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Adobe Acrobat was the first software to support Adobe Systems' Portable Document Format (PDF). It is a family of software, some commercial and some free of charge. The Adobe Acrobat Reader program (now just called Adobe Reader) is available as a no-charge download from Adobe's web site, and allows the viewing and printing of PDF files. It is a major component of the Adobe Engagement Platform, and is widely used as a way to present information with a fixed layout similar to a paper publication.
Several other PDF-editing programs allow some minimal editing and adding of features to documents, and come with other modules including a printer driver to create PDF files.
Since the early 1990s, the Acrobat product had several competitors who each used their own document formats, such as:
- AnyView from Binar Graphics
- Common Ground from No Hands Software
- Envoy from WordPerfect Corporation
- Folio from NextPage
- Microsoft Reader from Microsoft
- Replica from Farallon Computing
- WorldView from Interleaf
By the late 1990s PDF had become the de facto standard, and the others had become largely historical footnotes. This in turn has led to many more competitors for Adobe Acrobat, both free and commercial.
Today, there are a host of third-party programs that create or manipulate PDF, such as Ghostscript and Nitro PDF. Adobe also allows Acrobat plug-ins to be developed by third parties, which can add extra functions within the Acrobat program.
Adobe has changed the names of the products in the Acrobat family regularly, also splitting products up, joining them together, or discontinuing members. This causes much confusion, not only about what product to obtain, but even about what product people have.
As of 2006, the current main members of the Adobe Acrobat family are
- Adobe Reader 8 (previously Adobe Acrobat Reader); no-charge software to read or print PDF files.
- Adobe Acrobat Standard 8 and Adobe Acrobat Professional 8; commercial (paid for) software to create PDFs and to manipulate them in various ways. Between version 3 and 5 these were one product simply called Adobe Acrobat.
- A growing collection of server and specialist products
Adobe has never created a product called either Adobe Writer or Acrobat Writer, although these names seem a natural opposite to the Reader product. Purists and pedants dislike these made-up names. To add more confusion, Acrobat used to include a printer driver called PDFWriter.
Acrobat product history
Version 1 (Released 15 June 1993)
- Acrobat Reader 1.0 for Macintosh, later for DOS and Windows 3.1. This was not available in single copies and was not initially free. After a while the IRS purchased a right to distribute Reader 1.0, effectively making it seem free to those who obtained it that way.
- PDF version 1.0 supported.
- Acrobat Exchange 1.0 (included PDFWriter printer driver and Acrobat Exchange application).
- Acrobat Distiller 1.0. Created PDF from PostScript (no printer driver at this stage).
Version 2 (Released September 1994)
- Acrobat Reader 2.0 for Windows and Macintosh. Now free.
- PDF version 1.1 (and prior) supported.
- Acrobat Exchange 2.0, package as 1.0.
- Acrobat Professional 2.0, which included the contents of Acrobat Exchange, plus Distiller.
- There were 2.1 updates.
- Acrobat Catalog was introduced, using Verity, Inc. technology to create searchable indexes to PDF files. Searching required a special version of Acrobat Reader, not free, or Acrobat Exchange.
Version 3 (Released 1996)
- Acrobat Reader 3.0. The first to display PDF files in-browser, and the first to support form filling.
- PDF version 1.2 (and prior) supported.
- A free Reader to allow searching was made available, but was not part of the default download.
- Acrobat 3.0 – replaced Acrobat Professional 2.1. Included Acrobat Catalog, and a Distiller printer driver.
- First release with support for Windows 95 and later. Last release with support for Windows 3.1.
Version 4 (Released April 1999)
- Acrobat Reader 4.0.
- PDF version 1.3 (and prior) supported.
- Acrobat 4.0.
- Updates to 4.05.
- Introduced Distiller Server 4.0, identical to the regular Distiller but with a multi-user license (Windows, Linux, Solaris).
- Acrobat Business Tools 4.0 – a limited version of Acrobat.
Version 5 (Released May 2001)
- Acrobat Reader 5.0.
- PDF version 1.4 (and prior) supported.
- Acrobat 5.0. PDFWriter removed from Macintosh application
- Updates to 5.0.5. Acrobat 5.0.5 was the first to be able to run native in Mac OS X, but also ran in Mac OS 9.
- Distiller Server 5.0.
