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Acrobat.com: A Replacement For Other Office Applications?

Acrobat.com: A Replacement For Other Office Applications?

Acrobat.com

    At first glance, Acrobat.com doesn’t seem like anything special. We’ve seen Buzzword before, of course. And we’ve seen all the various Google application, as well. Acrobat.com can’t have anything new to offer, right?

    Adobe Buzzword

    Like I said, Acrobat.com looks like a pretty version of every other set of office applications out there at first glance. But that impression fades very quickly. Really, Adobe Buzzword is pretty much the only similarity to a true office suite — Acrobat.com isn’t offering spreadsheets or PowerPoint slides. The time they might have spent on such endeavors has gone to Buzzword, and the application is a solid product. Adobe picked up Buzzword last year and turned it into the centerpiece of Acrobat.com

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    Adobe Buzzword has the standard offerings of most online word processors — Share your brilliant prose with your friends! Watch edits happen in real time! Access your documents from the furthest corners of the globe! You know the drill. But even the great Google missed a few points on Google Docs, a lesson from Buzzword has learned. Most important for shared documents is the addition of version control. It’s surprisingly easy to revert to that version you thought you saved over in Buzzword — less so in most other applications. When using Buzzword, controls for such things as commenting are simply more intuitive than Google Docs and its ilk. I keep comparing Buzzword to Google Docs for a simple reason — I use it quite a bit. I started using Google Docs because, well, it’s pretty well integrated with Gmail. But I’m a bit tempted to make the changeover.

    Create PDF, Share & My Files

    Off to the right hand side of Acrobat.com are three tools that seem to have the same sort of presentation as Adobe Buzzword. These three, however, haven’t been given the Adobe name. Create PDF, Share and My Files have a bit of the little brother feel — they just don’t seem to have gotten as much love growing up.

    Create PDF has a bit of a stunted feel to it. Sure, it’s a great tool if you don’t have Acrobat — just upload a file and hit one button to get a PDF. But Adobe has limited users to five PDFs (this month? this year? ever? It doesn’t say). Five PDFs really isn’t a lot. Adobe’s suggestion for users who need more than five PDFs isn’t exactly helpful, either:

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    If you need more than 5 Adobe PDF creations, we recommend you purchase Adobe® Acrobat® 9 software to get the full power of PDF creation on your desktop.

    Share has a bit more flexibility, although it too has limits. For those of us constantly sending big files, Adobe’s document sharing tool could come in handy. Users get five gigabytes of space for free, making for a simple way to share sizeable files. There will probably come a point for most users when they have to start removing documents in order to put up new ones, but I consider that a workable solution. But what I really like about the Share function is the fact that each file gets its own unique website address, making it trivial to embed documents in your website.

    Arguably, Share and My Files are the same tool. My Files is just a file organization system and Share is the icing on the top — permissions for those files. They use the same five gigs of storage. Adobe has also put some restrictions on My Files that extends to Share. Most importantly, there is a long list of file formats that cannot be uploaded and therefore cannot be shared. Executable files, music and video files and archive files are all forbidden.

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    Adobe ConnectNow

    Beyond Adobe Buzzwords, the other selling point is Adobe ConnectNow. It’s a conferencing application with all the bells and whistles: screen sharing, whiteboards, audio and video. This is the free version, so users are limited to three people. Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro can handle plenty more, but with a price set significantly higher than free.

    As long as you’re planning a small conference, ConnectNow can be a good option. The user interface is fairly intuitive. My dad could probably figure out which icons to click to start a video conference or to upload a file, although I won’t go so far as to claim that my grandmother could handle it. There isn’t anything I haven’t seen before in an online conferencing application, though.

    The Verdict

    Tempting as Adobe Buzzword’s version control system is, I don’t think I’m going to take the time to transfer all my files over. Buzzword is nice, and the rest of the tools on Acrobat.com are useful. But they aren’t quite innovative. I’ll keep my login and might have a few group projects that I’ll run off of Buzzword, rather than Google Docs, but I have no reason to make a full change over.

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    I’m ready for the next great thing in web applications and, sad to say, Acrobat.com isn’t it. The interface is very well-designed, but there isn’t anything that really makes it stand out from all of the other application suites out roaming the internet. I don’t really object to the restrictions that Acrobat.com places on users (though I’d appreciate a clear explanation of a few points). It’s free and you get what you pay for. But Adobe has made several applications in the past that I was willing to pay for, and I’d hoped that Acrobat.com would be a little more in line with that quality.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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