Ted Padova discusses new Acrobat 6 book, PDF usage

Editor’s Note: It’s been slightly less than a year since Adobe rolled out the last major upgrade of Acrobat, yet during that timespan there seems to have been a record number of new commercial training materials — guidebooks, CDs, etc — released from a variety of authors and publishers. With the recent release (with Wiley Publishing and Seybold) of Ted Padova’s ‘Adobe Acrobat 6 Complete Course,’ he’s produced *three* of the most popular and up-to-date educational resources for Acrobat/PDF users — including the ‘Adobe Acrobat 6 PDF Bible’ book and prior to that, the CD-ROM-based ‘Total Acrobat’ series with Total Training. We talk recently with Padova a bit about his book productivity as well as his use of the software and format, both on book projects and in his commercial prepress work.

Planet PDF: Ted, Let’s flash back briefly — Planet PDF’s Richard Crocker spoke to you last April to get your initial impressions of Acrobat 6 when it was publicly released. You said at the time, based on your experience as a beta tester, that ‘Acrobat 6 is Adobe’s most exciting new product release since the introduction of PostScript.’ In fact, it was a notable release for numerous reasons, the most obvious probably being the company’s decision to split what had been one product into a family of three, with differing prices and capabilities: Acrobat Professional, Acrobat Standard and the low-end, volume-only Acrobat Elements. What’s your sense at this point of how the family concept has been understood and received by the user community?

Ted Padova: ‘I come in contact with very few users of Acrobat Standard. Unfortunately, when I do hear from users, it’s usually a question related to why Standard can’t create forms or catalog indexes. My assumption is that the few who purchased Acrobat Standard didn’t fully know the limitations of the product.’

Planet PDF: As an author of Acrobat-related books, have you tried to cover both the high-end and standard versions in the same editions, or focus on just one of them?

Acrobat 6 PDF Bible

Ted Padova: ‘I like the way my ‘Acrobat 6 Bible’ came together. When I wrote the book, I tried to think of how users would approach various editing tasks discussed in a given chapter. I decided to start each chapter with a section devoted to customizing the work environment by loading toolbars related to the topics covered — for example, the ‘Review and Comment’ chapter begins with a discussion on loading the Commenting, Advanced Commenting Toolbars, and the Properties Bar. As either tools or editing commands were unique to Acrobat Professional, I made an effort to point this out to the reader drawing attention to distinctions between the two products. Therefore, the ‘Acrobat 6 PDF Bible,’ I think, is a publication that covers both versions equally.

In the ‘Complete Course’ book, I actually had lengthy discussions with my publisher and editorial staff who did not want a distinction between the two Acrobat products covered in the book. I ultimately convinced them that we needed to modify the template a little because the Acrobat products are so different than other software applications. The book does cover both Standard and Professional, and the reader is alerted to the coverage of a few Professional-only tutorials.’

Planet PDF: Again, back in April when we asked what new Acrobat 6 feature excited you the most, you said ‘if I had to choose a single new feature, it would have to be the support for layers.’ What’s holding up a greater use of the layers functionality in PDFs — lack of relevant tools or lack of understanding? Having had more time to work with it and to hear from users about their experiences and preferences, do you still see this as the most exciting new feature?

Ted Padova: ‘I still see support for layers an exciting feature. I think the use of layers in PDFs has been slow for two reasons. The Adobe Creative Suite (CS) applications were released long after Acrobat. Since InDesign CS and Illustrator CS now export to PDF with Adobe PDF Layers, more users should be inclined to create layered PDFs as they acquire the CS programs.

The second reason — and one that might still retard the development of layered PDFs — is users not upgrading the Adobe Reader software. PDF authors are receiving complaints from clients and constituents who can’t read PDFs in their viewers — the problem usually is related to PDFs designed for Acrobat 6 or greater viewers. Therefore, until the vast majority of the user community upgrades the free Adobe Reader software, I think PDF authors are going to create Acrobat 4- or 5-compliant PDFs.’

Planet PDF: The title of your latest book, from Wiley Publishing in collaboration with Seybold, suggests that it’s a self-contained vehicle for learning the complete Acrobat 6 program. From the end-user’s perspective, what makes this book different in its approach to teaching the key features and functionality?

