Some of the most important news surrounding the recent launch of Adobe Acrobat Pro XI is its improved support for mobile users. You can't think of Adobe Acrobat as just a desktop application anymore, because Adobe Acrobat XI is quickly adapting to today's mobile workforce with cloud and mobile tools to create, distribute, and manage eForms and eSignatures.
Creating a mobile workflow with Adobe Acrobat XI doesn't require any programming or expensive hosting, just the following tools:
- FormsCentral for online and mobile electronic forms
- Adobe Reader for iOS or Android
- EchoSign for electronic signatures
- Acrobat.com for storing documents online
Adobe has integrated these tools into the Adobe Acrobat Pro XI desktop application so well that they have truly become an extension of the desktop. For Adobe Acrobat users, learning these new tools will be as routine as learning the new features of any software upgrade.
Adobe FormsCentral lets you create electronic forms that can be read on both smartphones and tablets. Taking paper forms out of the enterprise is environmentally, security, and productivity smart. Creating forms with FormsCentral requires no programming — and, in fact, it includes a number of templates for common business forms, such as a client questionnaire, Request For Quote, and Supplies Order, that you can you modify for your own internal uses.
You can deploy FormsCentral forms to mobile devices by just emailing a link. Users then click on the link and are able to have full access to the form through their mobile browser or Adobe Reader.One of the key design points is that FormsCentral forms are going to appear the same to mobile and PC users. From a training and support perspective, forms-driven organizations can benefit from this standard user experience across devices. Forms you create using FormsCentral maintain the same design and format across devices. Figure A and Figure B show a FormsCentral form in Mobile Safari and in a PC browser. Figure A
Form created in FormsCentral as seen in Mobile Safari.Figure B
The same form as seen in Chrome on a Windows 7 PC.
What FormsCentral doesn't have yet that could really help seal the deal is a mobile dashboard app, where a tablet user can access and view form responses as you can with the web interface. Currently, back-end management of forms requires PC access.
Adobe ReaderOn the mobile side, Adobe has made User Experience (UX) improvements to both the iOS and Android Adobe Readers by designing them to be more consistent with the PC and Mac clients. Adobe also added touch support (Figure C). Figure C
The Adobe Reader for iOS.
When you have a document open in the Adobe Reader for iOS, you can view it as a continuous document, single page, or automatic. There are also annotation tools, which outside of electronic forms can be important to organizations that want to use PDFs as a document standard for contracts and other business documents.
The latest release of Adobe Reader for iOS and Android now include support for filling out and submitting forms from FormsCentral.
Adobe Reader is going to be the primary interface for mobile users to annotate and sign PDFs. Both the Android and iOS Adobe Readers have a full assortment of annotation tools for mobile users to comment and markup text in a PDF. Building a document or contract review process around these features means that Adobe users on tablets and PCs can participate in reviews by emailing documents to reviewers, sending the PDF via EchoSign, using Acrobat.com, or other shared cloud space. Any comments or annotations a mobile user puts in a PDF will be traceable back to them.
You can also store and access documents on Acrobat.com, directly from both the iOS and Android Adobe Readers.
eSignatures with and without EchoSign
Handwritten signatures in an approval process open the opportunity to derail your workflow, because paper documents can get lost and sometimes require scanning prior to be sent out to people outside your company. EchoSign is a cloud-based electronic signature solution with its own workflow component that can manage the signature process entirely online and accessible to iPad and other tablet users.
Setting up EchoSign for a mobile workforce has to be done through the web interface by:
- Setting up user credentials (EchoSign is subscription-based)
- Ensuring that mobile users have downloaded the iOS app to their iPad
- Uploading documents, such as standard contracts and other business documents, to an EchoSign library
- Send document for signature from the EchoSign library or from your device
- Host In Person Signing when meeting a signer in person
- Sign documents that require your signature
- Manage and track status of documents
- View documents
EchoSign on the iPad.If you have a mixed iOS/Android mobile workforce, your Android users aren't shut out of signing documents with EchoSign. They just have to use "Send for Signature," and then follow the prompts to upload the PDF for signature to EchoSign (Figure E), where you can sign the document and track its progress through your workflow. Figure E
Upload the PDF to EchoSign.
Build a platform agnostic workflow
The new Adobe Acrobat Pro XI offers organizations with mobile users a low barrier of entry to mobile workflow. If you are seeking an easy-to-manage mobile workflow solution with tools already familiar to your end users, then you should take a look at what Adobe Acrobat XI can do for your mobile users.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.