TECHLINE by Ryan Seggelke

Flipped out over Acrobat

[AUG. 30, 2000]  With the boom of internet popularity, millions of people come in touch with Adobe Acrobat Reader every day. Yet many are confused about what Acrobat is and what it is not. A few simple clarifications will help surfers know what to expect out of this increasingly common web tool.

Originally Adobe’s purpose in creating Acrobat was to help users view documents that were created on different platforms. (In other words, someone could create a PDF file, Acrobat’s native file format, on a PC and then have someone view it on a Macintosh or UNIX system.) Acrobat’s PDF files also eliminate the need for the end user to have all the different fonts and/or graphics used in the documents. Essentially that means that the end user is guaranteed to see exactly what the creator intended. (This is a wonderful thing for those of us who are used to fighting with missing graphics and fonts.)

Web users need to realize that Adobe Acrobat Reader is not the same thing as Adobe Acrobat. Acrobat Reader is free to everyone and can be downloaded at Adobe’s website ( Acrobat is a software package which includes several different programs, including Acrobat Reader, that must be purchased. What Acrobat Reader does is very limited in comparison to what the entire Acrobat suite does. What people fail to realize is that Acrobat Reader only allows you to view and print PDF documents. You cannot create or edit PDF files with Acrobat Reader. If you want to create PDF files, you’ll have to buy Acrobat. The latest release is Acrobat 4.0.

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Think of Acrobat Reader as you do Flash. When you downloaded and installed the free software for viewing Flash files, that did not mean that you could create Flash files. To create Flash files, you need to purchase Macromedia Flash just as you would need to purchase Adobe Acrobat to create PDF files.

With all that Acrobat allows you to do, it’s no wonder it has become so popular. Some of the many PDF file features include adding notes (they’re like pop-up Post-Its), sound bites and movie clips. PDF files are not just good for spreading information; they can be used as forms for gathering information for polls, surveys and applications. With worldwide availability on the web, PDF files can also be used as a powerful promotional/marketing tool. Since Acrobat overcomes the hurdles of missing fonts and graphics, the cross-platform PDF format is becoming a very serious component in the printing industry, as it is used in both proofing and printing.


One could easily argue that Acrobat has been and will continue to be a major element in making the internet so useful. There is no doubt that the awareness of Acrobat will spread as the internet continues to flourish. Consequently, the importance of knowing what it is and how to use it will also grow in the years to come.

[Ryan Seggelke]