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Acrobat arrives; Adobe software preserves documents' original look on any desktop computer.

IT SHOULD BE no surprise that Roger Fidler was beta testing Acrobat at Knight-Ridder's Information Design Lab or that Adobe Systems Inc. has talked up Acrobat with John Iobst at the Newspaper Association of America or that PressLink was among the first to announce its readiness to exploit the new technology.

Apart from its usefulness in other markets, Acrobat may find a natural fit in newspapers' near future. System vendors and system managers are looking at possible applications ranging from fax editions to advertising delivery to as-printed archiving.

If electronic newspapers and similar products and services are to be more than streams of text scrolling across future high-resolution flat-panel color displays, a method is needed to preserve the look of documents delivered electronically to a variety of receiving devices.

Within the industry, news services face a similar challenge. A universal viewer could broaden the market for materials carried by Knight-Ridder's PressLink. The dial-up service that supplies news reports, graphics, photos and industry bulletin boards said it plans new products, services and enhancements that will use Acrobat.

The same is true for advertising transactions adhering to electronic data interchange standards. When it comes time to see, much less output, an electronically delivered ad, can every newspaper possibly be expected to use every operating environment, possess every font and run every creative application used by every agency or advertiser?

There is, after all, no single standard for "standard platform" microcomputers. With Macintoshes, PCs and workstations running unlike operating systems on different microprocessors, how can all users view the same document in the form in which it was originally designed?

Among similar computers, views of formatted documents could be shared on networks, even copied to remote machines. Until this spring, the similar machines without the same fonts and applications could view only unformatted ASCII text.

In May, however, No Hands Software, Belmont, Calif., began shipping Common Ground -- software that allows Macintosh users without appropriate applications or fonts to view a document as it was prepared. A Windows version for PCs is expected shortly. In the meantime, Farallon Computing, Emeryville, Calif., offers Replica for font- and application-independent document exchange in Windows.

Both software packages duplicate the fonts and supply with each document the code required to view it in unchanged fashion.

In mid-June, however, Adobe Systems Inc., Mountain View, Calif., released Acrobat software, embodying its long-awaited Carousel technology. Though Acrobat approximates rather than duplicates type, its font metric matching is very close. Users receiving documents need neither the fonts nor the originating applications.

Also, although it attaches no viewer to a transmitted document, Acrobat reader software does not lock a user into a single computing environment. Documents prepared on one type of microcomputer can be viewed on any other with formatting intact.

Adobe business development manager Gary Cosimini, a former New York Times senior art director/technology, cited a simple example of an Acrobat solution. The National Football League's East Coast office uses PCs; its West Coast office uses Macs. Acrobat will allow them to exchange, view and annotate any of their documents, not just their verbal content. And the offices can keep the different hardware and text, image and page assembly applications they are comfortable using.

Adobe's demonstrations at the June PC Expo in New York included the New York Times' TimesFAX facsimile edition. While Acrobat would enable TimesFAX to bypass the subscriber's fax machine and transmit directly to a desktop computer, it could do so regardless of operating environment (Mac, DOS, Windows, Unix) and without a fax modem.

Acknowledging that Postscript documents cannot always be viewed on compatible but different systems (the absence of a font or fonts, for example), Cosimini said the Dallas Morning News and systems developer Digital Technology International are among those looking to Acrobat to successfully mediate the electronic exchange of display ads.

A newspaper wants to be assured it gets a department store's ad the way it is to look as much as the store wants to be able to reliably transmit the ad to the paper.

A facility converting Acrobat's Portable Document Format into PostScript, said Cosimini, will allow immediate and automatic clearing and proofing of ads.

He said "people have asked for" Acrobat-to-PostScript conversion without displaying a document. Adobe may work on that facility, he said, and may include device-independent color -- adding another dimension of cross-platform document fidelity.

Preserving a document formatting is important, in Cosimini's view, because design conveys information all its own apart from the contribution of the content. At its most basic, perhaps, a document's look may determine how successfully content or meaning are conveyed.

A searchable electronic library may be all a reporter needs when retrieving a few raw facts from published text. For a news editor examining story placement or relative play, a screen full of text is not enough.

Similarly, while a student searching a newspaper library for a school assignment may need only story content, the same student's parent may prefer to see, even print out, a copy of the page on which the son's or daughter's name and face appear.

