Originally published in the January 1995 issue of Advanced Systems.

First impression

Flip with Adobe Acrobat 1.0

By Christine A. DePedro

How many of us work in single-platform environments? Here at Advanced Systems, with the art department working on Macintoshes and editors on SPARCstations and X terminals, sharing files beyond ASCII consists of printing out hard copy and dropping it in the IN box. Wouldn't it be nice to just e-mail a fully formatted file, complete with specific fonts, across the office -- or across the country -- without playing 20 Questions? In a perfect world, all computers and programs would speak the same language. Why, oh why, doesn't someone come up with a standard?

Enter Adobe Acrobat 1.0, twisting 'round the programming pitfalls of "time-saving devices." Adobe trumpets its Acrobat PDF (Portable Document Format) as the universal, all-purpose file format that lets users save and open formatted documents on any computer, running any operating system. Currently, there are versions for Macintosh, Windows, DOS, and Solaris 1.1 or 2.3; an HP-UX version is in development.

Hello, One of Three
Acrobat consists of three separate programs, which perform almost the same function under different circumstances. Acrobat Exchange lets you view, print, and create PDF documents with the embedded PDF Writer. Acrobat Distiller turns non-PDF documents with EPS artwork or other complicated elements into PDF documents. The Acrobat Reader lets users view and print only.

Why, it's simplicity itself!
We tested Acrobat across three of the available platforms: Mac to Solaris 2.3 and back again, and Windows to Solaris, also both ways. Installation on all three platforms -- from floppies for the Mac and PC and a CD-ROM for Solaris -- was relatively painless. All installations took no more than 15 minutes. The on-line tour and help guides created in Acrobat (of course) are very well written, using links, bookmarks, and searchable text to move you effortlessly through the pages.

Testing, testing
Our test document was a six-page Advanced Systems article opening on a spread, containing several imported 24-bit images and various fonts with applied CMYK color specs. The document was originally created on a Mac in QuarkXpress. After converting the file to PostScript in Quark, we opened Distiller and saved it as a PDF. The process (literally) takes no more than a couple of clicks of the mouse; however, it would be nice to eliminate the step of converting all files to PostScript. Bookmarks, links, notes, and thumbnails were applied in Exchange, and the files were sent over the network to the other computers in our three-ring circus. Voilą! No problems viewing the files, and all the applied links came through. Font substitution was fairly accurate (almost undetectable to all but the trained eye) and gave a good visual sense of actual page makeup. Granted, Advanced Systems fonts are straightforward; flourishes and scripted writing may be difficult to render properly.

The most evident problems were glaringly obvious. First, there is no way to view spreads properly. Our two-page spreads were separated to singles. While the color of the scanned EPS images came through consistently, if a bit on the purple side, the CMYK specified in the text was lost, coming through as solid black. A call to Adobe assured us that a printer driver, downloadable free on line, is available to interpret this Quark quirk.

As an introductory product, Acrobat has achieved its goal of providing a new way to view and exchange documents. Acrobat is sold with a 30-day-free support policy and numerous on-line support forums, including an Adobe Electronic Bulletin Board and CompuServe question-and-answer forum. Acrobat 1.0 for Unix will continue to be distributed as a separate floating-license module of Exchange ($295) or as a network configuration containing two floating-license units of Exchange and Distiller ($7,500). Reader (previously $50) is now downloadable free. Adobe has upgraded Acrobat for Mac and PC with a search engine. The Unix upgrade to 2.0 is expected to be released in early 1995.

Adobe Systems Inc., 1585 Charleston Rd., Mountain View, CA 94039, 800-833-6687. http://www.adobe.com.

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Last updated: 1 January 1995.