Max Wyss: First Impressions of Acrobat 7.0

Styled ‘The guru of PDF scripting,’ this genial Swiss’s expertise with PDF-based forms has seen him in great demand as a speaker and consultant on four continents. Wyss’s legendary JavaScript-based interactive forms have been known to draw gasps even from Adobe programmers! In addition to running intensive workshops on PDF technology in Germany, the US and his native Switzerland, he is also an active participant in online forums (including the Planet PDF Forum.)

Drawing on his fluency in English, German, French, ‘restaurant-Italian’ and ‘sushi-Japanese,’ Wyss’s experience in technical writing and translation combine with a solid engineering background to round out a formidable CV. Planet PDF caught up with the PRODOK Engineering principal to chat about the recent release of Adobe’s Acrobat 7.0 product family, which ships with an updated and renamed forms application in Adobe LiveCycle Designer.

The full interview text follows.

DAN SHEA, Planet PDF Associate Editor: In your opinion, what is the best thing about the new Acrobat 7.0 product family?

MAX WYSS, Principal, PRODOK Engineering: That it is here.

This might need some little explanation. With some exceptions, Acrobat 6 has not been at the standard that one expects from Adobe, and I think I have made that opinion quite clear in my messages on the forum. As a result, something that can replace Acrobat 6 is more than welcome.

It is a solid evolutionary step.

SHEA: What are 2-3 cool features of the new releases (big or small)?

WYSS:

  • The ability to add the Extended Rights required for e-mail based commenting
  • Browser support for Safari (well, I don’t know whether it is cool or not, but the promise has finally been fulfilled.)

SHEA: With Acrobat 7.0 Professional, it will be possible to activate full commenting functionality for users of the free Reader on a per-document basis. This represents a major shift in Adobe’s previous policy of not allowing changes to be saved in Reader. What impact do you think this will have on document review processes around the world?

WYSS: Probably not much at the beginning. This feature first has to be discovered. However, for the ones who have discovered and mastered it, it will be of great benefit. And it will bring more safety into any commenting process, because the basis for the commenting is fixed and known (as opposed to sending around Word or other files which can easily be modified).

Saving changes in Reader has been around since Reader 5.1, if the document has the according Extended Rights. The new thing with Acrobat
7 is that the right to assign this right has been brought to Acrobat, and does not require a Reader Extensions Server.

SHEA: Do you think the activation of commenting functionality is something that Adobe will make available to 3rd-parties — in other words, do you think that developers will be permitted to enable the enhanced functionality with plug-ins or stand-alone applications?

WYSS: I doubt it, considering Adobe’s recent track record in proprietarizing (hey, that’s a new word!) parts of the PDF format and Acrobat. Still, you never know.

SHEA: OK, let’s look at the other side: is there anything that you would like to have seen that’s not in v7.0?

WYSS: Full platform parity. The Acrobat 7.0 package is crippleware for OSX, because one big component is missing (the form designer), and some parts are incomplete (the MS Office integration). Integration is a sore spot anyway, as there are very few applications that are supported. For instance, Outlook is supported, but no other mail clients — not even some that are very important in the enterprise environment.

Also, there is still no official word about support of Unix (except OS X), particularly Linux.

SHEA: The entry-level license for Acrobat Elements has been reduced from 1,000 seats to 100 seats for version 7.0. What impact do you think this will have on the competitive landscape in the lower-end of PDF creation tools? What effect, if any, do you think it will have on the use of forms?

WYSS: Well, there are good third-party products that were available at lower minimum number of seats. If Adobe didn’t want to lose against these products, it had to adjust the licensing requirements. Now, the competition is a little bit better.

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About the Author: Dan Shea

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