Adobe has announced that version 8 of its Acrobat file-sharing product will have improved functions for multiple users to collaborate on documents including videoconferencing.
Announced at a special event on Monday but not available until November, Acrobat 8 also has improved integration with the content creation tool Macromedia Creative Suite, which includes applicatons such as Photoshop.
Acrobat 8 is the first major release since Adobe bought Macromedia last year, and is intended to pep up the environment and distance Acrobat from other systems that merely create or read PDFs, and make it more visible, the company claims.
"This is the first product that brings together Adobe and Macromedia," said Shantanu Narayen, Adobe president and chief operating officer.
The launch of Adobe 8 is intended to encourage users to work within Adobe's PDF format, instead of viewing the format as a mere output system.
The company is publicising the new features of Adobe 8 with a three-month tour, where up to 5,000 people in six cities will get hands-on experience of the system, within pre-fabricated plastic domes (see photos).
As well as putting in information, Acrobat now has the ability to take it out automatically with "redaction", which Adobe describes as "electronic Tipp-Ex", a feature lawyers and government departments will appreciate. While creating a document, users can select a particular word, such as a company name, and blank out all instances in the document.
The videoconferencing feature, called Connect and based on Adobe Breeze, formerly from Macromedia, is built into the Acrobat environment, so users can start a conference by pushing a button on the toolbar. The service will be paid for and hosted on servers run by Adobe. No UK pricing was quoted, but the US price will be US$39 per month or US$395 per year.
A Professional version of Connect will be available in December, which includes support for French, German, Korean and Japanese, and the ability to run voice over IP (VoIP) conversations.
Other features include improved handling of interactive PDF forms so users filling one in can save the half-filled form on their own machine to work on later, and the form's creator can collate responses more easily.
The release also lets users archive emails in a searchable PDF format starting from Lotus Notes, as well as from Microsoft Outlook. The ability to include CAD data will be included in the top-end, 3D version of the software.
Adobe is feeling pressure from Microsoft, which has launched a PDF add-on to Office, that handles both PDF and its own XPS format. The feature was originally included in the beta of Office 2007, but relegated to a plug-in following the threat of legal action from Adobe. "The courts have determined that Microsoft is a monopoly," said Adobe's Narayen. "We're asking to compete on a level playing field."
The company is also working on a major release of Creative Suite
Acrobat 8 will be available in November, and will cost £440 for the Professional version. Existing customers will be able to upgrade for around £158. Adobe Acrobat Standard will be available for around £287, or as a £92 upgrade for existing customers.