PDFs have become the common language for shared documents in most businesses and law offices, but the frequent upgrades to Acrobat have been uncompelling, with a confusing interface and puzzling features.

Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional is the upgrade we’ve been waiting for. Law offices should elevate it to the rank of a basic tool, as necessary and unavoidable as Word and Outlook. The interface has been simplified and features have been added or – just as important – brought forward into the light.

There are many ways to use the program now that go beyond simple PDF creation, especially in law offices. Here’s an article that summarizes many of the features that will be most appealing to lawyers. There are a few that stand out:

  • For scanning, Acrobat can now take over from Paperport 9, which is aging badly and appears to have no future. Acrobat can talk directly to most scanners (no intervening stop at the dialog box provided by the scanner manufacturer), scan multiple page documents into a single file, and does an extra invaluable trick: it immediately and transparently does OCR on the scanned image and stores the text inside the PDF file, where it can be indexed by a desktop search program.
  • Acrobat can add Bates numbers to a collection of PDF files – a couple of clicks replaces the endless process with the stamper and the copy machine.
  • Acrobat has gotten far better at creating a PDF of an e-mail message from Outlook that can be stored with other documents. There’s also an interesting trick where it creates a “PDF package” from an entire Outlook folder or set of folders – capable of being sorted by date/sender/subject/etc., but stored with other documents in the file system. And again, Windows Desktop Search with the Acrobat add-in will index the text in those files and include them in search results.
  • The functions for forms have been significantly enhanced. It’s now drop-dead easy to create fillable forms, replacing the rudimentary “FormTyper” in Paperport.

All this comes at a significant price – $159 if you have a serial number from an earlier version so you can qualify for an “upgrade,” and $459 (!) for the full version. (Make a note that there are two upgrade versions, depending on which prior versions you own – the same price but different SKUs. I don’t know why – just make sure you get the right one.) This looks so good that it moves into the “necessity” column for many offices, on some if not all desktops. [Originally posted 12/31/06, bumped 01/11/07]

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