Adobe SendNow offers a reliable tool for distributing large files

Back in November 2010, Adobe unveiled cloud services of note to legal professionals, including Adobe SendNow and Adobe CreatePDF.  See this prior post.  Since then, I have been putting SendNow in particular through its paces.  If I had shame, I would at this point confess shame at having experimented on decent defense counsel.  "Tell me about your impressions of the file delivery process provided by SendNow."  "Did you have any problems retrieving the files I sent?"  "Was anything unclear to you?"  I experimented on more than one, so know that you are not alone.

A quick recap is probably necessary.  SendNow is a service that delivers large files (in the case of my testing, VERY large files) to one or more recipients.  In my case, I sent files larger than 100MB through the service.  I wanted to see if I could make it choke.  They were retrieved without a hitch.  I sent them from different computers to different recipients.  They were retrieved without a hitch.  I received e-mail reports advising me when each file was retrieved.  And my interviews of unsuspecting counsel confirmed that the process appeared as simple on the recipient's end as it did on mine.  In all, an elegant and trouble-free cloud service that lawyers should appreciate.  Do you really want to burn another CD of pdfs for a document production when you receive a call that the last CD you sent had bad files on it?

The interface is clean and simple:

In the interface you can:  

  • upload multiple files in one step
  • designate one or more recipients
  • include a customized message in the delivery e-mail
  • specify whether a log-in is required
  • request delivery receipts, and,
  • set a lifespan for the files

Of additional value is the history function, which lets you examine the contents and retrieval status of prior transmissions.  If you convince others to use the service when sending to you, you can also monitor a list of files that you have received.

I give Adobe SendNow The Complex Litigator's badge of approval.  Or stamp.  I haven't made a good graphic for this yet, but you get the idea.

Coming soon:  A 10,000 mile review of Adobe Acrobat X (which happens to integrate quite seemlessly with Adobe's cloud services, like...SendNow and Acrobat.com).

Adobe rolls out new cloud services of interest to legal professionals

Two new Acrobat.com cloud services of interest to legal professionals, Adobe SendNow and Adobe CreatePDF, are now live.

E-mail systems still suffer from the lowest common denominator syndrome.  Your ability to send files is restricted by the lowest cap on attachment sizes in the e-mail transmission chain.  Systems for drop delivery of large files have been the solution for several years.  Adobe is offering a large file transmission service, but Adobe is differentiating itself from the crowd with additional transmission and monitoring features.  SendNow allows users to: 

  • Send large files from one computer to one or many recipients.
  • View files that they've sent in the past, and see when and to whom they were sent.
  • Keep an eye out for files that have been sent to you.

As with SendNow, CreatePDF isn't the first of its kind online (in fact, it isn't the first such service from Adobe), but Adobe hopes to interest users in this latest cloud-based service with some fairly powerful features.  Adobe CreatePDF will (in addition to the standard conversion of Office documents, images and other supported files into an Adobe PDF from a web browser) enable users to: 

  • Combine documents into a single PDF file.
  • For users of Microsoft Windows, users will be able to install a special printer driver that will allow creation of a PDF file online from any application that can print.
  • Within Adobe Reader X, a new Share pane provides a connection to the online Adobe CreatePDF service, making it easy to create a document that others will be able to view consistently.

CreatePDF looks like good stuff for the small firm or solo practitioner, and SendNow looks useful for any size firm.  I will give SendNow a test drive so that I don't have to create private websites for large file exchanges or find some other kludge to get the job done (like abuse Acrobat.com's file sharing feature as though it were a file drop service).

Adobe announces Acrobat X and related service enhancements

Earlier today Adobe announced the soon-to-be-released Acrobat X family of products.  Having seen a demonstration of some pre-release features, I can say that Acrobat X looks like it will accomplish several important things from the standpoint of legal practitioners.  For example, the automation tools will increase the ease with which attorneys and support staff process documents.  PDF Portfolios receive several enhancements, including the ability to control the order of documents in the PDF Portfolio (if you haven't used this feature, it is essentially using the PDF as a wrapper around a number of different document types - the documents are packaged much like an electronic binder, complete with a cover page and designer color schemes).

