It may have been a long time since anyone reminded you to play nice with others, but come this fall, Adobe may be reminding you of the virtues of sharing. Whether you are coordinating on a project with colleagues down the hall or across the world, Adobe is trying to streamline the collaboration process for you. Since June 2008, Acrobat.com, a set of online services, has been offering tools to help users create and share documents, communicate in real time, and work with others. In June, Adobe announced its 2009 plan for Acrobat.com including smartphone access to its tools and a new user interface that streamlines access, which will be available starting this fall.
On June 15, Acrobat.com moved out of beta testing. The site currently includes Adobe Buzzword, an online word processor; Adobe ConnectNow, an online web conferencing tool; Acrobat.com Labs, which includes Acrobat.com Tables and Presentation applications; and other tools that allow users to share documents, store files, and create PDFs. As Rick Treitman, entrepreneur in residence with Acrobat.com and founder of Virtual Ubiquity, creator of Buzzword, explains, the goal of these tools is to "simplify the way people collaborate with documents." He adds, "The people that we're initially targeting work in business to solve problems, tend to be creative, and have [a] large requirement for collaboration." Focused on supplying these professionals with a variety of tool options to help them accomplish their goals, Acrobat.com offers multiple services-each with distinct features-which all aid in the collaboration process.
To start, Adobe Buzzword's wikilike atmosphere allows users to access documents online; it provides them with a single online destination where they are able to write, edit, and comment on these documents and eliminate version confusion since everyone is working on the most up-to-date file. Social networking features such as real-time status updates can be used to keep track of each other's work. For those who rely on web conferencing, Adobe ConnectNow, which is similar to programs such as WebEx, lets users conduct online meetings via the web with features such as screen sharing, chat, notes, audio, and video. In June, Adobe began offering premium subscriptions for Adobe web and phone services, while the free service still includes Adobe Buzzword online word processing, ConnectNow web meeting capacity for up to three participants, and online creation of up to five PDF files, all on an individual basis.
After moving out of beta, Adobe announced a preview release of Acrobat.com Tables-a spreadsheet application available as a public beta-joining the Acrobat.com Presentations application on Acrobat.com Labs. The Presentations application lets users work in tandem on slideshow presentations: It features a sharing bar, which shows who has been invited to work on a presentation; the ability to assign a variety of colors to the presentation; and the ability to add tables, charts, and clip art. As Treitman explains, "the problem we've all had in working with PowerPoint is sending it in an email. By putting a presentation in the cloud, a bunch of us can work with it and get slides done collaboratively without a single email or attachment flying back and forth."
Similar to the Presentation application, Acrobat.com Tables lets users work simultaneously on spreadsheets. The first part of the Tables release "provides people with the parts of spreadsheets that are most often shared." Though he admits that it is missing a lot of technology now, future enhancements will include such features as the ability to add spreadsheets.
In the coming months, Acrobat.com users will have the ability to access most of the site's applications through mobile phones and will have all of these applications on one streamlined interface, eliminating the need to use multiple URLs to access each service. By winter 2009, Adobe will also release shared workspaces that let groups of people work on and keep track of documents. The full list of plans for Acrobat.com in 2009 include adding more real-time document collaboration tools; integration with desktop tools including Adobe products and Microsoft Outlook 2007, plus import from and export to PDFs and to Microsoft and Open Office formats; and increased support for the Adobe developer community.
Though Adobe already has a variety of solutions up and running with big plans in the works to make these applications run more smoothly, its goal is still a simple one. As Treitman explains, along with providing users with a more simplistic way to collaborate with one another, Adobe just wants its solutions "to be fun and an enjoyable environment to work within."