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Support for Adobe Reader 8 and Adobe Acrobat 8 has ended. As a policy, Adobe provides five years of product support, starting from the general availability date of Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat. In line with this policy, support for Adobe Reader 8.x and Adobe Acrobat 8.x will end on November 3 2011.

End of Support means that Adobe no longer provides technical support or distributes runtimes. This policy affects product and security updates for all derivatives of a product or product version (localized versions, minor upgrades, operating systems, dot and double-dot releases, and connector products.)

You can read the whole technote here or I can save you the trouble and summarize. Upgrade… as quickly as possible.

There are three key, IT related, reasons to upgrade to Acrobat X or Reader X; end-of-support is just the first. The other two are the Protected View/Mode or “Sandboxing” and support for SCCM deployment and SCUP maintenance. You can read more about these technologies at the related articles below.

Our First SCUP Catalog for Acrobat and Reader X is Here
Introducing Adobe Reader Protected Mode

You’ll also find that version 10 loads faster, displays a progress bar when downloading PDF files in the browser and generally has a much cleaner appearance especially in the browser. If you’ve been using Acrobat or Reader 8, you’re going to love Acrobat and Reader X.

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Scenario:I’ve spent a couple of hours creating a form that perfectly navigates the user through the fields, automatically skipping and hiding fields based on their responses to others, does validity checking on a field by field basis to ensure data integrity, formats the data exactly the way my database requires it, distributed it using the wizard so I can collect the data, even from people with the free Adobe Reader, tested the final version in versions 6 through 10 and posted it to my web site. Now all I have to do is… reply to all the people who are having trouble with my form because they are using a non-Adobe tool to fill it out. Ack!

I’m not making this up. I get questions on a weekly basis from customers that are baffled by the failure of their well crafted forms to collect their data correctly only to find out that a particular recipient was using a non-Adobe tool to fill it out. To make matters worse, the recipient didn’t even know they were doing anything wrong.

Here’s the issue that IT departments need to be concerned with when deciding to deploy 3rd party tools rather than the free Adobe Reader… as the recipient of a form, you have no idea what that form should look like and no idea how it should behave.

With “lightweight alternative” PDF viewers or ones that are actually built into the operating system, unless you are exclusively using in-house forms that you design around the restrictions of the various PDF viewers, you run the risk of sending inaccurate information back to the form author. Inaccurate information leads to a loss of data, productivity, and money.

So – let’s say your forms are not as complex as the scenario I painted above. Just for argument’s sake, let’s say the form contains no scripting at all; just basic form fields. If you use a common, OS level PDF viewer, let’s call it ViewerA, to fill and save even this simple form, users of Acrobat and Reader (and at least one other 3rd party viewer that I tested) won’t be able to see the data. If you then click into the fields one by one, you can see the information entered into the field; click out of the field, it goes blank again. The form is broken… and as the recipient, you have no idea that the form you sent back to the person who requested the information can’t see your data.

Is using an Adobe Reader alternative worth the risk?

If you want an objective review of the leading PDF viewers out there, take a look at 5 Free PDF Readers Compared. You can read the whole article or just jump to the section on forms in the Review Notes where the best the author can say about the 3rd party tools is that they’re improving.

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I get questions from IT managers who, for licensing compliance reasons, are trying to get a handle on what versions and variations of Acrobat are deployed across their networks. Distinguishing between Acrobat and Reader is pretty easy. You can scan the hard drives for the executables; Reader is “AcroRd32.exe” and Acrobat is “Acrobat.exe” but this won’t tell you which version is installed or what variation of Acrobat you have or how it was licensed. You need to dig into the registry for that kind of information.

Desktop administrators can determine the versions and variations of Acrobat deployed across the organization by using asset management tools to query for the product’s Globally Unique Identifier or “GUID”. The Windows Installer Service creates this key automatically when the product is properly installed initially, but it is also updated when product is patched. This article just covers Acrobat. For complete documentation on parsing the GUID for both Acrobat and Reader see the Enterprise Administration Guide for the Adobe Acrobat Family of Products.

For the Acrobat family of products, the GUID indicates the following:

  • Product family: It’s always going to be “Acrobat” – actually “AC76BA86″, to be precise
  • Version: For example, version 9
  • Language: For example, English versus English/French/German
  • Additional languages: Other languages that are included in the package
  • Product type: Standard, Professional, 3D, Pro Extended etc.
  • License type: Whether the retail or volume license product is installed
  • Major version: For example, 8 or 9
  • Minor version: For example .1 or .2 – Typically for quarterly releases
  • Minor-minor version: For example .1 – Typically for patches

Need to Determine What Version of Adobe Acrobat is Installed on Each Device You Manage?

More News on the Need to Stay Up to Date

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I posted a few articles last week on the need to stay up to date with your software. Here’s yet another reason.

Microsoft released its Security Intelligence Report volume 11 (SIRv11), which found that less than 1 percent of exploits in the first half of 2011 were against zero-day vulnerabilities. In contrast, 99 percent of all attacks during the same period distributed malware through familiar techniques, such as social engineering and unpatched vulnerabilities.

