Adobe has released Acrobat DC, a new version of Acrobat with a completely revamped look and lots of Features You Probably Won’t Use™.
Let’s see if we can answer some of the basic questions about what’s new, where you can get it, and how much it costs. But we’ll start with the most pressing question.
What’s it called again?
We had Acrobat 7 and 8 and 9. Then a shift to Roman numerals with Acrobat X and XI. And now: Acrobat DC, which is just Acrobat XII/12 with a new name. The free viewer, long named “Adobe Reader,” is now “Adobe Acrobat Reader DC.”
“DC” stands for “Document Cloud,” Adobe’s new cloud service for signing and saving PDFs that Adobe hopes will “revolutionize the way the world works with documents.”
Adobe plans to use the name Acrobat DC permanently. New versions will be referred to by date – Acrobat DC 2015, Acrobat DC 2016 – but there won’t be an Acrobat 13.
Apple was one of the first tech companies to switch to permanent names and give up version names. Back in 2002, it released OS X as the operating system for Mac computers, and it has used that name since then. New versions are referred to by code names and decimals (the current version is 10.10, “Yosemite”), but the system is still OS X.
Microsoft will likely follow suit with Windows 10. There has not been any public announcement but I expect “Windows 10” to be the operating system name for years to come, with frequent updates but no name change to “Windows 11.”
Adobe, then, is following an industry trend that comes naturally along with the switch to subscription services to keep your software up to date. Giving up the artificial annual new version gives the manufacturers more flexibility to update the programs quickly and perhaps helps get everyone on the same version of the program, reducing fragmentation and support costs.
Broadly, Adobe made two changes to Acrobat: a vastly improved look and feel; and new tools for signing PDFs and sending and tracking documents through Document Cloud.
Acrobat has been awkward to use, with powerful tools hidden behind unintuitive toolbars and inscrutable icons. Acrobat DC has been redesigned to remove the clutter and expose tools in clean displays that are consistent across different devices, from computers to tablets to phones. The free Reader looks like the full Acrobat program. Both are simple and look far better than previous versions. The program has been made touch-friendly, and there is a new mobile app for reading PDFs as Adobe tries to wrench back mobile users who have been using third party apps.
Document Cloud is a major effort to create a platform that businesses will use to exchange documents. Adobe wants your Adobe ID to become one of the core identifiers used for your business, allowing you to store documents with Adobe for sharing and collaborating. Adobe is also focused on digital signatures and has built signing tools deeply into Acrobat to make them easier to use. Companies like DocuSign currently dominate the world of electronic signatures; Adobe hopes to take control of that world hook, line & sinker. Adobe has a new mobile app, Fill and Sign, that links to your Adobe ID and makes it easy to fill PDF forms and provide digital signatures.
There are lots of screenshots and more details here. My gut reaction: everyone will appreciate the updated look of the program; but Document Cloud will at first be used only by large enterprises (and perhaps some small businesses in industries that are built on signatures – real estate offices, for example). That doesn’t mean you won’t see evidence of it; your real estate or banking deals may start to be presented on electronic documents traveling through Document Cloud, for example. It’s possible that law offices will have good reason to climb the learning curve and begin to use digital signatures, but be warned – it’s a steep learning curve. (Remember, Lynda.com is your best friend when it’s time to learn a new program.)
How much does it cost?
Adobe is in the middle of a transition to subscription-based programs. You can still buy Acrobat Pro DC for $449 but it’s a foolish thing to buy. Many of the new features are only available with the subscription version and I wouldn’t count on Adobe continuing to deliver updates forever, even if the name doesn’t change.
A subscription to Adobe DC Pro is $14.99/month for a license that can be installed on two computers. It’s a shame that Adobe didn’t get the memo about free-falling software prices – the one that caused Microsoft to start selling five licenses for Office for $99. So it goes. Be prepared to start paying the monthly fee to Adobe for your business computers. Almost every business needs to create and manipulate PDFs; Acrobat is a core business requirement just as much as Microsoft Word and Excel.
How do you get it? Do you need it?
If you already have a subscription license for Acrobat XI, then you can update to Acrobat DC right now. Open the Creative Cloud program and click on the Apps tab. Acrobat will be shown with an “Update” button.
You will need to log in with an Adobe ID and start a subscription if you have an earlier version of Acrobat, or if you have a non-subscription license for Acrobat XI.
You’re under no pressure to upgrade right away. Your current version of Acrobat has not stopped working. Acrobat XI still works fine. Two things might make you want to upgrade:
• The new program interface is a big improvement. If you’ve ever felt bad that you’re not getting enough from Acrobat, or been frustrated by its complexity, then the upgrade might be well worth it.
• At some point, other programs will begin working better with Acrobat DC, or they will stop working with Acrobat XI or older versions. That’s a game that Adobe has played for many years. Each new version of Office has broken the integration with Acrobat until we bought the new version, for example. It has made us angry and has made Adobe a lot of money. I doubt if anything has changed.
Let me know if I can help you sort out any of the details!