Adobe has released Acrobat Reader 9, the new version of its PDF reader; the full version of Acrobat 9 will follow shortly. We’ll be pressured to install the new version by reminders popping up from our toolbar, by notices when an earlier version of Acrobat is opened, by ads and news items and blogs.
Part of the difficulty with our computer experiences comes from updates like this – well-meaning manufacturers adding complexity that will not be useful to the vast majority of users.
Acrobat 8 was a significant improvement and I encouraged people to upgrade to the Reader and the full Acrobat program. Acrobat Reader was much faster than previous versions; Acrobat Professional 8 offered genuinely exciting new features that would be used by many people.
Acrobat 9 – well, I haven’t seen anything compelling yet. The new features in the full program are:
- Improved launch speeds. Great, but I haven’t found that to be a big problem recently.
- “PDF Portfolios,” a new way to create a single PDF file that contains drawings, e-mails, spreadsheets, and videos. I haven’t been in any offices likely to use PDFs for this purpose and I sense compatibility problems, just as the new formats for Microsoft Office 2007 caused confusion and grief.
- Support for embedding Shockwave and Flash movies in PDFs. Are there a lot of people waiting to do this?
- Integrated access to Acrobat.com, the uncompelling online portal for storing and collaborating on files. Again, I expect that to be ignored by most people.
Here’s what I’m reading about Acrobat Reader 9. (Blog examples: vicious brief writeup, vicious longer writeup, another unhappy user, screenshots of a Mac installation leading to a program crash.)
- The installation file is huge! It’s a 33Mb download that unpacks into 200Mb of installation files.
- The installation process is glacially slow, even worse than Adobe’s notoriously slow installations from the last few years.
- The installation includes Adobe Air, which is wholly irrelevant to using Acrobat Reader. Adobe Air is technology that can be used to build interactive web services. Bundling it with Acrobat Reader is ostensibly done to assist the integration with Acrobat.com, but in fact it’s a stealth installation so Adobe can tell potential licensees that Adobe Air has a big installed base.
- The default installation includes the eBay desktop program, a demonstration of Adobe Air that will be superswell for the twelve people who will use it and just more useless crap for the rest of us.
- It scatters links on desktop and Start menu for Acrobat.com.
I’m going to delay installing Acrobat 9 for as long as possible. I don’t think it’s harmful or evil but it sure doesn’t look necessary.