) more comprehensively
than ever before. It’s now become one of those “must have” skills
for any power user.
As usual, the reader is a free download for standalone or
Whilst the milk of human kindness is sloshing around this column
for once, I’m going to put in a good for Ipswitch’s What’s Up Gold
system monitoring software suite, now version 8. (www.ipswitch.com).
This grew up from a simple freeware program a few years ago that
pinged hosts that you told it to, and sounded the hooter when
nothing came back – but it is now a truly lovely thing for us
paranoids who want to see keep tabs on what’s going on the whole
The set up is massively complex and you can establish just about
any combination of relationship in a multilayered network diagram –
but the really great bit is that all you rally want to know is when
things go wrong (any colour but green means something is going
wrong), and so the mini display option only clutters the desktop
with the necessaries. Maybe I’ll say more about this absolute gem
next time, every network should have one.