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The Acrobat Family

Now that we’ve reviewed the PDF family of file formats, let’s take a look at the Acrobat family of software tools. The Acrobat family includes various commercial versions of the software used to create and view PDFs, and the free Adobe Reader program used to view PDFs. You can launch Acrobat/Reader as a standalone application and work with it in the same way that you use traditional desktop software. Acrobat/Reader is also launched automatically when you navigate to a PDF file with your web browser if your web browser’s default PDF Viewer is set to Acrobat/Reader (Figure 4.8).

Figure 4.8

Figure 4.8 When you view a PDF on the web, Acrobat/Reader will launch as a browser plug-in.

All versions of Acrobat and Reader work in this dual way, and all can be used to view PDF forms and files. However, because each is unique, you should be aware of your users’ versions so you know their capabilities.

Adobe Reader

You can download the free Reader program for various languages and operating systems, including Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. It’s the only free PDF file viewer that works with the entire PDF family of file types. Adobe updates Reader when it updates the commercial versions of Acrobat, so the XFA support is synchronized between the two products. Reader has the same look and feel as the rest of the family but only a subset of the functionality.

As its name implies, Reader is primarily used to read or view PDF files. However, the functionality of Reader can be extended through Reader Extensions. You apply Reader Extensions at the file level. When these extensions have been applied to a file, a user’s Reader application automatically unlocks the Acrobat features that have been lying dormant in the program. There are multiple ways and reasons to apply Reader Extensions. For instance, if your user base only has Reader but you need your users to participate in a document review process, you can Reader extend the file. Once the file is extended, your Reader users can access the Acrobat commenting tools, including sticky notes, highlighting, and stamps. Another valuable use of Reader Extensions is to give Reader users the ability to save their data with their form.

Acrobat Standard

Acrobat Standard is available for the Windows platform. This version contains most of the Acrobat features and includes the ability to do the following:

  • Reader extend a file so users of Reader 8 or later can save form data
  • Create a PDF document from any application that can print a file
  • Scan paper documents and convert the text to digital text with Acrobat’s OCR (optical character recognition) functionality
  • Apply restrictions on copying, printing, and changing PDF files
  • Encrypt and digitally sign PDFs
  • Save PDFs in the PDF/A (PDF for Archives) format

Acrobat Professional

Acrobat Professional is available for the Windows and Macintosh platforms. Acrobat Professional includes the following tools in addition to those found in Acrobat Standard:

  • Redaction tools, used to permanently delete specific text and illustrations (Redaction tools are used by legal professionals to completely remove sections of a document.)
  • High-end print production and digital publishing tools, used to preflight and correct PDF files
  • Optimization tools, used to enhance PDF reading experiences for mobile users

Acrobat Professional also enables you to

  • Validate PDF documents against ISO standards, including PDF/A, PDF/X (high-end graphics), PDF/E (engineering), and PDF/VT (variable-data printing)
  • Combine a wide range of file types into a PDF Portfolio with custom layouts, themes, and colors
  • Compare two different PDFs and highlight the differences between them
  • Create and validate accessible PDF files to meet WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 and PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility) standards
  • Insert Flash video (FLV format) and H.264 video into PDF files
  • Automate PDF creation tasks
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