"This is perfect for archiving newspaper pages," Cosimini said. For a document composed in QuarkXPress, for example, he noted that indexing under development for Acrobat will mean that users need not go back to XPress to view pages.

Acrobat is available now in Macintosh and Windows versions; those for DOS and Unix are expected by year end. It was released as three products, which rely on Adobe's device- and resolution-independent Portable Document Format.

Cosimini described the PDF as a subset of Postscript optimized for transmission and display. It possesses, he said, the attributes of Postscript without the complexity of the full programming language. Cosimini said there is "nothing system-specific about the file format," which is seven-bit ASCII that can be opened on a word processor. Notes can be attached to transmitted documents, and the notes can be called up separately from the documents.

While annotation leaves the original document unchanged, editable PDF is on the way, according to Cosimini, who noted that Adobe Illustrator files are editable and Acrobat is based on an older Illustrator version.

"The Acrobat file format is inherently revisable," he said, "and we'll do it in the next 18 months."

Acrobat Reader software enables the user to view, navigate through (pan, scroll, zoom or jump among document portions using thumbnails of each page) and print PDF documents. In addition to Reader capabilities, PDF documents are created, exchanged and annotated in the Exchange application. Cross-references within or among documents can be created by a live-links feature; pages from disparate documents can be electronically collated. Exchange for Macintosh and Windows includes Writer, a printer driver program for either environment to create PDF files from standard desktop applications.

The third product, Acrobat Distiller for individual or networked users, translates PostScript-language files into PDF files from documents containing Encapsulated Postscript elements and from documents created in applications that bypass system-level printing facilities and generate their own PostScript-language files for printing. It allows creation of PDF files from applications in Unix and DOS.

Using various algorithms, data are compressed by Writer and Distiller to speed transmission and occupy little space in memory. On-the-fly decompression is accomplished in Reader and Exchange.

Cosimini said compressed documents can be passed to Postscript Level 2 printers, which have built-in decompression. He also pointed out that Level 2 device-independent color, with color space and color rendering operators, is just now coming on stream. For that, he said, Adobe eventually will embed the color math within a document to be exchanged.

For writing, and eventually for searching, Cosimini said all text strings are recognized, including text within graphics and angled and curved text.

Where the user lacks a font contained in a PDF document, the type is supplied by Adobe multiple master technology, which closely approximates the original by matching the font metrics. Every new character is created only once, then stored for recall.

Fonts are required only for printed output, at which time the fonts used in the original document are substituted for the metric equivalents.

The Distiller, said Cosimini, can recognize a non-ISO Latin font that multiple master cannot simulate. It offers users the option of specifying fonts to be embedded within a document for exact replication. Fonts embedded in a document can then be printed, even though the fonts are not on the hard disk of an output device.

Acrobat's extensible file format permits later additions without invalidating prior work. In addition to document editing, plans call for full-text search capabilities later this year, support for Standard Generalized Markup Languages-tagged structured documents next year and development of support for audio and video capabilities.

Cosimini said a searchable version, to be released early next year using Topic software from Verity, will allow Boolean searches and entry of information into fields.

"We'd like to put database fields inside pages, or keywords," said Cosimini, who added that it would be another 18 months before documents would embody datafields.

Hypertext links can now be set up manually. However, Cosimini said software licensed from Avalanche Development and MasterSoft will provide PDF files with document structure for automatic creation of hypertext links and other aids. An Interleaf subsidiary, Avalanche develops automated SGML markup and conversion technologies.

At least one major U.S. supplier of output systems is studying Acrobat. And Richard Patterson, a founder and former director of Hyphen's U.K. company, has been consulting for Adobe, promoting adoption of Acrobat at existing PostScript sites, said Cosimini.

By speeding PostScript processing and developing software RIPs, Adobe competitors Hyphen and Harlequin were major forces in the newspaper industry's adoption of Adobe's page description language as an output standard.

Beyond future extensions of Acrobat, widespread acceptance may make its capabilities just another built-in feature of desktop computers. Because the DOS version of product relied so little on the operating system itself, said Cosimini, Adobe realized that Acrobat could be ported to a chip, utilizing about 4MB ROM and some RAM to move pages.
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Title Annotation:Adobe Systems Inc.'s Acrobat text management software
Author:Rosenberg, Jim
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Date:Aug 7, 1993
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