Dyce & Sons Ltd.

Helping IT since 1993

Acrobat 4.0

Monday 14th June, 1999

The Acrobat PDF (Portable Document Format) is the de facto cross-platform document standard. It allows you to save files from any printer-aware application in a format which can be viewed and printed using any flavour of Mac OS, Windows and Unix, without the need for the original application or fonts.

Acrobat has always been of immense use within the publishing industry as a proofing tool, and now it’s of special interest to designers because of the imminent arrival of Adobe’s InDesign layout software (see p40). However, in terms of cross-platform parity Acrobat 4.0 is a disappointment.

The big addition for Mac users in version 4.0, Paper Capture, was already in the previous version for Windows. All other new features - Microsoft Office integration, Web Capture, structured bookmarks, document comparisons, and digital signatures - are only available for Windows.

With the recently announced PDF to Text and JPEG Web server tool also only available for Windows and Unix, it’s hard to have confidence in the Acrobat development team’s commitment to the Mac platform.

However, Paper Capture is a useful addition to the Mac user’s armoury. It allows you to scan in documents and convert them through OCR (Optical Character Recognition) into PDF pages. This means your backlog of paper documents can be made available to users in various ways: via email, as PDF files are heavily compressed; on CD-ROM, as their cross-platform nature makes them ideal for CD-ROM distribution (you only have to press one CD for all target platforms); on a local file server, since all PDF documents can be pre-indexed and searched quickly using the Catalog utility introduced in Acrobat 3.0; or via the Web, using either the Acrobat application as a plug-in to Navigator or Explorer, or the new PDF Web server.

The interface has been given a lick of paint, both in terms of functionality and look and feel. The toolbars, now both horizontal and vertical, can be shown and hidden, with the different document sidebars shown as Photoshop-style tabs. Interactivity can be added to documents using rubber stamp tools for creating annotations, and through actions which can now include JavaScript-capable forms. Adobe doesn’t make much of this, and one wonders how much this has to do with the scriptability of its other applications, namely InDesign.

Since we previewed the late beta version (Reviews, Vol 15 No 4, p22), the bugs have been addressed. Printing from the reader application is now free of hitches, and the Web Capture facility can now hold more than just the first line of a page, although there’s still no fix in sight for the direct import of files from a Visioneer Paperport.

If you’re desperate to archive your paper documents, by all means upgrade to version 4.0. But if you’re already a version 3.0 user, it might be better to wait for the functionality Windows users now have, and upgrade to version 5.0 when it comes out.


This cross-platform file creator finally gets the Paper Capture feature and a new interface.

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Rating 3.5
Manufacturer Adobe Systems
Pros New annotation types ˜ Paper Capture facility ˜ JavaScriptable form objects
Cons Several new features not available for Mac OS
Price 149
Originally Published MacUser, Volume: 15, Issue: 11, p31