Adobe has announced a new version of its Acrobat application for creating and distributing PDF documents, with a refreshed user interface to make tasks easier and quicker, and tighter integration with Microsoft Office and SharePoint for collaboration.
Acrobat X, available from mid-November, has been developed to reflect the changing way that business is done today, the company said.
In particular, collaboration has moved from mostly internal teams to extended virtual teams with workers inside and outside the organisation.
Key features of the new release are a reworked user interface offering Actions, which are custom guides to walk users through complex processes, SharePoint and Office integration, and a major overhaul of the way users create PDF Portfolios that aggregate multiple documents into one file.
Acrobat X also has one other welcome improvement, according to Adobe: a boost in performance.
The new user interface has been designed to better expose existing functions and make it easier for users to accomplish tasks than in earlier Acrobat releases, which Adobe admits often fell short in the usability stakes.
"In studies, we found that people often spent more time working out how to do their job than actually doing it, and we didn't help because many of the functions weren't easy to find at all," said Stephen Newberry, senior Acrobat specialist for Adobe UK.
A key part of making Acrobat easier is Actions, which can guide users through complex processes such as preparing a document for public release, ensuring that metadata and comments get removed, for example.
Some Actions come built in, but Adobe expects that businesses will create their own to reflect specific business processes. These can prompt the user, or be fully automated like a macro, Newberry said.
Closer integration with Microsoft Office means that users can check a PDF in and out of SharePoint from Acrobat, and all Office applications get the option to save a file as PDF, even in the new Office 2010.
Adobe believes this will lead to Acrobat's becoming a key collaboration tool because group editing of documents "assumes that everyone has the same version of Word, or it doesn't work properly", according to Newberry.
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