Home / Design / Essential Software

Essential Software

By David Cohn

In the spring of 2003, Adobe Systems of San Jose, Calif., introduced amajor new release of its software designed for creating and editing PDFfiles. What began as a file format for ensuring that documents viewedelectronically would appear identical to printed versions had evolvedinto the de facto standard for exchanging all types of documents,including CAD drawings. In Acrobat 6.0, Adobe split Acrobat intomultiple products, with the high-end Acrobat Professional specificallyaddressing the needs of CAD users. Acrobat 6.0 provided enhancedsupport for viewing and printing large page formats and, for the firsttime, users of AutoCAD and Visio could create PDF files that retainedtheir layers. Adobe has now improved upon that release.

Acrobat 7.0 features enhanced collaboration capabilities and greatersupport for XML and PDF forms, but the biggest news for CAD users isenhanced markup functions and the ability to incorporate interactive 3Dimages in a PDF document. Perhaps most significant, AutoCAD users whoproduce PDF files from their drawings can now bring PDF-based markupsback into AutoCAD.

Once again Acrobat comes in several flavors—Acrobat 7.0 Standard andAcrobat 7.0 Professional—available for both Windows and Mac OS X. Adobehas also updated Acrobat Elements, a basic Windows-only versionavailable solely through volume licensing and providing only theability to create, view, and print PDF files. There’s also a newversion of the Adobe Reader, which remains free.

Acrobat 7.0 Professional lets AutoCAD users create a single PDF filecontaining separate pages for each paperspace layout. After addingcomments using Acrobat markup tools, comments can be imported back intoAutoCAD.

No More Waiting
The first thing users are likely to notice in Acrobat 7.0 is its speed.Previous versions, particularly 6.0, seemed to take forever to startup. Acrobat 7.0 loads almost immediately. And PDF creation is alsoconsiderably faster than it once was.

What users won’t see are interface changes. Acrobat 6.0 introduced anentirely new user interface, with new icons and an extensivereorganization. This time around the UI changes are relatively minor.The biggest interface change is the addition of a new Organizer windowto help locate PDF files that have previously been opened. Organizershould help users quickly find, browse, and sort PDF files. Users canorganize PDF files into collections and favorites and after selectingone or more files, can choose several actions. For example, Send forReview lets you start an e-mail- or browser-based review. Acrobat 7.0also now keeps a history. Accessible either from Organizer or the Filemenu, you can quickly see files you viewed today, yesterday, during thelast seven, 14, or 30 days, or even during the past year.

CAD Collaboration
CAD users will be most interested in the Professional version ofAcrobat 7.0, since it is the version that includes the ability tocreate PDF files from AutoCAD and Visio. The new version includes PDFMaker applications for AutoCAD 2002, 2004, and 2005. When you installAcrobat, a new toolbar and two new menus are added to AutoCAD. Theseprovide one-click creation of PDF files, options to e-mail the file orsend it for review using Acrobat’s review-tracking capabilities, andthe ability to import markups from PDF files back into AutoCAD.

Acrobat 7.0 now lets users create a single PDF file that containsmultiple pages, one for each paperspace layout in the current AutoCADdrawing, similar to Autodesk’s own multi-sheet DWF files. Acrobatdisplays a dialog box that lets you select the layouts you wish toinclude. A second dialog box lets users select the layers to beincluded, create layer groups, and determine whether selected layerscan be turned on, off, or always remain visible. The paper size, scale,and other plot settings configured in AutoCAD for each layout controlthe resulting PDF file.
When the resulting file is opened in Acrobat 7.0 or the free Reader7.0, users see a Layers tab similar to Acrobat 6. Controls in this tablet you turn selected layers or layer groups on and off. Unlike version6, however, when you create a PDF file from model space, the resultingPDF file can now contain layer information.

If the PDF file contains multiple paperspace layouts, you can view theindividual layout pages using the Pages tab in Acrobat—similar toviewing multi-sheet DWF files in Autodesk DWF Composer.

Acrobat 7.0’s drawing markup capabilities have been enhanced with theaddition of a number of new tools, such as callouts, dimensions, textboxes, and pencil and eraser tools for adding and modifying freehandsketches. Totally new to Acrobat 7.0 Professional, however, is theability to import comments and markups from a PDF file back intoAutoCAD. A new menu added to AutoCAD provides tools for importing,showing, hiding, and deleting PDF comments. PDF-based comments areplaced on a special Acrobat Markups layer added to the AutoCAD drawing.The result is similar to the Markup Set Manager in AutoCAD 2005, butAcrobat’s markup capabilities work with AutoCAD 2002 and 2004 as well.

Works Well With Others
While Acrobat 6.0 added the ability to collaborate with others andtrack feedback, all team members had to own a full copy of thesoftware. With Acrobat 7.0 Professional, you can add commenting rightsto the PDF file so that anyone using the free Adobe Reader 7.0 has theadditional tools required.

Product Information

Adobe Acrobat 7.0
Adobe Systems Inc.
San Jose, CA

System Requirements
Windows XP Home, Professional, or Tablet PCEditions; Windows 2000 with Service Pack 2; Windows NT 4.0 withService Pack 6 (Acrobat Elements only); Windows 98 SE (Acrobat Elementsonly) or Mac OS X v10.2.8 or 10.3

Professional ($449, upgrades $159) Standard ($299, upgrades$99)
Elements (prices start at $39 per seat for a minimum 100-seatlicense)

When you send a PDF document for e-mail-based review, you can allowusers of the Reader to participate in the review. Upon opening the PDFfile in Adobe Reader, recipients of the comment-enabled PDF documentsee a special notation explaining what to do. If desired, the markuptoolbars, which would not normally be available in Reader, are alsodisplayed.

There are a host of other new features, such as auto save, automaticbookmarks, and editable file attachments, all of which make Acrobat 7.0a big improvement over its predecessors. Adobe also includes PDF Makerapplications for a wider range of programs, including Microsoft Word,Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Publisher. Both Acrobat 7.0 Professionaland Standard will even let you convert e-mail messages or entirefolders from Microsoft Outlook into PDF files, automatically retainingall attachments and hyperlinks.

Users of Acrobat 7.0 can also embed 3D content created in U3D format—arelatively new mesh-based standard promoted by the 3D Industry Forum(3DIF)—within a PDF document. Viewers of the document can then pan,zoom, and rotate those 3D models.With more than 500 million copies of the free Adobe Reader already inuse, PDF is one of the most ubiquitous file formats in the world today.Acrobat continues to be an essential tool for anyone who needs tocreate documents that must look identical to printed versions whenviewed on a computer. For those who also collaborate with others,including those who create and use engineering and technical drawings,the new features make Acrobat 7.0 a must-have.

Contributing Editor David Cohn is a computer consultant andtechnical writer based in Bellingham, Wash. He’s also theEditor-in-Chief of Engineering Automation Report and CADCAMNetpublished by Cyon Research, and the author of more than a dozen books.You can contact him via e-mail addressed tode-feedback@helmers.com.

About David Cohn

David Cohn has been using AutoCAD for more than 25 years and is the author of more than a dozen books on the subject. He’s the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies, a contributing editor to Digital Engineering, and also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA. Watch for his latest CADLearning eBooks on AutoCAD 2015 on the Apple iBookstore, at Amazon, and on the CADLearning website. You can contact him via email at david@dscohn.com or visit his website at www.dscohn.com.