Acrobat XI First Impressions

We asked some of the Acrobat XI prerelease testers to share their first impressions. Read what they say about their favorite new or updated tools.

Subtle but Sweet Interface Changes

Donna Baker

It isn't always the big 'wow' factor changes that have the most impact on how you do your work. There are a couple of small changes in Acrobat XI that streamline my workflow enormously.


The first is in the Pages panel. I often work among several files using the Pages panel to move content. In older versions, you could increase the width of the panel, but had to choose a command from the Options menu over and over to adjust the page thumbnail's size. Now in Acrobat XI, the Pages panel comes with a sizing slider to automatically increase or decrease the size of the thumbnails.

The second little thing that contributes to streamlining my workflow concerns the Comments pane. I work with a lot of documents, and can have up to a hundred comments to work on. The panes in Acrobat X weren't resizable, which was great for displaying lists of commands, but not so great for scrolling through many comments. In fact, that pane was a pain. Now, in Acrobat XI, the Comments list can be undocked from the right pane area (using the command from the Comments List's Options menu) resized, and floated anywhere on screen. I can size the pane as wide as I like, and get my work done much faster.

Bio: Graphic designer and content developer Donna Baker writes extensively about graphics applications, especially Adobe Acrobat. She currently facilitates five online courses on Acrobat and InDesign. She has presented at a number of Adobe Max conferences and a variety of professional development seminars. Her work has appeared on numerous sites, and she has been a contributing author and expert at since the day it started. She has written several books about Acrobat, including the popular Adobe Acrobat How-Tos, and the forthcoming Donna's Guide to Acrobat XI.

One big change for the Acrobat installer

Douglas Hanna

So many updates and new features to choose from it's hard to choose just one. Coming from my perspective as a corporate product and build expert I would have to say that it's the new Multilingual User Interface (MUI) installer.


Many companies, both large and small, have offices all over the world and have needs for their overseas employees to be able to use their local language. Having a single installer that can meet those varied language needs will provide them with significant cost benefits. A single package and deployment strategy to all offices versus having to create, test, and maintain multiple individual language packages - and the hassles of determining which individual should receive which installer. Going along with that, allowing employees to utilize a language version that coincides with what they naturally communicate with will be a huge boost in both morale and productivity by reducing workflow complexity and ambiguity (is that rotate page or rotate view?). Definitely a feature worth upgrading for.

Bio: Doug Hanna is the senior subject matter expert for Adobe Acrobat, PDF, and related technologies at a global Fortune 300 company that specializes in the employee benefits and risk management market spaces. His Acrobat expertise includes product configuration and packaging, deployment strategies, and end user product knowledge and process improvement to over 12,000 end users in well over 150 countries. Besides Acrobat, Doug also applies his PDF expertise to our high-volume PDF creation and production print environments. One of Doug's primary roles is to make others more efficient and effective using Acrobat in theirs.

Point and click Office 365 integration

Silvia Lifman

My favorite new feature in Acrobat XI is the ability to open, save, and insert any files directly from online accounts such as Office 365 or SharePoint. Too often I have worked on projects where I needed to insert multimedia files or attach a document into to PDF. With Acrobat XI I can now add them directly from the SharePoint platform or Office 365.


Bio: Consultant technologies applied to multimedia and graphic design. Certified Instructor Adobe, certified expert in Acrobat and Indesign. Graduate in Distance Course Designer. Business Consultant about Adobe tools. Adobe influencer. Beta tester for Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Dreamweaver. Professor at Gutenberg Foundation.Training has taught at several universities in Argentina and abroad. Much of her work is in the area of implementing workflows in companies and institutions with Adobe tools for Print and Digital Publishing.

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Better performance for forms authors in Acrobat XI

Ted Padova

When a new software release appears many of us look for all the new tools and features that the product provides us. For several generations of Acrobat the thing that's been of most interest to me is simply having much better performance —something that just helps me get the job done more efficient and faster.


Using Acrobat 6 through Acrobat X I had many frustrations with slow performance when editing complex forms. Entering Form Edit mode, changing field names, copying and pasting fields, etc. on some forms took over an hour to complete the task. There were many performance problems in forms editing with previous versions of Acrobat.

All of that has changed in Acrobat XI and I'm so delighted to see a tiny little toggle that improves my form editing experience 1,000 percent. If you're a forms author you'll very much look forward to not a tool or panel, but simply a new Preference option in AXI. Open the Preferences (CTRL+K on Windows r Command+K on the Mac). Click Forms in the left pane and uncheck the item denoted as Automatically adjust tab order when modifying fields.

That's it! Turn this Preference option off and most of your forms editing tasks will run much faster.

