Join Claudia McCue for an in-depth discussion in this video Comparing the three versions of Acrobat, part of Learning Acrobat XI.
Although this course is focused on Acrobat XI Pro, I thought it might be helpful to show you some of the features that are available in the other members of the Acrobat family, especially if you're still trying to decide which version you need. Now Reader and Acrobat Pro are available on both Mac and Windows, but Acrobat Standard is available only for Windows, and Reader is free, as it's always been. Now traditionally, if you wanted to create a PDF, you had to have Standard or Pro, but Reader users can do something in this version that they couldn't do in previous versions.
If you know that you need to convert Microsoft Office application files to PDF and you don't anticipate needing to edit those PDFs, ff you're a Reader user, you can subscribe to an online service that performs those conversions for you. You can sign up for a year at $7.50 a month or you can go month-to-month at $9.99 a month. So if all you have to do is convert Office files to PDF, you don't think you are going to need to edit them, you might get by with just Reader and that online subscription. If you want to export some content out of a PDF and repurpose it, use it in other applications, for most of those operations you really are going to need either Standard or Pro.
But here, again, Reader can do something it couldn't do in previous versions. If you want to reverse engineer a PDF and generate a Word file or an Excel Spreadsheet, Reader users can subscribe to another online service, it's $19.99 a year. However, if you want to reverse engineer a PDF and generate a PowerPoint file, that you can only do in Pro, and if you need to edit the text or the graphics in a PDF, you need Standard or Pro. Acrobat Pro users can insert multimedia content such as audio and video and Flash animations in a PDF.
But in this version, unlike previous versions, they need to download and install a Flash player to allow them to do that. And to view that kind of content in Reader, Standard, or Pro, you need to download and install that Flash player. Now that's not the same Flash player that you install into a browser. If you try to create or view a PDF with this kind of content, if you don't have that Flash player installed, you are going to be prompted where to go to get it and how to install it. If you want to convert some file types to PDFs on the fly, such as text files or Office files and then combine them into a PDF, you can do that in both Standard and Pro.
However, if you want to apply Bates numbering, that you can only do in Pro. To create PDF portfolios, you have to have Acrobat Pro. What is a portfolio? Well, you might think of it as sort of a container for any kind of file type, and you're not limited to just PDFs. You could put in movies, you could put in text files, put in images. You might put all the collateral files for a project in a PDF portfolio. It's just a great way to transport that kind of content, especially if you're working in an environment where it's a problem to transport ZIP files, you might find that PDF portfolio's a great container.
But you can only create portfolios in Pro; you can view them and use them in Reader and Standard. But portfolios are based on Flash content as well. So again, you're going to need that Flash player in Pro to author them, and you're going to need it in Standard or Reader in order to view those portfolios and pull content out of them. If you want to use PDFs in document reviews so that people can put little sticky notes on PDFs and mark up with intuitive markup tools, that's something you can do in Reader, Standard, and Pro, and this is sort of new for Reader.
In the past, users of Standard or Pro had to enable a PDF so that Reader users could participate, unless that PDF was part of what's called the shared review or an email review. But in version XI, Reader users can mark up PDFs, whether they're enabled or not. But here's a consideration, you don't always have the luxury of knowing what version of Acrobat a recipient is using. Whether they're using Standard or Pro, whether they're using Reader, whether they're using a really old version of Reader. So if you want to play it safe, always enable a PDF so that Reader users can mark them up, regardless of what they're using.
And you can see that there are some limitations in Standard. You can't export comments into a Microsoft Word file as markups that can be regarded as things that can track changes. And again, you can only do that on Windows. If you want to create fillable forms, you can do that in Standard or Pro. In previous versions you had to enable a PDF so that Reader users could fill out a form, save it, and then still have that data in the file when they opened it back up. But in version XI, Reader users can save a PDF that has data in a form field and it's going to be there when they open it up again.
But here again, you have that same consideration. If you don't know for sure that they have Reader XI, you should probably go ahead and enable that file for a Reader user so that you know that they won't lose that data that they put in there. And you can see in the chart that there are common features between Standard and Pro. One little thing, though, if you want a Reader user to be able to use certificate signing for a form that you have to enable in Pro, even if they're using Acrobat Reader XI, you still have to enable it for them. If you want to add some security features to a PDF, that's something you can't do in Reader.
You can add security features in Standard and in Pro, but one of the things you can do in Pro that you can't do in Standard is permanently redact information, that doesn't just cover it up, it totally gets rid of it. And again, if you want to enable Reader users to digitally sign a PDF, you have to do that in Pro. You may have heard of Section 508 or accessibility and that puts some information into a PDF so that users can reflow text on screen or a screen reader software can understand what's in that file and read it in a proper order for them.
Acrobat Pro and Acrobat Standard give you controls over how this looks on screen, so can Reader users. But if you want to validate a PDF to make sure it meets some accessibility standards, you are going to need Pro, and if you want to change the order of some content in a PDF so that it reads correctly on screen with a screen reader software, that you can only do in Pro. If you're in the graphic arts, I'm going to make your decision really easy, you need Acrobat Pro. Even though you can edit files in Standard, there are things that you can do in Pro that you really need in the print industry and in the graphic arts.
Being able to examine a PDF and find out the resolution of image content or find the color space and fix some common problems, like converting RGB content to CMYK, or mapping one spot color to another. And you can also create PDFs that acceed to PDF/X-1a, X-3, X-4 and so forth. So you probably know what you need in your environment if you are a graphic artist or you work in a printing company. But you can only perform those changes that you need to perform to a PDF if you are using Acrobat Pro.
If you want to search through PDFs for content, you can do that in all of the products. If you want to embed an index in a PDF that's speed searching, you can do that in Standard or Pro, and if you want to build a catalog of indexes for multiple PDFs, that you can only do in Pro. I really have just shown you the high points of the differences between these three applications that constitute the Acrobat family. If you want to go deeper, go to the Adobe website, of course, and go to adobe.com/products/acrobat.
- Understanding the Portable Document Format (PDF)
- Inserting, replacing, and extracting pages
- Combining PDFs
- Creating PDFs from Word, PowerPoint, and Excel
- Converting web pages to PDF
- Scanning hard copies of documents
- Printing to PDF
- Exporting to other formats from Acrobat (such as the Excel .xls)
- Adding hyperlinks and bookmarks
- Marking up a PDF with annotations and drawings
- Using shared reviews