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Review: Adobe Acrobat Pro DC's electronic signatures are its killer app

Alan Stafford | April 8, 2015
Acrobat and the new Document Cloud service go far beyond what other PDF utilities do, but you now have to pay a subscription for the best features.

With the new Acrobat DC, Adobe offers a killer app that could lure at least some users back from cheaper PDF editors: electronic signatures. Signatures are an essential part of business, and one that's now made much easier with the new Document Cloud service you can get on subscription with Acrobat. No other competing PDF utility has anything like it.

We tried Document Cloud and all the other new features, including a new interface and new mobile apps, in our review. Before we get too deep into that, however, let's go over all the new flavors of Acrobat.

Acrobat DC and Acrobat Pro DC are available as perpetual versions ($299 and $449, respectively) or subscription versions ($12.99 and up, depending upon version and length of subscription). The perpetual versions do not allow you to send out PDFs for electronic signatures. The non-Pro version lacks things like PDF file optimization, redaction, Preflighting (checking document elements prior to press printing), Bates numbering (adding numbers or date and time marks to a document), and document version comparisons. The mobile apps are free. If you subscribe to Creative Cloud, you'll get the same features as with Acrobat Pro DC (subscription).

The new Acrobat pushes PDFs to the cloud. No, not that cloud: Instead of incorporating new features into its Creative Cloud subscription service, Adobe is introducing a new cloud, called the Document Cloud (DC for short), a document-management and document-signing service for which Acrobat is the interface, on desktops, tablets, and mobile phones.

Document Cloud is a cloud unto itself: It has no awareness of iCloud, Amazon Cloud, DropBox, Google Drive, or any other cloud service. It's more than a little annoying to contemplate having to subscribe to another cloud service to get things done. However, you can open PDFs or other documents located on those other services in Acrobat, and they will appear in your Recent list of files in Acrobat.

Sign on the dotted screen
Adobe's EchoSign electronic signature service is no more--because its features are now built into Acrobat Pro DC and the Document Cloud (it's also included with Creative Cloud subscriptions). You get unlimited signatures--the same level of service as you'd get from an EchoSign Pro subscription, which cost $14.99 a month, and you get the application as part of the deal. The competing DocuSign service costs $10 per month for 5 signatures or $20 per month for unlimited signatures, and you have to bring your own application (which could be Acrobat--can you say "awkward"?).

You'll need a desktop version of Acrobat DC that includes a Document Cloud subscription to send PDFs out for electronic signatures. Even though Adobe's mobile apps may be tied to your Document Cloud, you can't send a document out for a signature from one of them. But no subscription is required to sign, comment on, or save them. You don't even need a version of Acrobat to sign a document--you can put your Jane Hancock on it in a browser window.


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