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Adobe Systems Inc. looks to meld its document management platform more firmly into business workflows as the company on Monday announces the next version of its Acrobat document interchange solution.

Version 7.0 expands the exchange capabilities of its reader application and features tighter integration with Microsoft Corp.’s productivity and content applications.

As with previous versions, Adobe divides its Acrobat franchise into four products: the free Acrobat Reader application that’s available for multiple operating systems; Acrobat Elements, a site-licensed PDF (Portable Document Format) application; Acrobat Standard, the entry-level toolset; and Acrobat Professional, its full-featured content creation and management package.

In addition, the company offers a range of DRM (digital rights management) capabilities with its Acrobat LifeCycle Server line.

With Acrobat 7.0, Adobe aims to place PDF at the center of departmental document workflows in the enterprise, said Pam Deziel, director of Acrobat product marketing to The refreshed Reader application is a part of that strategy.

Instead of just letting users read or print a document, the Reader 7.0 application now supports Acrobat’s commenting tools as well as permitting users to fill in PDF forms.

This reviewing feature was previously found in the paid Standard and Pro editions, which may have kept businesses needing to share and annotate documents on the existing the Office apps, particularly Word. Reviewing with the free Version 7.0 Reader is available through documents created with Acrobat Professional.

Acrobat 7.0 also incorporates greater integration with many Microsoft applications found standard in the enterprise, including the Internet Explorer browser.

Read what’s due in Microsoft’s next version of the Office suite in “MS Office 12’s Secrets Begin to Trickle Out.”

For example, the Standard edition now lets users create PDFs from Office applications with the PDF Maker button; Acrobat 7.0 users on Windows will also gain this option for Access reports and Publisher projects.

Deziel pointed to Acrobat 7.0’s (Standard and Professional) integration with Outlook, which will allow users to convert individual e-mails as well as folders of messages to a single PDF document, including the embedding of e-mail attachments. Users can then navigate between messages or search the messages using Acrobat’s search facility, she said.

“This is an easy way to integrate mail messages with other project files,” Deziel said. The update also provides new organization tools to view and sort files and embedded documents.

Next Page: New Web capture feature.

In addition, Acrobat 7.0 will introduce a Web capture feature that will allow Windows users to convert Web pages from Internet Explorer—this will not work with alternative browsers such as the Mozilla Foundation’s recently released Firefox.

Macintosh users will have the options of archiving Web pages as PDFs, but this process will require users to make the extra steps of opening a Web page in Acrobat and saving it as a PDF, one beta tester observed.

Acrobat 7.0 (Standard and Professional) also gains several new organizing tools, such as a thumbnail-based gallery similar to one found in Adobe’s Photoshop image-editing application. This feature will allow searching of files across a user’s hard drive by criteria such as author, date or number of pages. Users will be able to group PDFs by selected criteria and examine the history of each document.

The Pro edition adds conversion of Autodesk Inc.’s AutoCAD and Microsoft Visio and Project files, as well as comment importing into AutoCAD files.

In addition, Version 7.0 will support the U3D (Universal 3D) file format standard currently under way in the approval process with ECMA International, the Geneva-based standards organization.

“It’s our effort to provide a standard way to use 3-D [images] across multiple platforms in a free client,” Deziel said.

Is Adobe heading toward open source? Read the news in “Adobe Eyes Linux Desktop Strategy.”

One beta tester in the graphic arts business expressed some disappointment with the business and engineering focus of this release. But the tester, who declined attribution, was envious of Acrobat’s improved integration with Microsoft products.

“The question for professional designers is whether Adobe is going to bring the same [level of] integration with an application like Microsoft Publisher to InDesign,” the tester sadi.

In addition, the Professional edition will bundle in Adobe LiveCycle Designer, which allows the design of interactive PDF- or XML-based forms. This product was previously available separately for $499.

Meanwhile, security also receives a boost in Acrobat 7.0. PDF creators will be able to restrict viewing, printing, copying or modifying of documents to users with a password. Documents can also be secured using public key certificates and via Adobe’s Policy Server.

See what eWEEK Labs has to say about Firefox in “Firefox 1.0 Lives Up to Hype.”

The Standard and Professional editions retail for $299 and $449, respectively. The Standard upgrade will cost $99 and $159 for the Professional edition. The company said it had reduced requirements for the Acrobat Express license from 1,000 seats to 100.

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