GPSolo Magazine - June 2005

Product Review
Adobe Acrobat 7.0

If you are reading this review to find out whether you should upgrade to Adobe Acrobat 7.0, the answer is “you should.” Why? New features, improved features, and improved menus. But before we look at the improvements in Acrobat 7.0, a few words about prices and the Acrobat family of products.

Acrobat Varieties and Pricing

Acrobat 7.0 comes in two varieties: Standard and Professional. We’re not considering Adobe Reader (the free program that lets anyone view and print files in portable document format, or PDF) or Acrobat Elements (a stripped-down version of Acrobat available only through licensing with a minimum of 100 seats per order—few readers of GPSolo will reach that 100-seat threshold). A full license for Acrobat 7.0 Standard version lists at $299, with street prices around $279. A Standard version upgrade lists for $99, with a street price of around $88. The Professional version retails at $449 per license, with an upgrade cost of $159, and street prices around $390 and $140, respectively.

New Features

Find. Control+F, a command many Windows computer users have come to use regularly, can usually be found on the Edit menu and can be used to find a word or discrete group of characters in the current file. The command works in most applications (word processors, spread sheets, browsers, etc.). In Acrobat 6.0, Control+F executed the search function. In Acrobat 7.0, Control+F executes a find command (a quick search of the currently open PDF file only for a word or character string), and the more powerful search command has been reconfigured to Control+Shift+F. This search command produces the Search panel, which permits searching across all files in a designated folder, restricting searches to whole words only, and other advanced options.

Dimensioning Tool. Acrobat 7.0 adds a Dimensioning Tool (located on the Drawing Markups Toolbar). If you use the line, box, or other shape drawing tools to create diagrams, then you will find the Dimensioning Tool helpful. Simply click on the tool, then click and drag the pointer between the points whose dimensions you wish to show. When you stop dragging and release the button on your pointing device, the text insertion point will be in the middle of the new dimension line ready for you to insert the appropriate text (typically a number stating the distance that the line represents).

Callout Tool. Callout text boxes are great for annotating documents for use as exhibits, or for creating charts and drawings. Callout text boxes are text boxes that you connect to an area of the document with an arrow. The Callout Tool, new in Acrobat 7.0, creates both the text box and the arrow.

Organizer. Organizer allows you to quickly locate PDF files that are currently open, PDF files that you have used recently, and PDF files that you have stored in a Favorites folder. Organizer will display PDF file page thumbnails to help you quickly find the right file.

New Window. Acrobat 7.0 adds New Window, a new feature on the Window menu. In past versions of Acrobat, you could tile windows, but those windows were views of different files. This new feature allows you to view different pages of the same file at the same time by creating a new window that contains the same document. Tile the windows vertically or horizontally, then pick your pages.

Improved Features

Search. The search function has been improved and permits searching across an entire folder of PDF files for a particular word or phrase, whether that folder exists on your local computer or on a network drive. Acrobat 7.0 no longer requires that files first be indexed (or “cataloged,” in Acrobat parlance).

Auto OCR. When creating PDF files by scanning paper, Acrobat now allows for a default setting to automatically perform optical character recognition (OCR). For firms that want to be able to search PDF files created by scanning, the ability to configure Acrobat 7.0 to automatically perform OCR provides a big assist.

Improved Menus

Adobe has reorganized some of the Acrobat menus. In particular, a number of items on the Document menu have been moved up one level. This in turn knocks a stroke off the keyboard commands. For example, to insert pages into a PDF file with Acrobat 6.0, the menus are Document > Pages > Insert Pages, and the keyboard commands are Alt+D-P-I. In Acrobat 7.0 an entire level has been removed; the new menu selection to insert pages is Document > Insert Pages, and the keyboard command is Alt+D-N. In both Acrobat 6.0 and 7.0, the insert pages dialog box can also be invoked with the keyboard command Ctrl+Shift+I.

The Document menu in Acrobat 7.0 now has an option to Recognize Text Using OCR. While you could do this in version 6.0, the process was cryptically listed on the Document menu as Paper Capture. Adobe had long used the term “capture” to refer to the OCR process and indeed still markets an industrial-strength OCR application under the name Adobe Capture. Recognizing that most Acrobat users know little and care less about the industrial-strength OCR application, Adobe calls it straight and offers a menu option to recognize text (in image-only PDF files) using OCR.

Standard or Professional?

Unless you want to buy the Professional version simply because you are a professional, the choice comes down to features. There are two features available in Professional, absent from Standard, that are useful to lawyers and may tip the scales in favor of Professional. First, the Form Tool can be useful for working with court forms published in PDF and allows you to create your own PDF forms. Second, the Enabling feature allows you to enable PDF files so that anyone with free Adobe Reader 7.0 software can use the highlighter, sticky note, pen, and other commenting tools. That means you can send drafts to clients and opposing counsel as PDFs for review and comment without giving up your work product—word processing file—that may contain sensitive metadata.

Acrobat 7.0 brings compelling enhancements to an already indispensable tool for lawyers. New features, improved features, and improved menus more than justify the cost of upgrading and should give any lawyer who has yet to purchase a full Acrobat license strong incentive to do so. If all you need is the ability to create PDF files with hyperlinks and bookmarks, you can use programs such as Jaws PDF Creator ($79 direct, www.jawspdf.com) or FinePrint’s pdfFactory Pro, with the ability to combine multiple PDF files ($99 direct, www.fineprint.com). But Acrobat remains the choice of legal professionals for managing PDF files. Version 7.0 supplies the power, convenience, and flexibility that legal professionals demand and deserve.

