Acrobat 2 became available in November 1994. It supported the new PDF 1.1 file format which added support for:
- external links
- article threads
- security features
- device independent color
Acrobat 2.0 itself also got some nice enhancements, including a new architecture of Acrobat Exchange to support plug-ins in and the possibility to search PDF files.
Adobe themselves were one of the first big users of PDF. They distributed all documents for developers as PDF files. Another early adopter of PDF were the US tax authorities who distributed tax forms as PDF files.
Acrobat 2.1 added multimedia support with the possibility of adding audio or video data to a PDF document.
In those days, PDF was not the only attempt at creating a portable device and operating system independent file format. Its biggest competitor was a product called Common Ground. Envoy and DejaVu were two other competing products.
In 1995, Adobe began shipping Acrobat Capture for a rather steep 4000 US dollar. At the same time, Adobe also started adding PDF support to many of its own applications, including FrameMaker 5.0 and PageMaker 6.
PDF 1.2 – the prepress world wakes up
In November 1996, Adobe launched Acrobat 3.0 (code name: Amber) and the matching PDF 1.2 specifications. PDF 1.2 was the first version of PDF that was really usable in a prepress environment. Besides forms, the following prepress related options were included:
- support for OPI 1.3 specifications
- support for the CMYK color space
- spot colors could be maintained in a PDF
- halftone functions could be included as well as overprint instructions.
The release of a plug-in to view PDF files in the Netscape browser increased the popularity of PDF file on the booming Internet. Adobe also added the possibility to link PDF files to HTML pages and vice versa. PDF also slowly began to get accepted by the graphic arts industry. Initially the black-and-white digital printing market began using PDF for output on fast Xerox digital presses.
In Acrobat 3, the open architecture of Acrobat Exchange finally began to pay off and a lot of interesting prepress extensions appeared in ’97 and ’98, including several essential prepress tools.
- PitStop and CheckUp from Enfocus software and CrackerJack from Lantanarips were some of the early Acrobat plug-ins.
- Global Graphics had already added native PDF support to their Jaws RIP in 1993. In 1997 they added the same capability to their much more popular Harlequin RIP.
- Agfa was the first major company that promoted the use of PDF for full-color commercial printing with their Apogee system, launched in 1998. Other manufacturers followed soon after.
Although vendors pushed hard to get PDF of the ground, the market was a bit slow to react. This was mainly due to the fact that the use of PDF required additional tools as well as some know-how on the file format, its limitations, and curiosities. People also got disappointed of PDF when they discovered that it is a very open standard. Although the PDF standard was usable in a prepress environment, there were simply too many ways in which a perfectly valid but unusable PDF-file could be created.