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Review of Adobe Acrobat DC: Why It's Simultaneously Amazing and Annoying

By Neil J. Squillante | Monday, August 31, 2015

Originally published on August 28 in our free TL Serendipity newsletter. Instead of reading TL Serendipity here, sign up now to receive future issues in realtime.

Adobe Acrobat DC is huge leap forward but annoying at the same time. It costs $14.99 per month unless you want it on just one computer in which case it costs a one-time $449 ($199 if upgrading).

Except perhaps for compatibility, there's no reason to buy the standalone license because Acrobat DC's best new feature is Mobile Link.

This technology (which you can turn off) saves every PDF document you open in your Adobe Document Cloud account after which you can then open that same document on other devices running Acrobat DC. It works even if you open the document for just a few seconds and then close it. On your other devices, Mobile Link presents a list of "Recent" documents with that document at the top. This brief video shows you how seamlessly it works. It's nice not having to use Dropbox, etc. as an intermediary.

I find Mobile Link invaluable because I often use my iPad as a second monitor of sorts to display a document. I open the document on my Mac, close it, and then open it via Mobile Link on my iPad. This all happens in just a few seconds. It's like magic.

Similarly, when I need access to a document on the go, I just open it quickly on my Mac knowing it'll be available on my iPhone later. Again, no time-consuming copying into a Dropbox folder and then digging it up on the iPhone later.

Now that I've sung the praises of Acrobat DC, let me explain what annoys me.

Every time you open a PDF document on a Mac or PC, the Mobile Link window also opens listing your Recent Files. There's no way to turn off this behavior except perhaps to turn off Mobile Link. I'm now trained to press Command-W twice every time I close a PDF document so that I also close this window. Here's an Adobe forum discussion about this feature.

By contrast, the iOS app is a thing of beauty. You're either viewing a document or viewing Mobile Link. One gets out of the way when you want the other. Perhaps Adobe wanted to make the desktop version work like the mobile app but these two computing paradigms require different approaches.

The other annoyance is the license you get for your very expensive $14.99 per month. You can install Acrobat DC on only two Mac/PC class computers (and an unlimited number of Android or iOS devices).

We live in a multi-device world thanks to reliable syncing services from Apple, Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, and others. Indeed, Adobe created Mobile Link for this reason only to tie an anchor around its neck with the two-computers restriction. If you have a work computer, home computer, and an ultrabook for traveling you can't use Acrobat DC on one of them. Ditto if you run Windows inside a Mac at work and have another computer at home. These are common scenarios.

Adobe should take a lesson from Microsoft — the new Microsoft. Office 365 Business and Business Premium cost $8.25 and $12.50 per month respectively. With these, you get to install Microsoft Office, arguably more important than Acrobat given the many Acrobat alternatives, on five Mac/PC class computers, five tablets, and five smartphones. Business Premium also includes business-class email, and contacts and calendar syncing.

I understand that Adobe doesn't want a small business of four or five people to buy one license and share the login. But in being so restrictive it hurts enterprise and prosumer users — pretty much the only people willing to spend money on software.

Neil J. Squillante created TechnoLawyer and serves as its publisher. His areas of expertise include advertising and publishing technologies, information architecture, persuasive writing techniques, and statistical analysis and research. Before founding TechnoLawyer, Neil practiced commercial, intellectual property, and securities litigation at Willkie Farr & Gallagher in New York City. Neil received his JD from UCLA and served as a managing editor of the UCLA Law Review. He received his BA in Economics from Duke University.

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Topics: Business Productivity/Word Processing | Online/Cloud | TL Serendipity
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