Adobe Acrobat flexes new muscles: Form filling, e-signing, mobile apps and more

Adobe wants the new Acrobat DC, and the Document Cloud service surrounding it, to take the daily bureaucracy of our lives--forms for business, school, and personal activities--and smooth out the kinks: conversion from paper to electronic, e-signing, tracking and more. (Sorry, it's not promising to make bureaucracy easier. Just the forms.)

Acrobat DC, which will replace Acrobat XI, can take a photo or scan of a paper document and turn it into an electronic one, using skills borrowed from Photoshop to adjust and correct the image on the fly. Acrobat DC can identify form-fillable areas in an electronic document and let you enter data directly--no more printing, filling out, and re-scanning. 

You can use all of these document creation and editing features on the desktop or using the new Acrobat Mobile apps for Android, iOS, and Windows. Yes, this means Acrobat DC will be fully touch-enabled (except on Macs, I guess), and you can access a document from any of these devices with no reduction in capabilities. 

"We made features more approachable and findable," Adobe's Mark Grilli said in a briefing. The new, touch-friendly Acrobat DC's large, colorful icons certainly represent a big visual change from the more desktop-like organization of prior versions. And as with prior versions, Acrobat can integrate with Microsoft's Office and SharePoint applications.

Why this matters: Forms--ugh! Everyone hates them. Everyone has to use them. Acrobat DC and Document Cloud may make forms easier for normal everyday people to handle, and the mobile apps will be a big plus.

Document Cloud will envelop Acrobat DC

Acrobat DC will debut as part of another new product, Document Cloud. This subscription service will enhance Acrobat DC's document creation talents with features for e-signing and electronic tracking of documents, and will be available on a subscription basis (including Acrobat DC) just like its older cousins, Creative Cloud and Marketing Cloud. (Acrobat DC will also be available for Creative Cloud and Marketing Cloud.)

Document Cloud incorporates what used to be Adobe EchoSign, plus a new Fill & Sign mobile app (Android/iOS/Windows), so you can sign a form using a stylus or your finger--as you may already do for some online payment apps. You can collect other peoples' signatures for a document, or track a document through multiple required signatures. 

With Document Cloud, Adobe's not trying to push aside other document processes you might have in place. "We think of ourselves as an extension for a lot of those things," said Adobe's Grilli--filling in the gaps. "Take Microsoft SharePoint: If someone doesn't work for you, it can be hard to get their documents into your workflow." The enterprise version of Document Cloud, however, will have a deeper set of workflow and account features.

Adobe's Document Cloud and the new Acrobat DC will be available in about a month. You can sign up for an Acrobat subscription now for $14.99 per month and get both Acrobat DC and Document Cloud automatically when they ship, or subscribe later on. Acrobat DC will also be available separately as a subscription or one-time purchase. 


Melissa Riofrio

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