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David Becker


Put away the red pen, because publishing software giant Adobe Systems plans to change the way businesses share comments on documents.

The software maker is set to announce on Monday new versions of Acrobat and Reader, the company’s main tools for creating and viewing files based on the PDF (Portable Document Format) standard. New features include expanded collaborative functions intended to improve the exchange of information between businesses and customers or partners.

Until now, folks who wanted to add comments to a PDF document had to have a version of Acrobat, Adobe’s collection of PDF authoring tools, said Pam Deziel, director of Acrobat product marketing for Adobe. The new version 7 of Acrobat Professional will allow document creators to switch on commenting functions, which can then be accessed by anyone using the new version of Adobe Reader, the company’s free application for viewing–and now interacting with–PDF files.

Deziel said the additions are meant to benefit businesses that have already centered on PDF for internal communications and now want to expand PDF exchange outside the company. Adding functions to the free and widespread Reader ensures that everyone can participate, she said.

“When you’re dealing with customers and suppliers, you can’t always be sure they have a certain piece of authoring software,” she said. “Our strategy is to use the tremendous installed base of Reader…to really move PDF beyond simple distribution of reliable documents into more round-trip work flows and solutions.”

The new version of Acrobat, which is still set to arrive, as previously reported, before the end of the year, will also include enhancements for engineering, design and other technical documents, an area where Adobe has been challenged recently by drafting and design software leader Autodesk.

“We’ve continued to enhance those engineering-specific features,” Deziel said, “making sure we’re not just capturing the image of the document but the underlying intelligence.” A diagram of a network layout, for example, would include not just a graphical representation of a Cisco router but information on properties of that device.

Version 7 continues the strategy Adobe initiated last year to offer different flavors of Acrobat for light, average and power users. The new versions of Acrobat Professional and Acrobat Standard are set to ship for Windows and Mac OS X by the end of December. Acrobat Professional will cost $449 for the full version or $159 for those upgrading from a previous edition. Acrobat Standard will be priced at $299 for the full version and $99 for the upgrade.

Version 7 of the light-duty Acrobat Elements is available now, for Windows only, under volume-licensing programs that start at $39 per seat.

Version 7 of Adobe Reader, which will include new online services offered through a partnership with Yahoo, will be available for free download from Adobe by the end of the year.