Acrobat is by no means a sexy product.

It's an important one for anyone involved in the print or creative industries, but it doesn't carry the pizzazz of the Creative Suite products in Adobe's arsenal. This release goes some way to stretch its appeal, though, mainly through an injection of interactivity and broader thinking on Adobe's part.

The new streamlined interface is functional, but finds room to squeeze in a host of interactive buttons. This is a significant move, as not only does Adobe want the PDF format to continue its dominance, it wants people to start using it collaboratively.

To this end, Adobe has integrated many existing LiveCycle features. For instance, you can graft PDFs together from multiple file formats, as well as allowing PDF packaging that preserves the original files. And to underline its new collaborative approach, Acrobat 8 lets you insert and edit video and CAD files within a PDF. All of a sudden Acrobat isn't the one-dimensional product we're used to - it's a creative beast.

Further collaboration features include enabling documents to be opened as part of a shared file, with comments and edits published to a server. Any edits or flags made within the project are automatically exported to the original file. So if a client flags text to change, Acrobat adds them to the PDF and native format.

The key feature of this release, however, is the conferencing functionality. Only available with an Acrobat Connect subscription, the Start Meeting tool launches a Flash-based conference centre for up to 15 users. Although such features are available elsewhere for free, it looks to be an impressive utility if it breaks into the mainstream.

That's the key to this release. Adobe hasn't included anything for those of us dependent on Acrobat for pre-press delivery, but has almost reinvented it as a creative and collaborative tool. Tom Dennis