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Adobe updates Acrobat for the XML era

Version 6.0 bridges proprietary PDF to open XML

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Adobe has melded its Portable Document Format (PDF) and XML, updating its Acrobat family of PDF creation tools to version 6.0 in the process.

The move encourages organisations to use XML to encode their business information which retaining the popular PDF format to ensure that information can, where appropriate, be shared and published.

XML provides a framework for not only formatting documents - HTML, basically - but incorporating meta data - information about the information. That makes it possible to incorporate into the data itself workflows for taking source information and generating documents based upon it, whether for internal or external use, archiving, email or printing.

XML also makes it possible to share those documents outside the organisation by incorporating all the extra information reader software needs to display or print the document. That's exactly what PDF has offered for the last 15 years or so, albeit based on Adobe's proprietary PostScript document formatting language.

Adobe no doubt feels that XML has achieved sufficient momentum in the corporate world - or is about to - that it needs to align these two technologies to prevent the one (XML) ousting the other (PDF).

If all applications saved documents not in their existing, proprietary formats, but in XML, then any app could open any other app's files and display the contents. You might not be able to edit the results - CorelDRAW doesn't have spreadsheet functionality, after all - but you could save yourself having to convert documents to an interchange format first. An interchange format such as... well... PDF.

And should PDF fall out of favour, Adobe is positioning itself as a provider of document creation workflow tools that enable this world of rich XML documents and process automation driven by the use of document standards. Witness the alliances the company today said it had struck with the likes of Documentum, Open Tex, SAP and IBM. In the meantime, while PDF remains the de facto standard for document interchange, Adobe's tools manage the production of PDF files too.

Indeed, the Acrobat family, today upgraded to version 6.0, targets the broad spectrum of document producers. Acrobat Professional includes high-end print production pre-flighting tools, allows the creation of technical drawing-friendly multi-layer documents, and has an electronic forms engine. Collaboration tools, such as document review management and commenting, document encryption (128-bit) and the ability to combine multiple documents into a single PDF, it shares with the mainstream Acrobat Standard edition. Acrobat Elements provides simple native-to-PDF file conversion tools, and is aimed at corporates seeking to bulk license PDF creation technology.

Professional and Standard are expected to ship at the end of May for around $449 and $299, respectively. Users of Acrobat 4.0 and 5.0 can upgrade to Professional for $199 or Standard for $99. Multiple Windows versions are supported, but Mac users are going to have to get with the programme and upgrade to OS X if they want to use Acrobat 6.0 creation tools.

Version 6.0 of the free Acrobat Reader software will be released in the same timeframe, Adobe said. ®

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