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Whether it is printing schedules and petitions from most bankruptcy filing programs, reading judicial opinions pulled from the Web, sending scanned documents to others as e-mail attachments, printing online governmental forms filled out on through a Web Browser, or dealing with tax and corporate governmental forms on CD-ROM or downloaded from the Web, I find myself dealing with information stored in Adobe’s PDF (Portable Document Format) files many times in a given month. I can usually read files created by others using Acrobat Reader, a free program that can be downloaded from the Adobe Web site, but printing the bankruptcy forms, saving versions of files created by others, or creating my own documents often requires the use of one or more parts of the Adobe Acrobat suite. While some programs, notably WordPerfect for Windows (WPWin) can save a word processing document as a PDF file, you mostly need the full Acrobat to create such a file. Fortunately, Acrobat wasn’t all that expensive, and Adobe issued special pricing for lawyers. Even at list price, however, Acrobat 4 was a very useful product to have around the office. This week I look at the recently released Version 5 of Adobe Acrobat. I’ll also consider a couple of other Acrobat-related products. ACROBAT 5.0 The first thing that Adobe does is to convert computer files of all sorts to PDF. And Version 5.0 certain does a good job of that, either by importing the file into Acrobat, or, for some file formats merely opening the file into Acrobat. If you find a useful Web site, you can tell Acrobat to access that site, and bring it into Acrobat, where it can be saved as a PDF file. This action can bring linked pages, and even pictures and graphics into the file, making the finished product look quite like the Web site, in addition to having the content of the site. One of the problems that Acrobat Reader always had was that computer screens can’t display a replica of an 8-1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper to let the user view the entire page in a font size that is readable. Version 5.0 displays thumbnails of each page and also lets the user adjust the viewing window in which the current page is displayed. This doesn’t fix the problem (which, perhaps, can’t be solved) but it does make it easier to focus on that portion of the page that has text. Version 5.0 has better integration with Microsoft products, and can “repurpose” PDF files, by exporting the information to RTF (Rich Text Format) files read by Microsoft Word for Windows (WinWord) as well as WPWin and other word processors, letting the user to excerpt the PDF for insertion into a more traditional letter or brief. In addition, after installing Version 5.0 on our computer, I noted the addition of an “Acrobat” pulldown menu on my Excel and WinWord menu bars. The new pulldown lets the user convert the loaded document to PDF, convert it to PDF and then send it to e-mail, and view the result in Acrobat. Another menu choice lets the user set several conversion options. For law office work, however, I was more impressed by a group of collaborative and security tools either newly available or available in a more advanced form. Version 5.0 users can both password protect files and sign them with a digital signature. (The program makes it easy to exchange digital certificates with your e-mail correspondents so that you can later verify a signature, and the digital signature itself may be invisible, visible as a printed signature, or visible as a scanned handwritten scrawl.) Further, the program permits multiple digital signatures and can view changes made in the file since a particular digital signature was added. This makes it possible to make a record of who added what, when, and to make sure that those who shouldn’t have access to a particular file, don’t. I should also mention that Acrobat lets the user to create electronic forms in which others can enter data, and even can index documents converted to PDF. An index search can be conducted across multiple files. Batch processing makes it possible to convert a group of word processor files to PDF and index them at the same time. There’s lots more, but you get the idea. Acrobat has always been a very handy utility; Version 5.0 is even more useful than its predecessors. Adobe is currently offering Version 5.0 to members of the American Bar Association and state bar associations for $120.00. This price is currently scheduled to expire on June 30, but may be extended. Call (888) 502-5275 and have your membership number ready. As always, substantial discounts may be available for volume purchasing, but even at $250 list, and $100 for the upgrade, Adobe Acrobat 5.0 is worth the money. WEB CREATE Although I recommend Acrobat for converting files to PDF, apparently some folks don’t wish to purchase the entire product but still need PDF files. The answer is a new Adobe service called “Convert Adobe PDF Online”. The service costs $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year, for an unlimited number of PDF conversions. Adobe provides five conversions free on a trial basis. I didn’t submit any of my own files to Convert Online, but did tell the service to convert a small Web site I found interesting. Although I could wait online while the service did the conversion, I just told the program to send us an e-mail when the PDF file was ready. Several minutes later I got an e-mail with a link; clicking on the link brought me to a Create Online login menu and then to a page which let me download the file. I downloaded the file and read it into Acrobat Reader without any problems. Convert Online doesn’t do any more than Acrobat, and mostly less; but it is fast and convenient. Try it. Maybe you’ll like it. ADOBE AND THE PALM Faithful readers know that while I don’t consider the Palm to be theoretically the “best” handheld on the market, there seems to be more inexpensive and really good software available for the Palm than any of the others, making it, perhaps, the “best,” on a strictly practical basis. Although there has been software such as Quickword, WordSmith and Documents To Go, which permit the user to read files generated by WinWord, there wasn’t anything that permitted a Palm enthusiast to put a PDF file in his Palm. Until now. Acrobat Reader for Palm OS includes a PC-based program that converts a PDF file into a specially formatted file, with or without pictures in the original file and acts as a Hotsync conduit, and a Palm-based application that displays the specially formatted file on the Palm. If the original file has a table of contents linked to the text, the Palm version has a table of contents linked to the text. I didn’t test the program on a color-enabled Palm, but I’m told that color information is transferred, as well as text and other elements of the original PDF file. But I did take the Web site file I converted using Convert Online and converted it to a Palm version. Line breaks were awkward and some of the formatting just didn’t look good, but the documentation warns that the Palm OS Reader works better with tagged PDF files, and I didn’t start with a tagged file. All of the information on the Web site, however, was now available on my Palm. Reader for Palm OS is available for free download at If you have a Palm, you’ll undoubtedly find PDF files that will be handy to have on the Palm, whether you have the full Acrobat suite, or not. SUMMARY The latest version of Adobe Acrobat adds some useful features to an already useful program. But you don’t really need Acrobat if all you want to do is to create documents. Just subscribe to Adobe’s Web-based facility, and Adobe will do the conversion for you. Also, Adobe is now giving away a version of Acrobat Reader for Palm OS based handhelds. If you have a Palm, you need the download. DETAILS Acrobat 5.0 Price: $249.00. Upgrade: $99.00 Requires IBM PC or compatible running latest versions of Microsoft Windows 95/98/2000 or NT 4.0, 115 Megabytes hard disk space Adobe Systems Incorporated 345 Park Avenue San Jose, CA 95110-2704 Phone: (800) 893-6687 Web:

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