Maybe we should be flattered. It's rare that really big software companies pay attention to CAD users. But Adobe is seriously making inroads and gaining mindshare. Consider that without even trying, Adobe PDF software became a standard for transmitting drawings. Since then, Adobe has turned up the volume with 3D features and collaboration products.
Connect the Disconnected
Adobe presented their version 8 products recently, which will be available in November through next spring. Used for the presentation was Adobe's Acrobat Connect, their collaboration product that used to be called Macromedia Breeze. News to me -- I never knew it existed. Though I was traveling in India at the time when the presentation was originating in USA, Connect performed flawlessly. I was able to see -- without noticeable lags --what was happening on the USA screens. Audio was provided through phone (I hate to think of what 75 minutes long distance to India costs but luckily Adobe was picking up that bill). Overall impression: Connect seems like a definite alternative to WebEx. Connect licenses for $395 per year, or $39 per month (and Adobe will offer a free trial of the software from its availability in November through the remainder of the calendar year). By comparison, WebEx offers a product called "meetmenow" at an introductory price for a 1 year commitment according to their website, with no mention of an upfront cost. But Adobe says Connect uses software already found on most computers (Flash Player and Acrobat), whereas WebEx users have to download software.
Some highlights of the presentation:
- Acrobat installs a button on AutoCAD's toolbars. Adobe appears to be a benevolent benefactor of CAD users, in contrast to Autodesk, which maintains a warlike stance against Adobe. (Autodesk has a competitive DWF format)
- Flatten layers option in Acrobat condenses layers in an AutoCAD drawing. It would be nice to be able to preview the layers visually as one is selecting them. Perhaps in a future release.
- Adobe claims great gains in speed in PDF creation, citing a drawing that once took 100 seconds could now be done in essentially real time.
- Batch mode for handling many conversions at once.
- Convert by simply dragging an AutoCAD or LT drawing file into the Acrobat interface. You don't need to have AutoCAD or LT on your computer.
- You can trade off quality for speed during conversions-- and vice versa.
- Combine multiple AutoCAD drawings and layouts into a single PDF
- Added support for digital signatures, including the ability for Acrobat 8 users to enable them in the free Adobe Reader.
- For 3D users, Adobe suggest a process change: "Do not use your CAD system to make your 3D models into 2D. Use Acrobat." However, a real 2D drawing has dimensions, annotations and formats. I'm not sure you'd want to -- or could --do all that in Acrobat. But the file size advantage is enormous. A CATIA V5 model was purported to reduce from 35MB to 150KB, a factor of over 200X. (That was probably on the low quality setting)
- Some measurement and dimensioning is supported in Acrobat 8. The dimensions appear rudimentary by CAD standards but are probably sufficient for "quick and dirty." Since dimensions do not pick up dimension styles already in use in the original drawing, they can look quite different than dimensions already visible. (another wish list item, if anyone is listening)
Again, expect the new stuff to be available in November, except for Acrobat 3D Version 8 which will not be ready until Spring. (Adobe says they need more time to integrate technology from TTF, a company recently acquired)
- Adobe Introduces Acrobat 8
- Adobe Introduces Connect Products for Collaboration
- Adobe Acrobat 8 to Push Collaboration, Add Flash
- Adobe Adds 2nd 3D Format to Acrobat
- Adobe Previews New Products to Come - Acrobat 8 Professional and Acrobat Connect to be shipped in November, while Acrobat 3D Version 8 is scheduled for release next year, Sara Ferris, Cadalyst, September 18, 2006