Online Solutions Save Time and Then Some

Adobe Acrobat Professional (www.adobe.com) provides an effective way to create, manage and share PDF documents over the Internet. This latest edition, Version 8, has a host of new features and enhancements, many of which would be helpful to contractors and subcontractors who want to communicate and collaborate with all team members during design and review cycles.

Adobe Acrobat Professional (www.adobe.com) provides an effective way to create, manage and share PDF documents over the Internet. This latest edition, Version 8, has a host of new features and enhancements, many of which would be helpful to contractors and subcontractors who want to communicate and collaborate with all team members during design and review cycles. The program makes any PDF the user creates immediately available to other team members, streamlining previously paperintensive processes.

PDF (portable document format) is a universal compact file format that preserves the layout, including graphics, images and fonts, of the source document. It has been widely adopted among A/E/ C professionals. Acrobat provides a way for project participants to work together using a common format, regardless of geography. The solution allows users to combine content f rom mul t ipl e sources two ways. The first option merges files or individual pages of files into a single unified document with continuous page flow, which enables the creator to apply an overriding signature to the entirety.

The second option facilitates combining different proprietary format documents, including e-mail, images, spreadsheets, presentations, Web pages, CAD diagrams and other files into a searchable and sortable PDF package that maintains the security settings and digital signatures of each included PDF document. This feature, designed to address specific document workflows where distinct documents must remain intact and unchanged and therefore cannot be merged, would be a convenience for users dealing with architectural or engineering drawings requiring digital signing individually as they are approved.

To unify the PDF documents so they have a consistent company look, users can add, edit and remove headers, footers and watermarks and save any settings as named presets for easy re-use. It is also possible to create intelligent PDFs with chosen line weights, page sizes, layers and embedded scale.

New redaction tools enable a user to permanently remove unwanted, sensitive or confidential information from Adobe PDF files before sharing them. Also, user-flexible permission settings can restrict printing, saving, copying or modification of a document.

In addition to supporting redlining and other marking up of the PDFs with sticky notes, text edits, highlighting, stamps, callouts, shapes and clouds, Acrobat 8 Professional also introduces the concept of shared reviews, which allow all reviewers to publish their comments, separate from the PDF file, for viewing and input. In turn, reviewers can also retrieve comments by others via the server that is already in place, such as a network folder, a shared workspace on a SharePoint server, or a folder on a Web server.

When enabled by Acrobat 8 Professional, even users of the free Adobe Reader can participate in shared reviews, with access to the same redlining and markup tools.

Comments can be added to a document even when the reviewer is offline — the feedback is sent automatically to the server when they are back online. Shared reviews can also be extended to reviewers outside an initiator’s firewall. An external reviewer can add comments and e-mail them to the review initiator, who has the option to place those comments into the review.

The program includes enhanced support for AutoCAD, streamlining the process of converting AutoCAD files into compact PDF documents, even without having AutoCAD software. It is also possible to insert interactive 3D objects that can be manipulated inside the PDF document.

Among other features of Acrobat 8 Professional that may be helpful to contractors: ability to automatically convert Outlook or Lotus Notes e-mail to PDFs; the ability to automatically add interactive form fields to scanned paper forms or existing static PDF and Microsoft Office forms; and easy use templates and wizards to help create new forms and add customized logos to forms.

Users also have one-click access to new Adobe Acrobat Connect Web-conferencing software, which enables realtime Web-based exchange of ideas and feedback with any team member. The software (sold separately) creates, in essence, an alwayson personal meeting room populated by all participants who can log on from any computer anywhere. The solution enables the meeting leader to share anything on his or her computer screen, figuratively and literally keeping everyone on the same page. Only the originator needs to have the software. Participants need only an Internet connection and Flash (a widely distributed multimedia and application player) on the computer.

Bluebeam bidding
Bluebeam Software (www.bluebeam.com) has integrated its PDF markup and editing technology with the Blue Book’s BB-Bid Private Online Plan Room, a free online bid management system for the construction industry. The integration enables contractors and suppliers who use BB-Bid to view, markup and calculate takeoffs on bid documents (in PDF) and save information in the BB-Bid Plan Room from any computer online, streamlining the processes by which information is shared and stored online during the bid management process. Authorized project team members can attach the marked-up PDFs to RFIs. (BB-Bid currently delivers more than 250,000 project messages weekly, Bluebeam notes.)

Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].

William and Patti Feldman can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 914/238-6272.