Read the full article on Help Net Security.

New Version of the AIM Application Available Now

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Please download the new Administrator’s Information Manager (AIM) application.

The new application features the following:

  • More robust Update mechanism.
  • “Check for update” button so users have control over when to check and get the latest.
  • Version and date info in the UI
  • Several other bug fixes having to do with linking.
  • User can choose to view local content in AIR or in the browser.
  • Online content automatically goes to browser
  • Added all the prefs for Acrobat and Reader 10.1 and 10.1.1 as well as others.

Adobe Reader 8 and Adobe Acrobat 8 End of Support

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Just yesterday, I posted on the need to keep your software up to date to avoid security problems and vulnerabilities. Today, a new technote came out reminding you that support for Adobe Reader 8.x and Adobe Acrobat 8.x will ends very soon.

Adobe provides five years of product support, starting from the general availability date of Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat. In line with this policy, support for Adobe Reader 8.x and Adobe Acrobat 8.x will end on November 3 2011.

End of Support means that Adobe no longer provides technical support or distributes runtimes. This policy affects product and security updates for all derivatives of a product or product version (localized versions, minor upgrades, operating systems, dot and double-dot releases, and connector products.)

You can read the whole technote here or I can save you the trouble and summarize. Upgrade… as quickly as possible.

There are three key, IT related, reasons to upgrade to Acrobat X or Reader X; end-of-support is just the first. The other two are the Protected View/Mode or “Sandboxing” and support for SCCM deployment and SCUP maintenance. You can read more about these technologies at the related articles below.

Our First SCUP Catalog for Acrobat and Reader X is Here
Introducing Adobe Reader Protected Mode

Acrobat and Reader Security and the Need to Keep Updated

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Tim Rains, Director, Product Management at Microsoft recently published an article detailing the key findings of the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report Volume 8 on document file format exploits where Acrobat and Reader were explicitly called out. Quoting Tim…

The key things to take away from this study are:

  • Once attackers figure out how to exploit a document parser vulnerability, they will try to use that exploit for years to come.
  • Newer is better: running the latest version of document parsers and the latest service pack is a very effective mitigation against these types of attacks.
  • Keep all of your software up to date including document parsers such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader, and others.
  • Use Microsoft Update to keep your Windows based systems up to date, instead of Windows Update. Microsoft Update will help keep all of your Microsoft software updated including Windows operating systems and Microsoft Office, where Windows Update only keeps Windows operating systems up to date.
  • If you haven’t updated the document parsers you have installed on your systems, you should give serious consideration to doing so.
  • Don’t open email attachments or documents hosted on the Internet if you don’t know and trust their source.

The whole article is really great reading if you’re looking for a solid business case to upgrade sooner rather than later. Leveraging out SCUP catalogs for Acrobat and Reader are a good idea as well.

Read Targeted Attacks and the Need to Keep Document Parsers Updated

Installing Both Reader and Acrobat on the Same Machine

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I’ve been traveling for the last 3 weeks talking to end users and IT managers and the same few topics are coming up day after day. One issue in particular has me doing a strange little dance…paraphrasing…

We have Reader on our standard desktop but some people have Acrobat too. We’re running into trouble with [fill in the blank]. Should we have uninstalled Reader first?

Installing Both Reader and Acrobat on the Same Machine

New Enterprise IT Tools for Adobe Acrobat and Reader

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To help IT professionals, we are releasing a number of these resources free of charge, but without an official support program. Like other technologies on Adobe Labs, these tools are not finished products, but rather beta or prototype utilities that may work in your particular environment.

The following list comprises all of the resources that are currently available to download. More tools/utilities are expected to be added in the future.

JavaScript Blacklist Framework for Adobe Acrobat or Reader — This utility allows IT to modify the JS API blacklist for any Acrobat product. It allows simple visual inspection and modification of tBlacklist in the registry’s HKLM hive without opening and editing the registry manually.

Multi-User Reader Desktop (MURD) — The MURD tool allows IT to install multiple Reader versions, create custom file extensions and mime types, and control the version that opens what type of file.

You can find these tools on Adobe Labs

Adobe Reader and App-V

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While officially unsupported by Adobe, customers are successfully virtualizing Adobe Reader using App-V. If you’re looking to do this kind of thing, check out the beta of Microsoft’s TechNet Gallery. At the time of this post, there are package accelerators for Adobe Reader versions 9 and X.

The Adobe Reader X Package Accelerator
by Kevin Kaminski is currently one of the Editor Picks. You definitely want to check this out.

Note: I have no personal experience with these package accelerators so I can’t make any claims to their usefulness, I’m just passing on the information. Please use the “Q and A” section of the specific package accelerator to post your questions and be sure to hand out some star ratings if they work for you.

Find all of the Package Accelerators for Adobe software in the Microsoft TechNet Gallery.