Adobe Freshens Up Its PDF for Mobile
By Ann-Marie Alcántara
Adobe Inc. is bringing a new reading experience to its portable
document format, or, as it's commonly known, the PDF.
A new set of features in Adobe's Acrobat Reader app for mobile
phones and compatible Chromebooks can adjust documents to varying
screen dimensions and automatically generate an outline of a PDF's
contents for easier navigation. The software giant is working on
bringing the new features -- collectively called Liquid Mode -- to
web browsers and Acrobat products.
Adobe introduced the PDF in 1991 to let people share documents
in a universal format, regardless of software, operating system or
any other variables involved in creating them. Part of its appeal
was that it could be sent electronically, but with protections
against tampering. The PDF went on to become the de facto standard
for anyone who wanted to send a document that preserved the intent
of the sender and could be viewed on any device.
But PDFs have remained largely the same, lagging other
technologies especially in meshing with mobile devices, leaving
users either squinting or zooming in to see miniature text.
Adobe's Document Cloud arm, which includes Acrobat DC, the
company's subscription and licensing offering for PDFs, reported
$375 million in revenue last quarter, up from $307 million in the
same period a year earlier.
But today Adobe has competition. Companies like Foxit Software
Inc. and Nitro Software Inc., both of which specialize in PDF and
document software, are trying to edge into the business, as well as
less obvious rivals such as Dropbox Inc. The Foxit PDF Reader
Mobile app does some of the things Liquid Mode does, such as
rearranging a PDF's text to make it easier to read on a mobile
PDFs have become ubiquitous in business, used not only for
official documents but, for example, by restaurants that want to
digitally share a menu, said Keith Glantz, president and chief
creative officer at Glantz Design Inc., a design studio. But many
designers and developers don't like to use PDFs because they are
hard to read on mobile devices and not responsive to screen sizes
the way websites are, he said.
Liquid Mode's PDF outlines let users jump to sections that
matter to them instead of having to scan whole documents. Users can
also change the text size and space between lines for easier
The new features were built in part using Sensei, Adobe's
artificial intelligence and machine-learning tool.
Adobe is bringing Liquid Mode to market now partly because many
of its customers have adopted more digital technologies to do
business, said Ashley Still, senior vice president and general
manager of digital media at Adobe. People are working with more
digital documents than ever, a trend accelerated by the coronavirus
pandemic, she said.
But Adobe had begun working to improve the PDF in 2015. In 2017,
that effort joined with a separate project to make PDFs easier to
use on mobile phones in particular, said David Parmenter, director
of data and engineering at Adobe Document Cloud. Eventually the two
efforts merged into one.
The complexity of PDFs led developers to introduce Liquid Mode
even without some desired features, such as working with Asian
languages. It also doesn't work perfectly on tables yet.
The updating of the PDF means some creators will need to be more
thoughtful when they make documents to ensure they are readable by
the technology, said Michael Cleary, chief executive and co-founder
of Huemor Designs LLC, a design agency.
"There's going to be PDFs that are not going to translate that
well," he said.
Liquid Mode presents a new growth opportunity for Adobe, said
Craig Le Clair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester
Research. The technology behind Liquid Mode can surface key
information and analytics in a PDF for people who want those
details in a more digestible format.
And that may be a way for Adobe to fend off competitors.
"They'll be ahead of them in the race of analytics," Mr. Le Clair
Write to Ann-Marie Alcántara at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 24, 2020 16:36 ET (20:36 GMT)
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