Flash and PDF in Acrobat 9 (and Clarifying the Wall Street Journal)

adobe-acrobat-9.jpgAdobe Systems yesterday announced Acrobat 9 and the beta of the company’s Acrobat.com hosted document services.

Adobe’s Ryan Stewart has good coverage on his ZDNet Universal Desktop column and his Digital Backcountry blog. ReadWriteWeb does its usual excellent job of covering the details.

You’d do much better reading these blog posts than the venerable Wall Street Journal, which gets a few details of the product announcement wrong. The Journal’s coverage begins:

Adobe Adds Flash To Acrobat Software

Adobe Systems Inc.’s latest version of its Acrobat document-sharing software will allow users to embed videos in PDF files.

The software maker said Monday that Acrobat 9 will allow users to include Flash-based video when they create documents in the portable document format, or PDF. Until now, PDF documents could only include text and simple graphics.

I don’t think the 3D capabilities of Acrobat 8 could be accurately termed “simple graphics.” That aside, Acrobat has had the ability to include QuickTime video in PDF for a long time. And you have been able to embed Flash content in several earlier versions of Acrobat as well.

What’s new in Acrobat 9 is that the Flash runtime code is included in Adobe Reader and the other Acrobat clients. In the past the capability to embed video or Flash’s SWF format relied on the ability to execute the rich media content using externally-installed applications — which goes against the device- and platform-independence PDF generally offers. (Acrobat 3D content, by contrast, is rendered natively by the Acrobat client application.)

With Acrobat 9, Flash content embedded in PDF will be executed in the Acrobat client regardless of whether the Flash Player is otherwise installed on the computer. Not only does this guarantee the Flash content can be viewed, it provides a predicable Flash runtime environment for developers to code against.

In addition to easily and reliably embedding Flash in PDF, with the new portfolio feature Flash content can used to present a “navigator” interface to access PDF documents and other files bundled together in a single, interactive PDF document.

Now, if we can get PDF rendered natively by the AIR runtime — rather than relying on an externally-installed Acrobat client — the circle will be complete.

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