Ted Padova: ‘This book is a tutorial-style publication where a user steps through exercises. The book is intended for the novice Acrobat user who wants a visual learn-by-doing tool. It’s self-paced and very visual for the user who learns better by doing than by reading long passages of text.’

Planet PDF: How do you personally utilize Acrobat and PDF — for example, what’s your workflow — in producing your various educational materials?

Ted Padova: ‘I use Acrobat for slide presentations, for sessions I deliver at conferences and for educational functions. I use PDF forms for my service bureau business and use PDFs extensively for digital prepress and printing. I use PDFs for invoices, documents exchanged with other users, writing documents in foreign languages, eBooks, and often when answering questions from users.

And, of course, occasionally when I toss out a little quip to my pal Karl De Abrew. When authoring PDFs, I use Adobe Illustrator CS for single-page designs; usually for PDF forms and I use Adobe InDesign CS; for all my slide presentations (I changed from QuarkXPress to InDesign after InDesign CS was released).’

Planet PDF: When you’re not producing books, we know that you’re also the CEO and Managing Partner of the Image Source Digital Imaging and Finishing Centers. As a keen Acrobat/PDF proponent, how do you utilize the technology in your businesses?

Ted Padova: ‘For professional printing my technicians and I have used Acrobat since version 1 of the product. We try to get clients to submit PDFs for printing and we often soft proof color separations in Acrobat before printing film. In some cases Acrobat is used as a tool to resolve problems with files that can’t print direct to high end imaging equipment. For example, a business user who creates a PowerPoint slide that they want printed 48 inches by 60 inches for a trade show display — the only solution for that kind of file is to use Acrobat since PowerPoint doesn’t support printing to a variety of professional PostScript devices.’

Planet PDF: On a related note, last April you told Planet PDF that ‘the new print controls [in Acrobat 6] are a long overdue feature item that has arrived and it’s arrived in ‘style.’ Acrobat was like a second cousin to other Adobe imaging applications where users needed to depend on third party plug-ins (often at prices twice the price of Acrobat) to perform the job of professional printing. … Now in Acrobat 6 Professional, users can preflight jobs, soft proof color, and print with features that rival most professional layout applications.’ Accordingly, have you seen an increased use with print professionals in the past year or so?

Ted Padova: ‘The print features in Acrobat 6 may not be as impressive to the design professionals as it is to the service technicians. Even soft-proofing color is handled at the print shops and service centers. From the service center point of view, the print features were a great addition to Acrobat. I can’t say I’ve seen an increase in PDFs submitted for printing, but I know many print professionals are excited about more features now available for professional printing.

Planet PDF: Acrobat celebrated its first decade in June 2003, and during that time the product cycle for a new major release was approximately every two years. Adobe has revamped its entire product line with the Creative Suite, which promises to impact on future release dates. Are there specific enhancements or additions you’d like to see in a future upgrade when that time arrives?

Ted Padova: ‘I’ll go out on a limb here and offer my personal view. I know many people often look around the corner and think about what more we can get from a software product. Personally, I’m a little tired of the every 18 months upgrade ferris wheel. What I would like more than anything else is for software manufacturers to fix all the problems with a program before moving on to the next version. We can see this in Acrobat when you compare the Mac version with the Windows version. We don’t have online commenting on the Mac, we have poor Web browser support, we don’t have text edits exported to MS Word on the Mac, and a host of other features that make the Mac version inferior to the Windows version. Bringing the platform products together should be a maintenance upgrade as well as fixing a number of bugs.

I would extend the same position to the Adobe CS applications. Theoretically, all the apps including Acrobat are to be upgraded at the same time. I personally think the initial introduction of the CS Premium edition is a good value at $750 USD. However, I really don’t see creative professionals spending $750 every 18 months. I think we can look forward to users skipping versions and maybe upgrading every two or three releases. When a large company needs to upgrade 1,000 workstations, I don’t think you’re going to find many enterprises rushing out to get the latest and greatest whiz-bang features.’

Planet PDF: Any other Acrobat-related books in production?

Ted Padova: ‘Right now I’m working on writing the ‘Adobe Creative Suite Bible.’ Acrobat is covered in the book as well as all the other Premium Suite applications. The book focuses on the integration of the programs for document creation that most often wind up as PDFs. I expect the book to be out in May or June — still a lot of writing to do.’

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