Acrobat 8 and PDF format features

Today we announced Acrobat 8. Lots of other material goes over general features – here’s the official announcement page, and here’s Lori De Furio’s excellent blog. For my entry here I’m just going to talk about Acrobat 8 and the PDF format.

As with every major release of Acrobat, we’ve done an update to the PDF version with this one. The new latest version of PDF is 1.7. Compared to past revisions, 1.7 is a pretty minor update to the spec – most users won’t notice that anything has changed. The revisions are mostly in the areas of 3D, advanced commenting features, and security. Because the update is pretty minor we decided to make a radical break with the past in how Acrobat handles version numbers – even though the latest version is 1.7, Acrobat 8 will default to saving out files as 1.6. It will only write out the 1.7 version number if the user asks for it, or if 1.7-specific features are used.

The benefit of this change is that users with Acrobat or Reader version 7 can open files saved from Acrobat 8 without getting the warning that the file comes from a newer version and “might’ (who knows?) have features that don’t work properly. We hope you like this!

Another change is that it has become easier to use Acrobat to Save a PDF to an older version number. In Acrobat 7 it was possible to reduce the version number by using Reduce File Size or PDF Optimizer. Access to this has been made little more intuitive in Acrobat 8 – you can now get to this functionality through the Save As menu. Under “File, Save As” the default option is still “Adobe PDF Files (.pdf)” but right under that is “Adobe PDF Files, Optimized (.pdf)”. Making this selection enables the Settings… button in the Save As dialog. Clicking on that brings up the Optimizer dialog. If you just want to change the compatibility level of the file, uncheck all the options in the left panel (Images, Fonts, etc.) and set the Make Compatible option to the Acrobat version you want. Note that Acrobat 4 corresponds to PDF 1.3, Acrobat 5 to PDF 1.4, etc.

Looking further down the format choices for “Save As” you will find options to save as PDF/A (PDF for Archive) and PDF/X (PDF for Print Exchange). These options allow you to take the PDF you currently have open and save it in one of those ISO standard PDF subsets. Please be aware that these options only work if your PDF is pretty close to compliant already – you must have fonts embedded for both standards, for example. And unfortunately the product doesn’t give much feedback in this path if it is unable to complete the conversion – you have to go to the Preflight tool to diagnose why the file couldn’t be converted.

All for now – I’ve got to get back to finishing the product. I hope to blog about some of the other features I’ve been involved with soon.