AEC Tech News #136

19 Jan, 2005 By: Michael Dakan

Cadalyst AEC Tech News

Adobe Acrobat Professional 7.0

New and Enhanced Capabilities
Make This a Worthwhile Upgrade

Adobe Systems has released a new version of its PDF (portable document format) software, Acrobat 7.0. This version offers improved features that go a long way toward making PDF an unparalleled multipurpose file format.

Three Versions Available
As with previous versions of the software, Adobe offers a Standard version and a more capable Professional version of Acrobat 7.0. It now also offers a lower-cost version called Acrobat Elements. Professional provides better support for technical documents than the standard version, while Elements is aimed at the simpler needs of those who want to create PDFs only from standard office applications. For design professionals in the AEC arena, Acrobat Professional offers direct support for CAD files, including AutoCAD, MicroStation, and Microsoft Visio, as well as files produced in common business applications.

Acrobat Professional will create PDFs directly from AutoCAD, maintaining layers in the PDF file. AutoCAD users can create PDF files from multiple layouts in the drawing file, making it easier to create a single PDF that contains a complete set of drawings. AutoCAD scale information is maintained in the output file so the PDF file is created to an accurate, measurable scale. Measurement tools allow the user to accurately determine distance, perimeter and area in the PDF file. You can also export measurements directly into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for takeoff and estimating uses.

Redlining and commenting tools are now more accessible. Separate tool palettes now exist for text comments and drawing tools, including a note box with an attached arrow for pointing to a specific area in the document. Comments and marks from PDF file reviewers can be imported back into a single layer in an AutoCAD file.

Acrobat Reader Users Now in the Loop
For the first time, users of Adobe's free Acrobat Reader software can be included as reviewers and commenters. When you use it to create a PDF file, Acrobat Professional now gives you the option to turn on commenting and drawing tools for those who open the file in Adobe Reader. This expands the range of those who can mark up CAD files to include nontechnical, non-CAD users. Anyone who downloads the free Acrobat Reader 7.0 from the Adobe Web site can participate in a review cycle and use the simple markup tools provided for PDF files.

Adobe has improved tools for viewing and redlining large drawing files. Now you can open a second window in a PDF to view separate areas of the drawing simultaneously and add horizontal and vertical splits to view larger areas of a drawing side-by-side on screen at appropriate zoom levels.

Beyond creating PDF files, Acrobat Professional now provides tools to track and manage review cycles, including e-mail initiation and reminders to reviewers. Feedback is easier to gather and process. Acrobat supports electronic signatures for formal review and approval processes.

Using Windows Explorer, you can combine files from several different applications in a single PDF file, including CAD files, office productivity applications, project schedules, Web pages and e-mail messages. The PDF file maintains hyperlinks, and you can include different types of files in their original form as attachments.

New Forms Capabilities
Acrobat Professional now includes the separate Adobe LiveCycle XML forms designer for laying out and creating forms that function like paper forms, but can be directly used in e-mail or on a Web site and connected to a database or other business process applications. If you use the LiveCycle Server software, you can include rules and validation policies and control the information received.

Acrobat Professional 7.0 lets users view and archive information from a variety of sources in one easily accessible file. Other available viewing and archiving formats, such as Autodesk's DWF, are generally more limited in the type of information they can contain. It appears that Adobe has taken another step toward solidifying PDF as an almost universal file format for a wide variety of purposes.

Like a number of computer users and organizations, I've endeavored to get off the upgrade bandwagon over the past few years. I no longer automatically upgrade the software I use as much as I once did, often skipping a new version or two if I don't see enough new or improved functionality to make an upgrade really worthwhile. But I upgraded to Adobe Acrobat Professional 7.0 as soon as it became available, and I believe it will prove to be a very worthwhile move in the coming months.