Illustrator 9 and PDF 1.4 – Acrobat will have to wait
In Mid 2000, Adobe did something weird: they released Illustrator 9. Although launching a new version of a drawing application is not that bizarre, Illustrator 9 did have one amazing feature: it was the first application to support PDF 1.4 and its transparency feature. This was the first time Adobe did not accompany a new version of PDF with a new version of Acrobat. They also did not release the full specs of PDF 1.4, although technote 5407 documented the transparency support in PDF 1.4.
Acrobat 5 (codename: Brazil)
In May 2001 Acrobat 5 did finally show up and PDF 1.4 became a reality. The file format itself had not changed that much. For prepress, the things worth mentioning include:
- the addition of transparency support, which allows an object like text or an image to see through.
- improved security, including 128-bit encryption and the option of setting the quality of printing (you can define that a PDF can be printed but only in low resolution)
For non-prepress users, Adobe also added some goodies to the PDF 1.4 file format:
- ‘Tagged PDFs’ are PDF files that also contain structural information about the data that are represented by the PDF document. This means that meta-information like defining titles, blocks of text,… can be part of a PDF-document.
- This makes it easier to create PDF-files that can adapt themselves to the device they will be used upon. This new feature is mainly meant for the emerging market of ebooks, since it allows PDF files to be repurposed so they can be used on a wider variety of systems. Adobe has started shipping a version of Acrobat Reader that runs on PalmOS PDA’s.
- It will also make it easier to repurpose content
Most users were more pleased with all of the new features that Acrobat 5 itself offered. Prepress users enjoyed the following enhancements:
- Acrobat 5 itself can correctly display overprints. So if a user puts a yellow box in overprint on a cyan background, Acrobat 5 can display the resulting green box. Please note that this option is switched off by default.
- Acrobat 5 can also perform batch operations that can be used, among others, to export folders full of PDF files to EPS-es.
- Distiller 5 can compress images that use DeviceN colors. This means that PDF files containing multitones will be a lot smaller.
- Acrobat and Distiller 5 also use an improved color management engine, known as ‘ACE’, which provides finer control.
- Annotating PDF-files is more flexible in Acrobat 5 and can also happen across the internet.
Acrobat 5 was a more significant upgrade for non-prepress users:
- The forms-functionality was enhanced a lot.
- The user interface of Acrobat resembled Microsoft Office applications a lot more. The integration of Acrobat within Office had also improved.
- You could start Distiller or Catalog from within Acrobat.
- Thumbnails are created automatically when a PDF file is opened in Acrobat 5.
- There are more and improved export-filters, including an option to export data from a PDF to the RTF file format. This made it easier to maintain the appearance of files when exporting them to word processors.
- Interestingly enough, Acrobat 5 was also a downgrade for some users: Adobe replaced the ‘Paper capture’ plug-in that could OCR scanned pages to create a true text-based PDF by a fairly limited Web service.