On Monday of this week, Adobe launched its now yearly update to its Acrobat digital document tool. I have been testing out the new release for a few weeks prior to the launch and I have t say that Acrobat 9 is a significant upgrade on nearly all fronts, from basic PDF creation to the advanced CAD/3D capabilities.
There have been a few name changes, so now the Acrobat 9 family consists of Acrobat 9 Standard, Acrobat 9 Pro, and the new Acrobat 9 Pro Extended software, which has replaced the Professional 3D branding but still offers the most comprehensive suite of tools. The Extended brand harmonises its name with Adobe Photoshop Extended version but by dropping the 3D I feel it might be confusing to Engineers and Architects that associated the 3D with the CAD version of the Acrobat. The news is that Extended is the 3D CAD flavour.
The first thing you notice is that Flash technology has been incorporated into the PDF format as a front end, enabling some very slick features. At first I did not quite get why Flash would be of such a great benefit as I could not mentally link PDF documents and Flash which I always assumed was just a web technology. The incorporation of Flash has actually provided PDFs, which contain multiple files, to have a very slick cover-flow like interface, as well as the new capability to include Flash compatible video as documents.
These new PDF portfolios are really very cool indeed. It is now possible to create a single PDF file that contains all types of documents and allows the creator to produce a front-end page with title and images, which are displayed on opening. Then each file can be flicked through as if they were on a carousel (think Apple iPod Touch, or iTunes). The Flash environment radically improves the experience of wading through a multi-document PDF. The video feature is great too, as you can convert and include all sorts of video into PDFs and pause the video and mark up frames with the Redline tools. A series of marked-up frames are available for quick access and the author has considerable control to select sub-sections of video to be viewed by the PDF consumer.
The Flash-isation of PDF also means that the PDF is an environment in itself and Flash applications can be added to PDFs and sent out. For instance, it is possible to add a calculator widget, a live web map, or other web service. This mean you could open a document and use the added calculator to work on spreadsheets or engineering calculations, without leaving the PDF document. It is actually pretty hard to get your head around it, as it blows the concept of what you can include in a document, as documents can be applications! To read an Acrobat 9 document you obviously need to download the new free viewer.
So, enough about all the flashy stuff, down to what is new in engineering PDF. The formats has been updated and Inventor, B-reps, STL, Catia V5 and Siemens PLM Solutions’ NX formats are now included. For AEC users, Acrobat 9 supports Revit and Graphisoft via IFCs.
Gone is the pretty horrible Adobe 3D Toolkit and welcome to the powerful new Adobe 3D Reviewer, which came along with the TTI acquisition last year. While the interface is nowhere near as slick as Adobes other products the functionality of Reviewer goes way beyond authoring and enhancement of the 3D models, it also acts as a agnostic 3D CAD viewing and comparison tool like Cimmetry Autovision. 3D parts created in multiple CAD systems can be easily imported into the same workspace and 3D assemblies created. There are compare tools to check differences in geometry between cad revisions, so new material added, or old material lost can be quickly identified. Measurement and sectioning have been improved and it is easier to export the files as 2D vector or Raster files.
Mapping is now on the menu, as Acrobat PDFs now understanding of geospatial information, with support for accurately measuring Kilometers, Miles, longitude and Latitude. This expands PDF into a whole new vertical area as well as enhancing map data for Architecture, Engineering and Construction applications.
Share and Share alike
Collaboration and sharing has seen some cool innovation too. Acrobat 9 users can access a new web service called Acrobat.com for storing and sharing files, use it as a central location for collecting data as part of a forms process, and to gather comments in a shared document review. Acrobat.com includes free and paid for services, such as Adobe ConnectNow, personal web conferencing that provides desktop sharing, video and voice conferencing, and integrated chat.
Another benefit of Acrobat.com is the opportunity to collaborate with other users while within a PDF document. Using Adobe Reader, other folks can join in a review session on a file, with the originator driving the group navigation through the PDF document in real-time. As Adobe points out, this helps ensure everyone is literally, and figuratively, on the same page.
Acrobat is really good at making digital forms, now it is great at distributing these forms and collating the returns. In the past we have used services like surveymonkey.com to do surveys, now we will be able to send PDFs out and the software gathers all the responses together and can tabulate the results. While it sounds complicated, it is all pretty straightforward using wizard-style dialogues.
Pricing and Availability
Acrobat 9 Pro Extended, Acrobat 9 Pro and Acrobat 9 Standard for Microsoft Windows, and Acrobat 9 Pro for Mac OS X, are expected to be available by July 2008. Acrobat 9 Pro Extended is expected to be available for £619 (which is a nice price cut), and registered users of qualifying earlier versions of Acrobat can upgrade to Acrobat 9 Pro Extended for £205. Acrobat 9 Pro is expected to be available for £425, and registered users of qualifying earlier versions of Acrobat can upgrade to Acrobat 9 Pro for £145. Acrobat 9 Standard is expected to be available for £265, and registered users of qualifying earlier versions of Acrobat can upgrade to Acrobat 9 Standard for £85.
We will have a fully featured review in the first edition of Develop3D.