The Confusing Bit
The new version of the Acrobat is simple to understand, though the subscription service has Adobe’s typically bewildering array of pricing plans. Basically, anyone with an existing Creative Cloud subscription automatically gets Document Cloud services at no extra charge. Others can get the app and use the services by buying a Document Cloud subscription for $14.99 per month for the Pro version reviewed here; it’s $12.99 for a reduced-feature Standard version. And an Enterprise subscription plan comes with more fine-grained and secure sharing features. To complicate things even more, there’s a Perpetual option (Retail price for – Pro version $499, Standard version $299 There is only 1 Non-Profit option for the Perpetual License, and it is the Pro version for $179.95) that doesn’t include the high-end subscription-service features, but runs forever, like traditional buy-and-install software, instead of requiring you to renew your subscription to continue using it.
All users get the PDF signing and tracking features that used to require a separate EchoSign application. These are now built into Acrobat DC itself. Users—especially corporate ones—who skipped the relatively minor upgrade from Acrobat X to the most recent previous version, Acrobat XI, will find plenty of reasons to upgrade to Acrobat Pro DC.
And Now the Good Stuff
The new version of the Acrobat Pro DC app is available in nearly identical releases for Windows and OS X, with reduced versions called Acrobat Mobile for iOS and Android released at the same time. The Fill and Sign mobile app lets anyone (with or without a Document Cloud subscription) sign an existing PDF form, while Document Cloud subscribers with a Pro-level plan only can also use the same app to convert a photo of a form into a signable PDF. All the apps, on all platforms, use technology from Photoshop for deskewing and straightening documents imported with a camera or scanner.
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Acrobat Pro DC has plenty of new features, but the most obvious change is the interface. In previous versions, features like redaction and full-text indexing were so well hidden that you first had to enable the menus they were listed on before you could use them. Now a Search Tools box lets you enter a few letters of the name of the tool you want, and the tool then appears in a panel at the right of the window. This Quick Tools side panel is easy to customize, as is the redesigned, modern-looking toolbar at the top of the window. When used on a Microsoft Surface 3$379.99 at Amazon or other touch-enabled Windows tablet, the interface is fully touch-enabled. A small black-and-white toolbar appears when you bring the mouse cursor near the foot of the window; it’s essentially the same toolbar you’ll recognize from PDFs displayed by the Acrobat plug-in Firefox and other browsers, and it’s convenient to have it also in the standalone Acrobat app.
Acrobat’s Best New Feature
For me, the most spectacular new feature is Acrobat Pro DC’s ability to add or edit text in a document’s original font—even if document is a scanned image made from a book printed in an old hot-metal font that doesn’t exist on any computer. In previous versions, you could add text to a PDF, but if you didn’t have the correct digital fonts on your system, Acrobat substituted one of its own built-in fonts, and you couldn’t make unobtrusive changes to scanned PDFs made from old books or magazines.
With the new version, you can edit or add text in a font that Acrobat constructs from the existing text in the PDF, even the uneven-looking text in a scanned image made from an old printed book. No other PDF or optical-character-reading software does anything remotely similar, and it makes it possible to repurpose old printed text in completely new ways. And further text-editing enhancements include the ability to add items to bulleted and numbered lists.
Acrobat’s OCR feature is massively enhanced over earlier versions, and it finally includes the ability to make corrections to words that the OCR software wasn’t certain it recognized correctly. The interface uses a toolbar at the top of the window that displays an image of the doubtful word and the text that the OCR recognized, which you can correct in case it’s wrong. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to click the Accept button instead of clicking in the text box to make a correction, and there’s no straightforward way to go back and correct your error. Our Editors’ Choice for OCR software, ABBYY FineReader Pro includes that feature, and is still indispensable for heavy-duty OCR work on scanned PDFs.
Master of Its Own Domain
Adobe created the PDF format and Adobe Acrobat has always been the mightiest of all PDF software. The last few versions got increasingly musclebound, combining vast power with a clumsy interface and sometimes sluggish performance. Acrobat Pro DC, with its speed, sleekness, and added powers, is the best Acrobat yet, and our no-contest Editors’ Choice for PDF software.