June 2005, Week 2 --
Sending a document in PDF has become standard. It stands for
"Portable Document Format" and that way all the typefaces and
layouts are preserved. There's no better way and nobody does it with
more flips and tricks than Adobe, who, after all, invented it.
The new "Adobe Acrobat 7 Professional" is $449 and awesome. It's
a wee bit expensive but remember, we're talking "professional" here;
the regular version is $299.
With either version you can email documents for review and the
recipient can make comments, highlight passages, add a digital
signature and finally stamp it "approved." Every PDF is fully
searchable. Using the standard version, both parties must have a
copy of that software, but with the professional version the
recipient only needs Acrobat Reader 7, which is a free download.
The professional version can handle huge AutoCAD drawings and
plans, schematic diagrams made with Visio and timelines drawn with
Microsoft Project. Most impressive of all, Acrobat 7 Professional
can turn a 3D drawing or photograph into a PDF and the transmitted
image can then be zoomed and rotated, the same as the original.
New to both versions is the "PDF Organizer." You can click on a
whole folder in Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express and convert all
the email into one PDF file, which can then be sent intact like any
other file. The file can be searched by clicking on tabs for sender
name, date, topic or keyword. The organizer will also show a list of
all PDF files on your computer.
Finally, both versions need only the click of your mouse to make
a PDF file out of just about anything on the screen. You can click
on a web page, for example, and you make a PDF copy that can be
emailed or stored. This feature produced the only flaw, slight one,
we found in the program: We tried it on our own web site home page
www.oncomp.com and it did not capture it accurately. But try it
yourself: you can download a free trial Acrobat 7 Professional at
A gasp from the crowd
What did capture and preserve the formatting of our web site as a
PDF was FinePrint's "pdfFactory," which is free.
It also comes in a regular or professional version and the "free"
part needs some further explanation. The free version puts a small
tagline at the bottom of each page, saying the document was created
with pdfFactory. It's unobtrusive but it's there. Otherwise, the
regular version of pdfFactory costs $40, the professional version
www.fineprint.com. We've written about this program before and
we really like it.
Another flier in the ring is "nitroPDF," $99 from Arts PDF
They have a nice comparison chart showing that feature for
feature their $99 program is the same as Adobe's $299 program.
Unfortunately, in practice this turned out not to be the case. In
copying text or graphics from the Internet or a Microsoft Word
document, Nitro didn't do nearly as good a job as Adobe. With
"Acrobat" the text came into the PDF in a box that can be positioned
anywhere in the document. With Nitro the text came in as a huge
block, in the wrong place, and we could'nt move it.
As with Adobe's Acrobat 7, Nitro has a free trial version. The
Nitro free trial is something of a trial to use, however: "Nitro PDF
Trial" is stamped across every page in huge dark letters. They even
have this on the user manual, which makes it exceedingly difficult
On the plus side, if you buy it you get a lot (but not all) of
the features of Acrobat 7, regular version, for a lower price. As
with Acrobat, you can password protect your PDF and paste sticky
note comments for others to read. You can use a forms tool to create
fields that can be filled out by the recipient on the screen.
"Adobe Acrobat 7 Quick Steps," by Matthews and Cronan; $17 from
This is the latest in Orborne-McGraw/Hill's most excellent "Quick
Step" series, which have one or more color illustrations on every
page, showing you just what you should be seeing on the screen as
you learn a programs's features. Acrobat 7 is a large, complex
program and this book is great.
That TV's a goner
Here's something for your inner prankster. It's "TV-B-Gone," a
tiny key-chain device that turns off just about any TV set. You aim
it at the television and hold down the button for about 30 seconds.
There's no sound or flashing light to indicate anything is happening
but after what seems like forever but is really only half minute,
the television set goes off.
Imagine the fun and excitement when you aim it at a big set in a
sports bar or your friend's entertainment den? Try to pick a crucial
moment when the game is on the line. Be sure to wear your track
shoes. You can find this devilish device at
www.tvbgone.com; it's $15.
Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers"
www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at
and Joy Schwabach at