Feeling the Buzzword at Adobe

Some weeks ago I wrote that Adobe had ventured into the market for web-based programs with the launch of Photoshop Express, a free service you can use to store and edit digital photos.

Now they’re at it again with an online suite of services lumped together under the collective name of Acrobat.com. They are still in their Beta testing phase that there may still be glitches and errors lurking around.

Acrobat.com is free and its quick and easy to sign up if, funnily enough, you go to www.acrobat.com. Once you’ve input a few details including name, e-mail address and the password you want, the system sends you an e-mail with a link you have to click on, before you can get going.

You’re presented with a very clean and nicely designed desktop which gives you access to all the site’s features including a word processor called Buzzword, an area called My Files where your files are stored, a Share feature which allows you to share these files with anyone, a tool that you can use to create Adobe Acrobat files, albeit only five times for free, and a web conferencing tool.

Importing existing files into the site is as easy as as clicking on Import in the Documents menu, while clicking on New fires up Buzzword and lets you start on your document. Buzzword is a very neat little word processor and is quite powerful ,in that it allows you to import pictures, and flow text around them, create tables and lists, and apply all sorts of formatting.

One neat little feature in the status bar at the bottom of the Buzzword page keeps a running total of the number of words in the document. It would be even better for those of us paid by the word, if it let you know how much you had earned so far in the current session.

The real test for a word processor, for me, is whether it is good enough for use in writing the article about itself. Buzzword was definitely good enough and, while I didn’t t test all the features in the writing of this article, it did work very well and I liked it.

Ironically, the Insert Picture command only allows you you to select a picture from your local computer and not from those stored in your Photoshop Express account. I’d expected that my Express username and password would work on Acrobat.com but it didn’t, a fact that is sure to change in the future.

I really liked Photoshop Express and now, I am also a fan of Acrobat.com and am fast coming to the conclusion that Adobe has got this online application business taped in a way that few other companies have yet managed. Their offerings are still both on test but are both already very good and, in time, are quite likely to tempt people away from using programs installed on their computers.

Using software installed on central servers is called cloud computing and, while not a new idea, it is a concept that is coming back into fashion. Installing or updating a program, for example, takes much less time if you do it once, centrally, and don’t have to go around to each user’s computer; been there and done that!

The only snag with cloud computing is that nothing is stored on the local computer, making you absolutely dependent on the connection to the server. There were a few occasions while writing this article when Buzzword reported that the connection to the server had been lost, which was a bit scary, but it always re-established itself. In such circumstances, my first reaction is usually to blame it on Telkom but I suppose there is a slight chance that the Adobe server was over-busy.

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