Review: The Video-Enabled Adobe Acrobat 9

Adobe's been on a tear lately, challenging everyone from Apple (for video editing dominance) to Microsoft (for web video dominance) and many other companies in between.

During the Streaming Media West show, held in late September in San Jose, Califiornia, Adobe senior VP of creative solutions John Loiacano made a statement that caught everyone's attention.

"Going forward, dynamic media—powered by Flash—is the center of our efforts," he said. "It's what we expect to focus on for the next three years, as we look to achieve our second $2 billion in revenues."

One has only to look at Acrobat 9 to see just how ingrained Flash, the interactive technology Adobe gained with its acquisition of Macromedia, has become embedded in Adobe's flagship products.

There was a time when the dominance of another Adobe technology was at the fore: The Acrobat PDF file format was the unquestionable champion, as the paper replacement had been a fixture on everything from print houses to government websites, ranking up there with Microsoft Word as a must-have tool in the document creation toolbox. Add in Pagemaker, and the corporate digital print system was almost unstoppable.

Then, as the web became a larger sandbox of multimedia content, the Flash technology that Macromedia had created to complement its Director interactive product began to take on a bigger role. By the time that Adobe acquired Macromedia, Flash was mimicking PDF with the aptly-named FlashPaper, which has only recently been discontinued.

So the opportunity to add a web interactive technology to an e-paper technology seemed like a huge draw when the opportunity came. It was implemented a bit in Acrobat 8, at least enough to get Microsoft's attention for the generation of the XPF and Silverlight technologies that competed with PDF and Flash, respectively.

It wasn't until Acrobat 9, though, that Adobe truly merged the two technologies together into a formidable combination that has a series of benefits derived from the deep integration between native PDF and native Flash. Acrobat 9 Standard, Acrobat 9 Pro for both Windows and Mac, and Acrobat Pro Extended for Windows only.

Installation of Acrobat Pro 9 very easy on a Mac—drag and drop to Applications—and equally easy on Windows—run the bootstrapper or autolaunch installer. I used Acrobat 9 Pro for our tests (not Extended) and here's what I found to like.

This is the feature where the deep integration is most apparent. Designed to integrate a wide range of content into a single document, PDF Portfolios combines the feel of CoverFlow (Apple's technology used in iTunes, Mac OS X, and iPhone) and the power of video clips, still images, and other PDF documents, Portfolio allows layout of multiple file types that are then generated into a single compressed PDF file. In addition, customization for branding/layout can also be done, and there are third-party templates beginning to emerge that will help integrated all that goodness.

A friend of mine is a real estate agent, and she is always trying to figure out how to put charts, spreadsheets and images into a PDF, but isn't certain how to set up the presentation of these documents. Portfolio solves this, as well as the ability to put video into the presentation.

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