Adobe has improved security, collaboration and integration with enterprise software in the new version of the Acrobat document viewer.
Adobe Acrobat 7 will be available in December. It will support 3D images and complex electronic forms through an additional product called Adobe Livecycle Designer 7.
Mark Wheeler, senior enterprise marketing manager at Adobe, said, "Acrobat is morphing into a document workflow application." Although most people are using Acrobat to turn documents into PDFs, which is a reliable, secure way to communicate documents, Adobe sees Acrobat as a utility for document versioning and collaborative workflow.
"Organisations increasingly have documents that have to be shared, used and approved by multiple individuals. At the moment most systems let one person review the document at a time. Version 7 lets you collect the feedback and put it back into the document," Wheeler said.
Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is one early adopter, with 50,000 employees using Acrobat’s collaborative feature, he said.
Users of the free Acrobat Reader 7.0 can take part in the collaboration process, via a web or
e-mail-based review process, although they cannot initiate a review. They are able to edit and mark up text, apply sticky notes, and use drawing tools, creating what Adobe terms "reader extensions", which Adobe Acrobat Server 7.0 then collates.
Security has also been enhanced in Acrobat 7. On 5 October Adobe and security partner GeoTrust launched Certified Document Services (CDS), a service for Acrobat Reader 6 users that can verify the integrity and authenticity of documents through digital signatures, but without needing extra plug-ins. This features in Acrobat 7.
Used in conjunction with Adobe Policy Server, Acrobat 7 can protect and secure documents containing intellectual property from being leaked to third parties, or from employees taking documents with them when they leave, said Wheeler.
The Policy Server can stop documents being accessed inside or outside the firewall by locking them over the internet when a user attempts to open them. It can also stop screen grabbing, printing, and editing. "This is a strong offering for regulated industries, and financial services, where you want to make sure you are delivering customers the latest version of a document," said Wheeler.
He said government agencies are also interested in this. "Government agencies may hold very sensitive client records, for example for social services and child protection, and have a duty of care. If a laptop is stolen, they can stop access to the notebook, and secure the documents."
Adobe is aiming the Professional version of Acrobat at its large user base in manufacturing, architecture and construction. These currently use a separate tool for 3D models, said Wheeler, but Acrobat 7 Professional supports a non-proprietary 3D format, Universal 3D, developed by Intel, Boeing, and Caterpillar, among others.
Boeing is currently piloting the 3D format with Acrobat Reader to build service manuals for engineers to view 3D models.
Also part of Acrobat 7 Professional is Adobe Livecycle Designer 7, a tool to build electronic forms that can integrate with SAP and other enterprise systems.
Acrobat 7 Standard will cost £270 per user; Acrobat 7 Professional is priced at £390, and upgrades will cost £79 and £130 respectively.
This was first published in November 2004