After all these years Acrobat still has a few tricks up its sleeve

OK. Stop what you’re doing. Seriously, stop. What I am about to tell you is worth a few minutes of your time.

I get software upgrades constantly. Designers and paginators salivate when they come by my office and see all the software on my desk. Right now there is a glut of products from Adobe, Extensis, Subrosa, Quark and a few others lying there. Sometimes I have to force myself to look at another upgrade. But that’s what I do. And I don’t take this duty lightly. So, against all natural tendencies, I keep inserting those disks and installing those new versions. And a day like today makes it all worth it.

Could any product be worth this build up? Yes, it could. Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro has impressed me once again! How can it be? Has it really been 15 years since I created my first PDF file? Has it been 14 years since the first full-color PDF, a Frank and Ernest comic strip, was printed in a building behind my office? Has it really been 13 years since the first newspaper printed totally from a PDF file came off the press? I must be getting old.

You might remember my review of Acrobat 8 Professional last year. I was blown away by the “fixup” capability added to the preflight function. You may remember that this tool allowed users to fix specific problems in a PDF file.

These included removing OPI information and converting the PDF, among others. A few of the solutions didn’t work as well as I had hoped. One, meant to convert all colors to grayscale, tended to miss color in EPS files. A few others had similar problems. That was OK, though. The ability to find and remove OPI information and convert the PDF version with the click of a button more than made up for any problems.

In my review, I mentioned that there were a couple of new features I hoped for in version 9. One was the ability to convert all colors to CMYK or grayscale with a simple click. The other was the ability to convert text to outlines. As I live and breathe, I think Acrobat Pro 9 has done it!

We’ll get to the text conversion when I have more time to devote to that feature. For now, let’s look more closely at color conversions.

Initially, I tried using the color fixups in the preflight area to see if they worked. You have a lot more control over which colors to convert, but color still snuck through when I chose the “Convert Color to BW” option.

There’s good news. As in previous versions, I could still use Ink Manager to convert the spot colors to process. But I was looking for a method of converting all colors to process or grayscale with the click of a button. I found it in the updated “Covert Colors” command.

First, I instructed Acrobat to convert all colors to gray, with a 25% dot gain. Mission accomplished. Next, I opened an RGB photo in Photoshop and converted it to an RGB PDF file. I opened the PDF in Acrobat, selected “Convert Colors to Output Intent,” and then selected “US Web Uncoated” as my output intent. You guessed it. The photo instantly converted to CMYK.

Finally, I created a document in InDesign and purposely included plenty of spot colors, RGB items and a photo saved in RGB. Yep, it worked like a charm. I almost leapt out of my seat when I checked all the items and found they were now in process colors.

One other feature that I really grew to appreciate as I tested version 9 is the ability to quickly select single fixups from the Preflight menu. For instance, if I wanted to be sure black text overprinted, I would simply select “Set Black Text to Overprint” from the fixup menu.

Do you want to know what I really think about Acrobat 9 Pro? It’s too good. It’s getting too easy to check PDFs for problems and fix them. I’m not sure how I’ll spend all my time now. And now it even has a fix for those pesky CID fonts. Well, at least I have something to teach until Acrobat 10 is released.

(Thanks to Blu for help with the updated info about text conversion)

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September 04, 2008 at 12:00am
You can convert text to outlines in Acrobat 9 (you could do it in 8 as well I think) using the flattener preview dialog. It only will convert text on pages that contain transparency, but this is easily remedied. Go to Document > Background > Add/Replace. Then just add a white box with a 0% opacity. Now you can convert text to outlines using the flattener Preview. I have yet to see a PDF that I couldn't figure out how to fix with Acro 9 (or InDesign occasionally). Acrobat 8, well, that's another story. The convert colors command had some serious problems. I think Pitstop is definitely not worth the expense. The best thing to me about Acro 9 is how stable it is. It runs much faster and smoother than Acro 8. The object and text touch-up tools are especially more stable.
September 04, 2008 at 12:00am
Thanks, Blu.

I'll give this a try next week and see how it turns out. While previous versions had the ability (8 and earlier), there were too many problems with results when we did testing.

I'll give this a try.
September 04, 2008 at 12:00am
Great tip, Blu! I've tried it on a couple of big files and they look good.

I tested this option in earlier versions. They even included it in PDF Optimizer in a couple of versions. But the results were often less than acceptable. I'll play with this some more.
September 17, 2008 at 12:00am
Thanks for the shout out Kevin. The funny thing is that Adobe actually discourages this practice. They say it is not good mainly because you lose font hinting and perhaps a little sharpness. In my experience, it never causes noticeable loss of quality when printed. And really, what choice do you have? Buying a font because it was not embedded for an eighth page ad that will only run once just so you don't lose hinting is a little impractical to say the least.
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