comp.text.pdf FAQ
-Section 2-

2.0 What is Acrobat?

Acrobat is actually a family of products produced by Adobe Systems, Inc. The family can be grouped into two parts: Viewers and Creators. Currently, for viewing, Adobe provides Acrobat Exchange and Reader. For creating, Adobe provides Acrobat Distiller, Acrobat Capture, and Acrobat PDFWriter.

2.1 Exchange and Reader

Acrobat Exchange is a "for-sale" product that not only allows you to view a PDF document, but modify it as well. A user with Exchange can add "sticky-notes", create "hyperlinks" to a View, file or URL, delete pages, and insert pages to name a few. A user may also Save a PDF file. Additionally, most plug-ins are built for use with Exchange, because of its modificational powers.

Reader, on the other hand, is a free and a freely redistributable product that allows a user to view a PDF document. Reader provides no means for a user to make modifications or Save a file. However, a user can utilize all links, "sticky-notes", and bookmarks added to a document via Exchange or Distiller. A few plug-ins work with the free Reader, but most do not.

2.1.2 Is the Reader freely distributable?

Yes. Acrobat 1.0 Readers for DOS and IRIX, as well as all 2.x Readers are freely distributable. Originally, Adobe did not allow the 1.0 Readers to be redistributed, but they have posted an updated license to their website.

There are several restrictions to redistibuting however, so please be sure you read their license agreement before doing so. For instance, renaming the install file or altering the installation is not allowed, but calling their installation from your install is. Obviously, their license can change from time to time so the above may or may not be correct. Again, read their agreement before proceeding with your plans.

2.2 Distiller, PDFWriter, and Capture

Acrobat Distiller is a computer programmable raster image processor or RIP. It converts PostScript into PDF. Distiller also can create several PDF objects on the fly using a PostScript command: pdfmark (See section 9.0). Distiller is especially useful when a file has an embedded EPS file in it. PDFWriter does not always handle files with EPS files in them correctly, and Distiller does. Also, Distiller can merge several PostScript files into one PDF via a PostScript command called RunFile, as well as process files as they are placed into watched directories.

Acrobat PDFWriter is a printer driver. This is perhaps the easiest way to create a PDF, although not always the best way. To create a file via PDFWriter, select it as you would any printer. (TIP: Mac users should hold down the Control key when selecting File|Print. This will temporarily switch the chooser's printer setting to PDFWriter. It will automatically revert after printing is completed. This is done through a control panel called "PDFWriter Shortcut".) Then, when prompted, enter the path and name for the new file.

Adobe Acrobat Capture is actually two products in one. The two products are Capture and Reviewer. Capture allows a user to either read directly from a scanner or from a TIF file. Either way, Capture takes the image and performs Optical Character Recognition as well as format (fonts, layout, etc.) recognition. Capture can output to PDF (of course :), RTF, Microsoft Word, and WordPerfect to name a few. A user can elect to create an Adobe Capture Document (ACD) as well or instead of the file formats above. The ACD file can be opened by Reviewer. Reviewer allows for editing of the ACD file and saving in several supported formats, including PDF.

2.3 Catalog

Adobe Acrobat Catalog is a stand-alone product which indexes PDF files. These indexes are then used by the Adobe Acrobat Search plug-in to perform cross-document searches. Acrobat Search Search is a "for-sale" product usually included with Acrobat Exchange. Although there is a version that will work with Reader 2.1, it is only available for purchase as part of a CD-ROM distribution. In general, though, there is no free tool available for searching the indexes.

2.4 What platforms do they support?

  • Acrobat Reader 2.1: Macintosh, Windows (3.x, NT, 95), HP-UX, SunOS, Solaris(R)
  • Acrobat Reader 1.0: DOS, IRIX
  • Acrobat Exchange 2.1: Same as Reader 2.1.
  • Acrobat Capture: Windows (3.1, 95) [Note the Reviewer application will work under Windows NT 3.5.1]
  • Acrobat Catalog: Macintosh, and Windows.
  • 2.4.1 Announced future platforms.

    OS/2 and AIX.

    2.5 Can I run Acrobat in an Windows session on an emulator?

    Yes, as long as the emulator is able to run Windows in 386 enhanced mode and is able to run ATM (Adobe Type Manager Software, which is included with Acrobat software when required. At last check, only Capture required ATM.)

    2.6 What doesn't Acrobat do?

    While Acrobat is a family of products which allow documents to be turned into PDF by their creators, and allow the ensuing PDF files to viewed on a wide variety of platforms, it is not a "universal file converter". Adobe does offer a product which is a "universal file converter" of sorts: Adobe File Utilities, but even this is not "universal". The current version of AFU does not even support PDF, although Adobe has announced that the next version will (See for more info).

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