One giant step for Adobe Reader XI

George Johnson

Acrobat XI has a lot for form creators to love, but I think the most significant aspects are the many ways that Adobe Reader has been enhanced and unleashed, allowing forms created in Acrobat to shine like never before. In addition to the quantum leap of allowing Reader to save even non-enabled forms, it has gained a number of significant abilities, two of which I'd like to focus on: Templates and the buttonImportIcon JavaScript method.


Templates in a PDF allow a page to be dynamically added when an end-user is filling in a form. Previously, Reader could spawn templates only if the form was enabled with LiveCycle Reader Extensions, Adobe's enterprise class Reader-enabling software. An Acrobat form that uses templates allows it to dynamically adapt to the user's needs, and now no special usage rights are required. This is a huge step forward. Templates are even more flexible in Reader XI than before since they can be spawned as overlays on existing pages, something that was previously only available with Acrobat. Templates in Reader open up a new world to Acrobat form developers, from adding an additional page if more room is needed, to allowing very complex, high performance dynamic forms. I'm looking forward to seeing how form authors take advantage of templates to deliver advanced and innovative solutions.

The buttonImportIcon JavaScript method allows for an often requested and extremely welcome addition, something that I've long advocated for restoring to Reader. When this statement is triggered, the user is prompted to select a page from an existing PDF to use for a button's icon. This method vanished with Reader 6, but has returned to allow Reader users to import images, vector graphics, and text into a form, in any combination. A button can display anything that a PDF page can, which is more flexible than the simple image field available with an XFA form. The PDF-only limitation for the icon source may sound too restrictive at first, but with readily available tools to convert an image to PDF (e.g., Preview on every Mac, Word, OpenOffice, Adobe CreatePDF, and a plethora of others), it can become much less so. Still, I‘m hopeful that it will be expanded in the future to allow importing common image formats, as with an XFA image field. Next step: allowing the mobile siblings of Reader to use buttonImportIcon to import camera images into forms.

Bio: George Johnson has been developing PDF forms professionally for over fifteen years, both in his regular job and as a consultant. He's a frequent contributor on where he's an AUC Expert and in the PDF related forums at, where he's an MVP. George has found the Acrobat XI prerelease program to be the most exciting and rewarding of all the ones he's been involved with.

Export to PowerPoint right out of the box

Clint Funk

Over the many years I've presented and trained companies on Acrobat, one of the most common questions I get is "can I export to PowerPoint." Prior to being about to export to Word and Excel, you could always copy from a PDF and paste into Word and Excel, but you couldn't go back from PDFs created from PowerPoint to PowerPoint. If it was more than just changing a few words, and you didn't have the original, you were stuck with the onerous task of starting from scratch in PowerPoint. Now with Acrobat XI, that is no longer a problem.


Acrobat XI exports back to PowerPoint beautifully, even recreating the master slides, as well as lists, tables, images and vector objects. This makes adding slides, based on master layouts, and formatting very fast. For my own work and client's alike, this feature is invaluable, saving hours of time to make major or even simple edits much faster and easier. This is definitely one of Acrobat XI's top features and it works on Macs the same as it does in Windows.

Bio: Clint Funk worked with Acrobat since the beginning in 1993 and the past 9 years as a full-time employee and part-time consultant for Adobe specializing in Acrobat and Creative Suite. He has worked extensively to implement a PDF workflow with the US Government including the US Air Force, Homeland Security, US Navy, DEA, EEOC, US Senate and many other government agencies, civilian and military as well as state and local governments, and private sector corporations and educational institutions.

New Adobe Reader capability makes forms more intelligent

Max Wyss

The biggest new feature of Acrobat/Reader XI is definitely that most of the restrictions in Reader (which required the forms developer to acquire very expensive server software) have been removed. This finally makes Reader an acceptable tool for using electronic forms. It also makes it possible that the forms can contain much more intelligence. Most of my developments in fully dynamic, multilingual PDF forms now become available for smaller organizations, or less frequently used forms.


Bio: Max Wyss has been creating complex intelligent forms, using Acrobat JavaScript since it was possible (that's Acrobat 3.02, almost 15 years ago). His developments have been appreciated by clients throughout Europe and North America. Most recent work comprises highly dynamic multilingual forms and "lightweight applications", as well as supporting tools, all using Acrobat JavaScript.

It's all about forms for me!

Dimitri Munkirs

I love all the new improvements for forms in Acrobat XI! Being able to fill and save PDF forms in Adobe Reader with no need to enable Usage Rights, the ability to spawn templates (Yeah!), easier and faster interface with Central, and the tab order improvements top my list of favorites.


Bio: Dimitri has been working with Acrobat since version 7 and is a co-owner of WindJack Solutions and the web site. Her company focuses on training, consulting and developing custom solutions for all manner of Acrobat and PDF workflows, with an emphasis on automation and scripting.