Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended

Adobe's Acrobat gets its most significant upgrade in years. Is it an essential purchase?

Well, first it takes in features formerly covered in the separately released Acrobat 3D (now discontinued), which means that you can insert a whole range of 3D models in formats such as 3DS, OBJ and DAE. These can then be rotated in 3D space, relit and re-rendered and all from within the free Reader application. There are also new features on this front, including a dedicated 3D Reviewer and the ability to export models to 2D vector formats.

Acrobat 9 Pro Extended also adds support for an entirely new media type: maps. Once you've set up or "georegistered" a map involves (with boundary co-ordinates and the map scale), users of Reader can interact with it by viewing the latitude and longitude coordinates, measuring distance, area and perimeter and exporting locations and measurements.

Adobe Presenter

The real stand out, and major selling point, for Acrobat 9 Pro Extended, however, is the inclusion of Adobe Presenter 7, which costs 309 exc VAT on its own. This is an add-on for Microsoft PowerPoint that dramatically increases its power. To begin with it adds advanced media handling which lets you insert flash SWF animations, record, synch and edit an audio commentary for your slides, and insert, capture and edit video. You can also create interactive quizzes based on a range of question types: multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank and so on.

The real strength of Presenter has always come from the fact that you can then export your media-enhanced, interactive PowerPoint presentation to Flash SWF ready for high-impact, web-efficient playback in any browser. Now, there's another near-universal publishing option available: PDF. And with the Flash player now integrated into Adobe Reader, the resulting PDF is just as rich and engaging as SWF.

Conclusion

Acrobat 9 Pro Extended is certainly not cheap and if you aren't going to use its advanced capabilities - and it's difficult to imagine how you could use all of them - you could save a great deal of money by looking at the alternatives.

On the other hand when you consider everything that the PDF format is now capable of - and remembering that Extended is considerably cheaper than the Acrobat 3D release that it replaces and throws in Adobe Presenter for good luck - you have to say that it's good value.

It certainly is in the US where the RRP is US$699. Here UK rip-off pricing applies, depriving Acrobat Pro Extended of an otherwise well-deserved Recommended award.

It's a real pity as Acrobat 9 gives the PDF platform a new lease of life and Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended lets you make the absolute most of its wide-ranging power.

Verdict

With its incorporation of Flash-based media handling and new integration with Acrobat.com, the Acrobat platform fully embraces the internet age - at last.

Processor: 1.3GHz or faster processor

OS: Windows XP SP2 or above, Windows Server 2003 (SP2), Windows Vista

Browser: Internet Explorer 6.0 or above

Memory: 256MB of RAM (512MB recommended)

Hard disk: 2.13GB of available hard-disk space

Display: 1,024 x 768 screen resolution

Optical drive: DVD-ROM drive

Graphics: Video hardware acceleration (optional)

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