Adobe created the PDF format. But because it made PDF an open standard, today every major software vendor, including Microsoft and Apple, offers applications that create and manage PDF files. But Adobe needn't worry about losing leadership in the PDF universe. Acrobat 9 Professional costs more than most other PDF solutions, but it also does more, with features such as indexing, OCR, and sophisticated form management that lets a user type data into the fields on a PDF form and then remove the field boxes around the filled-in data. This makes the final document look like any other document, not a completed form.
My favorite new features include the streamlined new interface and the ability to combine multiple PDF files into a single file complete with an embedded index, instead of the rickety old system of indexes in separate files. When I tested the beta version, the feature that converted HTML and Word forms into PDF forms crashed every time. With the actual release, it works.
Two annoyances remain: If you don't like the column of icons to the left of the contents of a PDF file, you have to right-click on it and hide it every time you open Acrobat 9: You can't turn it off by default. And the OCR feature won't work on PDF files that contain both a scanned image and a typeset caption. For files like these, you'll need a third-party program like Abbyy's superb PDF Transformer Pro 2.0 ($99, www.abbyy.com).
For all other PDF tasks, however, Acrobat 9 gets the job done with speed and elegance. If you deal with PDFs at a professional level, it's a must-have. Potential personal PDFers will have to consult their wallets, however.