David L. Masters practices law in Montrose, Colorado, and can be reached at dlm@masterslawfirm.com.


Macrobat (Adobe Acrobat 7.0 for the Mac)

Adobe Acrobat 7.0 works very well on the Macintosh platform. Adobe has made the program available in the same configurations for the Mac as for Windows (Professional and Standard versions) and at the same pricing: $449 for Professional ($159 as an upgrade) and $299 for Standard ($99 as an upgrade). This review will focus on the Professional version, as that version will prove most suitable for attorneys using either the Mac or Windows platform.

Perhaps the most significant improvement to the Mac version of Acrobat Professional is its ability to enable anyone with the free, downloadable Adobe Reader 7.0 to use the highlighter and other mark-up tools to place comments into the document in process. The Standard version does not include this feature, and this is the primary reason why a law office should make the extra investment to buy Acrobat Professional 7.0.

The Macintosh version of Acrobat 7.0 (“Macrobat”) offers substantially the same features, bells, and whistles as the Windows version. The most significant differences relate to the creation of forms; the Mac version does not include Adobe’s LiveCycle Designer software, whereas the Windows version does. That makes the forms creation features of the Windows version more robust than those of the Mac version. Additionally, the collaboration features on the Mac version, while substantially enhanced from Version 6, still do not include all the features found in the Windows version.

Some Mac-using attorneys may think they don’t need Macrobat because the current Mac system software, OS X, has Preview, which reads PDF files, as well as the ability to print directly to PDF. Although Preview is an excellent program and the ability to print to PDF directly through the system is a convenient feature of OS X, those features do not match what you can do with Macrobat.

At the most basic level, for example, some files containing graphics printed to PDF on a Mac using OS X and not going through Macrobat will display differently in Preview and Macrobat. Ironically, the difference is that the file displays properly in Preview and not in Macrobat. While you might think of that as an argument against getting Macrobat, it clearly is not. Remember, most of the people to whom you send your PDFs will not be using Preview. In fact, it is unlikely that most of them will even have a Macintosh. Given that reality, recipients most likely will open your PDF files with Acrobat Reader or the Windows version of Acrobat 7.0 (or an earlier iteration). In other words, they won’t see what you want them to see. Conversely, files printed to PDF through Macrobat display properly in Preview as well as Acrobat and Acrobat Reader. I have not personally experienced or observed this phenomenon in a purely text file, only in connection with graphics. More and more of the files we create as attorneys include graphics, however, so this is a significant concern.

Other, more advanced features of Macrobat are equally important. Mac OS X may be able to print to PDF, but these PDF files cannot be searched for a character string as you could with a text file. Macrobat creates searchable PDFs. That becomes a significant advantage when working with others on complicated or lengthy documents. Furthermore, if you are using Preview to read a PDF created in Macrobat, you will be unable to search it—although it will be searchable for your colleague using Macrobat.The reverse also applies: If you create a PDF in Mac OS X, you will be unable to search it, but it will be searchable for your colleague using Macrobat.

Macrobat aids collaboration in other ways, as well. With it you can create a protected PDF file of an electronic document and then layer multiple-party corrections or proposed changes on top of the original (still inviolate) document. You then can go through all the proposed changes and accept or reject them, generating a new PDF file representing the corrected document with all changes you have approved. Macrobat also gives you the ability to separate out a single page or to reorder the PDF. Preview lacks this feature entirely.

When scanning documents into PDF, Macrobat allows you to run them through an OCR (optical character recognition) program and save them as searchable PDF files.

Macrobat will let you concatenate files (add one to another, creating a longer file that includes multiple documents). Macrobat also lets you take a longer file and separate it into smaller files, each becoming a separate document. It also allows you to reorganize the pages in a PDF file. Preview has none of those features.

You can make Macrobat even more powerful by purchasing plug-in programs with a variety of interesting and useful features. One of my favorite plug makers is a company called Arts PDF ( www.artspdf.com). They make a powerful plug called Aerialist, which works both with the Mac and Windows version of Acrobat. Aerialist includes advanced tools for splitting, merging, stamping, bookmarks, hyperlinks, and process automation. This plug also gives you one feature not native to Macrobat that has great significance to attorneys (Adobe, are you listening?): the ability to Bates stamp documents electronically. If you do litigation work, you likely will have to deal with the issue of Bates stamping electronically produced documents in the near future (if you haven’t already). Rather than paying someone to print out the files, manually Bates stamp the hard copies, and then scan them to PDF again, you can stamp the original, electronic documents. The money you save from this feature alone will likely pay for both Macrobat and the Aerialist plug-in. If you only want the ability to Bates stamp documents, you can get a less expensive plug-in that does just that.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like Preview. It’s still my program of choice for quick-and-dirty tasks like displaying graphic images that I don’t intend to modify, reading and printing simple text-only PDFs, and sometimes even making PDFs from simple text-only documents (if you do that, don’t forget to include the .pdf tail at the end of the file name to ensure that older versions of Acrobat can read it). But the advantages of Macrobat are simply too great to ignore. For several years I’ve considered the full version of Adobe Acrobat a must-have program for attorneys. If you don’t have Acrobat already, buy it. If you have an older version, upgrade to Acrobat 7.0; the improvements make it well worth the cost.

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is the special issue editor of GPSolo’s Technology & Practice Guide and editor-in-chief of the Technology eReport. He also teaches business law in the graduate and undergraduate divisions of the Business School of the University of Phoenix. He can be reached at jallenlawtek@aol.com.

 

 

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