I've had a chance to preview the new Adobe Acrobat, which is version 10, and there are some very interesting changes in this update. Adobe has significantly revamped the menu bar, simplifying it so that there are only 5 main menus: File, Edit, View, Window, and Help. Acrobat 9, by contrast had 10 menu choices. Gone from the main menu are the following commands: Document, Comments, Forms, Tools, and Advanced.
At first this was unsettling, but once I grasped what Adobe was doing I realized that the user-interface change will be helpful to people who are new to Acrobat. The advanced choices were not removed from the program, but simply moved to the toolbar on the right side (see below).
Putting the more advanced choices over in their own separate area actually makes sense. Below are the Tools and Comment sub-menus expanded to list some of the things that you can view here (the view is editable to exclude things you don't generally use).
Bottom line: rest assured you'll be able to work with all of your favorite tools, but now the process will become a lot easier to visualize. And key actions that people use most frequently have been placed at the top of the sub-menus. So, for example ,the Rotate command is now at the top of the Pages sub-menu as shown below.
And you'll note that Rotate is grouped with other actions that belong together as 'page actions.' The main toolbar (depicted in topmost image) is much more configurable now, so that you can put exactly the commands you use most; you are no longer forced to have a set of commands in the toolbar if you only want one command out of that set.
I should point out that Adobe Reader (the free viewing program) is also getting an update, and it will now allow users to create and save highlights and sticky notes. Adobe keeps adding great features like this to Reader (and yet it also is careful to keep out key features that are in Acrobat, such as being able to rotate a page and save that view). Adobe Reader now is set to accept automatic updates, which will increase its stability and security as improvements are developed by Adobe. But, back to Acrobat...
Other improvements to Acrobat 10 are better OCR capabilities, better compression of color documents, more options for Portfolios, and significantly improved export of PDFs to Word or Excel formats. Another important development is the inclusion of a feature called 'Actions' which are basically macros that allow a sequence of actions to be set up by a user. Granted, we've had the ability to to 'batch processing' but Actions are more user-friendly. And they can be exported and shared with other users, so it's likely that Actions that become popular in the legal field will be easily distributed to other interested users.
The Redaction tool has improved a bit, allowing a user to set the default appearance more easily. But it's pretty much the same tool that we've seen in the last version of Acrobat. Same with Bates-stamping.
So is this a must-have upgrade for legal users? It's probably not, unless you're a heavy user of the OCR function and the export to Word function. The export to Excel is also nicely implemented in this version. There are some improvements to collaboration that take advantage of Microsoft Sharepoint, but it's hard to say how popular this feature will be in the legal world.
The most interesting update is the one to Reader, the free viewing application. Being able to highlight text-based PDFs and add sticky notes is a nice touch. And one that will perhaps drive more average users to crave the additional document manipulation features in Acrobat.
I'm not sure what the official release date for Acrobat 10 and Reader 10 will be, but I'll update this post as soon as I find out.
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