Sending a document in PDF has become standard. PDF stands for “”Portable Document Format,”” and using it ensures that a document’s typefaces and layouts are preserved. There’s no better way, and nobody does it with more flips and tricks than Adobe, who, after all, invented it.

The new Adobe

Acrobat 7 Professional is awesome. It’s a wee bit expensive, but remember, we’re talking “”professional”” here.

With either version you can e-mail documents for review, and the recipient can make comments, highlight passages, add a digital signature and finally stamp it “”approved.”” Every PDF is fully searchable. Using the standard version, both parties must have a copy of the Acrobat software, but with the professional version, the recipient needs only Acrobat Reader 7, which is a free download.

The professional version can handle huge autoCAD drawings and plans, schematic diagrams made with Visio, and timelines drawn with Microsoft Project. Most impressive of all, Acrobat 7 Professional can turn a 3D drawing or a photograph into a PDF, and the transmitted image can then be zoomed and rotated, the same as the original.

New to both versions is the PDF Organizer. You can click on a whole folder in Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express and convert all the e-mail into one PDF file, which can then be sent intact like any other file. The file can be searched by clicking on tabs for sender name, date, topic or keyword. The organizer will also show a list of all PDF files on your computer.

Finally, both versions need only the click of your mouse to make a PDF file out of just about anything on the screen. You can click on a Web page, for example, to make a PDF copy that can be e-mailed or stored. This feature produced the only flaw, a slight one, we found in the program: We tried it on our own Web site home page (www.oncomp.com), and it did not capture the page accurately. But try it yourself: You can download a free trial Acrobat 7 Professional at www.adobe.com.

A Gasp From The Crowd

What did capture and preserve the formatting of our Web site as a PDF was FinePrint’s pdfFactory, which is free.

It also comes in regular and professional versions, and the “”free”” part needs some further explanation. The free version puts a small tagline at the bottom of each page, saying the document was created with pdfFactory. It’s unobtrusive, but it’s there. Otherwise, there is a regular version of pdfFactory and a professional version, from www.fineprint.com. We’ve written about this program before, and we really like it.

Another flier in the ring is Nitro PDF, from Arts PDF (www.nitropdf.com).

There’s a nice comparison chart on the site showing that, feature for feature, this program is the same as Adobe’s program but less expensive. Unfortunately, in practice, this turned out not to be the case. In copying text or graphics from the Internet or a Microsoft Word document, Nitro didn’t do nearly as good a job as Adobe. With Acrobat, the text came into the PDF in a box that could be positioned anywhere in the document. With Nitro the text came in as a huge block, in the wrong place, and we couldn’t move it.

As with Adobe’s Acrobat 7, Nitro has a free trial version. The Nitro free trial is something of a trial to use, however: “”Nitro PDF Trial”” is stamped across every page in huge dark letters. They’re even on the user manual, which makes it exceedingly difficult to read.

On the plus side, if you buy it, you get a lot (but not all) of the features of Acrobat 7, regular version, for a lower price. As with Acrobat, you can password protect your PDF and paste sticky note comments for others to read. You can use a forms tool to create fields that can be filled out by the recipient on the screen.

Books

“”Adobe Acrobat 7.0 QuickSteps,”” by Marty and Carole Matthews; from www.osborne.com.

This is the latest in Osborne-McGraw/Hill’s most excellent QuickSteps series, which have one or more color illustrations on every page, showing you just what you should be seeing on the screen as you learn a program’s features. Acrobat 7 is a large, complex program, and this book is great.

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