Acrobat 9 Professional builds on the features in Acrobat 8 that made it an important tool in many offices, especially law offices. There is a vastly improved document comparison routine and enhanced Bates numbering, for example, along with small improvements in transfers to Word, file splitting, and other features.

Acrobat 8 introduced PDF “packages,” single PDF files that contain multiple PDFs assembled from multiple sources. Packages are particularly good at storing email folders; a single PDF can contain messages that are listed individually, stored in the PDF with their attachments, and can be sorted and searched. Here’s a good explanation of Acrobat packages.

Acrobat package

In Acrobat 9, packages have been dressed up into “Portfolios,” which have some dramatically different features. In a Portfolio, many documents can be gathered together into a single file, where they will be stored in their native format – a Word file is stored as a Word file, a spreadsheet is a spreadsheet, and so on – instead of being converted to PDF format. Only a few clicks are required to add a welcome page, a page with either thumbnails of the contents or a list, a logo, and more.

A well-designed wizard makes Portfolios easier to create than packages were, so the new features do not require rocket science to use. It is important to know that Portfolios can only be opened by Acrobat 8 or 9, either the full edition or the free Reader. If they’re opened in Acrobat 8, a warning message appears and many of the cool display features are lost, although the contents are still listed and the files are fully usable.

Adobe included “Binders” as a way to ensure some backward compatibility. Binders take longer to assemble and don’t look as interesting, but it is possible to use Binders to gather groups of PDFs into a single file that can be opened by any version of Acrobat from version 5 forward.

The good folks at Acrobat For Legal Professionals put together a lovely guide for lawyers about Portfolios and Binders, with detailed, illustrated instructions about how to create a professional looking Portfolio with all the documents normally presented on paper at the end of a real estate closing. It’s well worth reading if you use Acrobat – the results are compelling.

I was drawn to the presentation by something different. I’m not convinced that many small offices will use to share files; we are overloaded with new services and forced to be selective about which ones get our attention. But the widget that was used on the blog to display a thumbnail of the file and allow it to be downloaded from – well, it’s just super. Really, go to the blog post and look at the little thumbnail of the document, which you can use to page through it and zoom to full screen and then download the actual PDF.

It looked so nifty that I just spent the last 45 minutes trying to get the same widget embedded in this post so you could see it. I’ve been introduced to an interesting variety of error messages, endless hourglass, and crashed copies of Internet Explorer. Which goes back to my point about taking these services seriously! Given time, I would discover the quirk that allowed the “Embed” feature to work and I’d be able to use it going forward. We don’t have much time. Don’t plan to use any new technology without effort!