Acrobat.com will add an explicit tool to do what I've been manually using it for since Acrobat.com first went live.  The SendNow tool will allow users to send large files that might not successfully move through e-mail systems.  The SendNow tool will provide delivery receipts, a helpful addition for document delivery.

Personally, I am also interested in the prospect of SharePoint integration.  Combined with improvements to SharePoint functions and improved SharePoint features available through Office 2010, SharePoint might make a very serviceable substitute for the pricey document management services that target the legal industry.

I will be sure to give Acrobat X a test drive when it is available and let you know how quickly you should look to update your stale version of Acrobat.  Here's a hint that doesn't even require a test drive - if you are using Acrobat 7 or below, you must rush to upgrade; if you are using Acrobat 8, you should give some serious thought to upgrading at your earliest convenience.  I'll let you know if you get enough out of the jump from Acrobat 9 to Acrobat X to justify the same recommendation that I give for versions 8 and below.

With Apple's position clear, Adobe delivers Acrobat Reader to Android platform even as Android pulls even with iPhone OS

While Apple attempts to use its clout in the mobile web marketplace to kill Flash, the potential heir to the mobile throne, Google, has opted for the open route and, thus far, has encouraged Adobe to join the party.  Last week, at Google I/O, Adobe demonstrated a beta version of Flash 10.1 running on the Android mobile device operating system.  But Adobe had a few more Android tricks up its sleeve.

On May 21, 2010, Adobe announced that Adobe Reader is now available in the Android application marketplace.  First release features, according to Adobe, include:

Adobe Reader for Android offers multi-touch gestures, like pinch-and-zoom, as well as double-tap-zoom, flick-scrolling and panning. We've also added a "reflow" mode, which will take text-heavy documents with wide margins, and automatically wrap the content for easy viewing on smaller screens. 

So, for the last several years I have used an iPhone as my personal smartphone.  But, with developments like this, and a flood of sweet-looking devices running Android, it's hard not to consider trying the Android ecosystem.  Then again, I'm also intrigued by the potential of Windows Phone 7, so I hope that Adobe has plans to support what looks to be another powerhouse smartphone OS.  Decisions, decisions.

Adobe rolls out significant upgrades to Acrobat.com, improving both the user experience and the "under the hood" machinery

On November 21, 2009, Adobe® released a substantial update to Acrobat.com.  I spent some time poking around my Acrobat.com accounts to see the updates in person, and some new features will be of interest to legal professionals.

Before commenting on the updates, I want to take a moment to recap the basic of what is offered at Acrobat.com.  Acrobat.com contains aspects of what the digerati would call "cloud computing."  The files you create and/or store on Acrobat.com are "in the cloud," not on your computer.  If hearing "cloud computing" makes you ill, then just refer to Acrobat.com as a collection of services hosted online.  Users can create basic word processing documents (Adobe Buzzword®), presentations (Acrobat.com Presentations), basic spreadsheets (Acrobat.com Tables), upload a variety of file formats and quickly convert them to PDF, store files, easily share files with others or launch an Adobe ConnectNow online meeting and collaborate on documents in real time.  The experience presented in your browser is based on the Adobe Flash® Platform.

Before the most recent Acrobat.com update, I was already using the file sharing tools right on this site to embed a flash-based PDF viewer that shows visitors documents stored on Acrobat.com.  I have also used the storage and sharing functions to deliver large documents to others.  These services almost always worked for me exactly as promised (in the early days of Acrobat.com, there were times when files would get stuck in some sort of an anti-virus scan queue for hours or never show up; that issue was resolved quite a while ago).

