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December 1994

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Acrobat--PostScript for the Internet

by Glen Emerson Morris
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Adobe, the company which created PostScript and the desktop publishing industry a decade ago, has created a new industry standard format for sharing DTP documents electronically. Based on PostScript, Acrobat 2.0 is specifically targeted at advertising, marketing, and publishing markets, and supports both business to business and business to consumer electronic publishing.

Acrobat allows DTP programs like QuarkXPress, PageMaker, Illustrator, and PhotoShop to create a PDF, or portable document file, when can be read, printed, and even edited and modified on any Mac, IBM, or UNIX system with an Acrobat viewer. (The viewer is free, other Acrobat packages range from $200 to $1500.)

Like desktop publishing, this is another one of those innovations that can't help but change the balance of power between a lot of interests. It bypasses printing presses, FedEX, and prepress expenses like color separations, and allows publishing to be done faster than ever before, and in many ways cheaper.

The speed factor of Acrobat 2.0 has already made new services possible. The Associated Press has incorporated Acrobat into AdSEND, AP's new digital delivery service that lets advertisers use the AP's communications network to send ads to newspapers nationwide, in hours, or if necessary, in minutes. Properly priced, AdSEND could make FedEX seem both slow and overpriced.

An even more immediate way to communicate is possible with a new system combining Mosaic, an Internet BBS, and Acrobat. Instead of the usual text only interface, Acrobat fills the screen with typeset quality text and full color graphics, virtually as good as an off the rack magazine or major brand catalog. For two or three thousand dollars a month a company could put a high quality catalog or publication on line on the Internet, and reach potentially thirty million people.

The capacity limitations of current telephone technology still make CD-ROMs the best way to communicate large volumes of information, like the Sears catalog or the Federal Budget, and Acrobat 2.0 is ideal for this. Clinton used Acrobat 1.0 to distribute the Federal Budget on CD-ROM to Congress, and a Sears catalog on CD-ROM is, at least, possible.

The new version, Acrobat 2.0, is an even better way to publish electronically for two reasons. The viewer required to read Acrobat documents is now free, so large scale distribution is economical, and Acrobat's new indexing and search features allow specific information to be found quickly, even in amounts of data greater than encyclopedias. Every word is indexed, and all PDF documents present can be searched simultaneously.

Acrobat 2.0 has every quality needed to redefine publishing as we know it--groundbreaking performance, a compelling economic argument, and a company behind it with the marketing savvy and clout to make it the industry standard. As PostScript rewrote the cost of typesetting, Acrobat 2.0 is rewriting the costs of printing and distribution. This time, the changes will be much more than just economic. The less it costs produce and distribute a publication, the fewer advertisers it needs to support it, and the fewer readers. The information content of traditional media is a balance between the interests of the readers and the advertisers. That balance is at the heart of mass communications, and the public consensus it creates. With the introduction of Acrobat 2.0, all the economic realities that created and maintained that balance have just gone out the window.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

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