- Acrobat Approval 5.0 – a limited version of Acrobat, mainly sold to people who wanted to digitally sign or save fill in forms.
- Acrobat Reader 5.1 – supported the Adobe LiveCycle Reader Extensions (e.g. forms saving) (which was then under a different name).
Version 6 (Released April 2003)
- Adobe Reader 6.0 (no Linux or Unix versions)
- PDF version 1.5 (and prior) supported.
- Acrobat Professional 6.0 – replacement for Acrobat 5.0, with new features. Distiller printer driver renamed Adobe PDF. PDFWriter now gone for good. New version of Catalog integrated and not compatible with earlier products for searching.
- Acrobat Standard 6.0 – limited version of Acrobat Professional, including Distiller but lacking features including Catalog, form design, prepress support.
- Updates to 6.0.1, 6.0.2, 6.0.3, 6.0.4 and 6.0.5
- Dropped support for Windows 95 and Windows 98 First Edition. Acrobat Professional was Windows NT, 2000, XP only. Dropped support for Mac OS 9 and earlier. First release for Mac OS X.
- Distiller Server 6.0.
- Acrobat Elements 6.0 – PDF creation only, aimed at the corporate market (minimum 1000 licenses, Windows only)
- Acrobat Elements Server 6.0 – client/server version of Acrobat Elements
- Technology for "Reader enabling", allowing Reader to save, sign or annotate PDF files if the licensee had enabled the files.
Version 7 (Released January 2005)
- Adobe Announces Acrobat 7.0 Software Availability
- Adobe Reader 7.0
- Updates to 7.0.1, 7.0.2, 7.0.3, 7.0.5, 7.0.7, and 7.0.8.
- PDF version 1.6 (and prior) supported.
- Acrobat Professional 7.0 – now includes Adobe LiveCycle Designer 7.0 (Windows only) for XML form design (different and incompatible with previous form support) – Ability to embed 3D object information from the .u3d Universal 3D format. First version to include controversial mandatory product activation.
- Acrobat Standard 7.0
- Acrobat Elements 7.0 (now minimum 100 licenses)
- Acrobat 3D (Windows only) – includes all of the functionality of Acrobat Professional 7.0 as well as updated support for embedded 3D, tools for capturing 3D content from OpenGL applications, and the Adobe Acrobat 3D Toolkit for converting CAD documents to PDF objects. Also included is a version of the capture tool for installation on Unix.
- Windows 2000, XP, Mac OS X only for Acrobat. Although Linux, Solaris (SPARC only), HP-UX and AIX versions of Adobe Reader have been released.
- Other LiveCycle products include LiveCycle Barcoded Forms, LiveCycle Document Security, LiveCycle Reader Extensions (previously Document Server for Reader Extensions and other names), LiveCycle Forms (previously Form Server), LiveCycle Form Manager, LiveCycle Policy Server and LiveCycle Workflow. Some of these are server solutions intended for large businesses. Only LiveCycle Designer is bundled with Acrobat Professional.
Version 8 (Released November 2006)
- Adobe Announces Acrobat 8.0 Software
- Adobe Reader 8.0
- Acrobat 8 Elements (available mid-2007)
- Acrobat 8 Standard (Windows only; Macintosh version not produced)
- Acrobat 8 Professional
- Acrobat 3D Version 8 (available early 2007)
- Acrobat Connect (new in Acrobat family, formerly Macromedia Breeze) – online personal meeting rooms to collaborate in real time for up to 15 participants.
- Acrobat Connect Professional (new in Acrobat family, formerly Macromedia Breeze) – Scalable, interactive web conferencing and multiple personal meeting rooms for everyone across an enterprise.
- Mac OS X versions will be Universal binary and only run on Mac OS X 10.4.
- List of PDF software.
- ^ Adobe Systems Inc., Help file for Acrobat 5.0 wrote "Note: PDFWriter is a custom install option and is supported for Windows only".
- ^ "http://lwn.net/Articles/129729/" Unexpected features in Acrobat 7
- ^ "http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2016606,00.asp" Hacker Discovers Adobe PDF Back Doors
- Adobe Acrobat Standard
- Adobe Acrobat Professional
- Comparison of features across Acrobat 7 line (in PDF format)
- Adobe Reader Download Page
- Old Versions of Acrobat Reader
- How to repair Adobe Reader 6
- Acrobat user tips and learning centers