Now I want to mention some of the key improvements to the Acrobat.com suite of hosted tools that might interest lawyers.  First, Acrobat.com now offers a unified interface as the starting point for most Acrobat.com applications.  Previously, the interface was somewhat disjointed.  Now, users see file organizer with a much-improved interface:

From this launch point, a user can share files, upload files, create "collections" to organize files, and so on.  One very imporant feature set that has been added here is the ability to export to a variety of file types, depending upon whether you are working with a word processing document, a presentation, or a spreadsheet.  Presentations now includes support for importing PPT/PPTX files.  In other words, you can build a presentation on Acrobat.com and then convert it to PowerPoint if you want to use that tool in a setting where online connectivity is an issue.  Similarly, users can export their tables to PDF, XLS or CSV for sharing data in whatever format is best suited for the situation.  Buzzword supports export in DOC, DOCX, RTF, TXT, ODT, ZIP, PDF, and now EPUB, the electronic book publishing format for eBook readers such as Stanza on the iPhone, Sony Reader, and others.

A side comment:  The addition of EPUB support is smart on Adobe's part.  With Flash and Acrobat.com, Adobe is right in the thick of a brewing battle for control over the format in which various types of content will be delivered to you in the future.  It's probably not to extreme to say that Apple despises Flash.  It won't support it on the iPhone, and Apple is hoping that the html 5 specification will marginalize Flash.  Google is probably no huge fan of Flash either and would likely prefer html 5 to do in Flash as well.  But Flash is everywhere.  It is ubiquitous on the web.  By supporting EBUB, Adobe is offering support for an open ebook format (and sticking Apple and Amazon's Kindle in the eye at the same time).  By demonstrating that data stored on Acrobat.com will not remain hostage to a single proprietary document format, Adobe may woo more users.

Presenations receive some added features as well.  You can browse through color sets created by designers in Adobe Kuler.  Instead of using the same color schemes, these sets let you appear to be a bit more color coordinated when you design a Presentation.  You can also now search Google and Flickr for images in include in Presentations:

These improvements make Presentation a credible tool for assembling a basic presentation.  With the ability to incorporate FLV video, Presentation is now an interesting option.  The ability to export to Powerpoint formats adds the peace of mind that you won't have to wing it when the wifi hotspot you were counting on isn't working.

Acrobat.com is also planning on the ability to integrate with a mobile applications.  The Acrobat.com mobile application by scanR® will allow users to upload document images from a supported mobile phone and have them automatically stored as searchable PDF files in Acrobat.com. In addition, users can read their files stored in Acrobat.com, share files with others and fax documents from their Acrobat.com organizer or directly from their smartphone. Users of the free service will be able to send two outbound faxes and upload up to five documents from a mobile phone. An upgrade is available for users that need to fax or upload more documents.  I'd love to say that I've used the Acrobat.com mobile application on the iPhone and tell you about my experiences, but the Apple application review process is so broken that they still don't have Adobe's application available.  I was told by Adobe that they submitted it quite some time ago, but since some developers have been waiting for months just to get a bug fix pushed out, who knows when Apple will get around to approving an application for its good buddies at Adobe.

One benefit of using the Acrobat.com tools is the ability for multiple authors to work on documents at the same time.  Multiple authors can contribute to slides in a Presenations, enter data in a Table or draft content and comments in a Buzzword document.  This enables true collaborative document creation.  Lawyers in different locations could work on an agreement together, rather than playing document tennis with e-mail.

My comments about Acrobat.com do not cover the full set of features enabled for each of the applications on Acrobat.com.  I'm just hitting some of the interesting highlights.  I am interested to see whether users will embrace Acrobat.com or one of the other 800 pound gorillas in the room that are moving into the "cloud computing" space (i.e., Microsoft, which is moving Office tools online, and Google, with its hodgepodge of online services).  I don't believe Google's "do no evil" schtick.  I am not comfortable with Google ending up as the company that knows about everything I search for and everthing I store.  I want multiple competitors in this space so I have options when one goliath or another is naughty with my bits.  Adobe still suffers from a bit of closed format-itis, but Adobe may be adjusting to the times with the EPUB move.

You can follow Acrobat.com on twitter: www.twitter.com/acrobatdotcom

As a final note, I don't receive any premium access to Acrobat.com.  I just get the services I am willing to pay for right now, which is the free service.