Adobe has launched an online suite of software and services, along with announcing the July release of Acrobat 9. It’s all interesting but I have a sense of overload already, and we’re still very early in the new age of online web services.

acrobatdotcombuttons is ready for you to begin using for free – an email address and a password opens up online file storage, convenient file sharing, an online word processor, web conferencing, and a PDF converter. I can only mention a few things in passing, but this article has a nice description of each of the features.

Adobe has designed a very appealing set of controls for its services, with lots of functions presented elegantly. The file sharing feature makes it easy to send an email with a large file attachment by uploading the file to Adobe’s servers and sending only a link in the message. There’s a generous amount of free space for file storage. The web conferencing stands out for ease of use.

In addition to many small companies offering each of the various parts, Microsoft and Google have already begun to roll out their own online suites. Google Docs and Microsoft Office Live Workspace and other Microsoft Live services each provide more or less the same functions: Google offers its typically quirky and sometimes overly simplistic interface; Microsoft counters with some appealing services that are all too often overlapping, confusing, and complex. Now Adobe enters the field with presumably a big promotional push.

Each of these suites will only reward a person or business who commits to one of them wholeheartedly. Who’s ready to do that? There are a hundred services that will help you send an oversize email attachment. Web conferencing is easy to come by. The benefits of Adobe’s services might emerge if you take advantage of their integration, which means committing to them and using them daily as a way to change your business flow. I don’t feel any appetite among my very small business clients for a change like that and I’m not sure I’d be doing them a favor if I tried to create that momentum – not yet, anyway.

In just a few minutes, I ran into some limitations of the services – not big problems, just typical startup issues.

  • The initial login was problematic – the service didn’t recognize my “Adobe ID” and I had to go through the password reset process.
  • The online word processor, “Buzzword,” uses a separate login name and password for some reason, and stores its documents separately from the other Adobe file storage service.
  • The word processor is adequate for the basics but no more than that. Here’s more info about Buzzword.
  • The online file storage will not accept any media files – no online storage of music or movies. I can understand why Adobe handles difficult copyright issues that way, but it limits the usefulness of the service.
  • There is an online PDF converter to create PDFs from Office documents and other formats, but the free converter can only be used five times – hardly worth mentioning. Adobe isn’t going to give up its profits from selling Acrobat that easily!

Now with all that said, I encourage you to take a look at! Set up your password and try things out! The design is lovely and the service has much promise. But don’t commit to it half-heartedly or it will become just another forgotten password for a web site where a few forgotten files are stored.

As to Acrobat 9, there are no details yet about whether there will be any important new features for businesses. The presentation on Monday focused on the ability to embed Flash videos in PDF files. How . . . special. There will also be hooks to the online service to facilitate collaborating on PDF files, which doesn’t mean much if we’re not otherwise using the service. Waiting for details on that one.

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