For the longest time, Acrobat was Adobe’s flagship desktop app for working with — and especially editing — PDFs. In recent years, the company launched Acrobat on the web, but it was never quite as fully featured as the desktop version, and one capability a lot of users were looking for, editing text and images in PDFs, remained a desktop-only feature. That’s changing. With its latest update to Acrobat on the web, Adobe is bringing exactly this ability to its online service.
“[Acrobat Web] is strategically important to us because we have more and more people working in the browser,” Todd Gerber, Adobe’s VP for Document Cloud, told me. “Their day begins by logging into whether it’s G Suite or Microsoft Office 365. And so we want to be in all the surfaces where people are doing their work.” The team first launched the ability to create and convert PDFs, but as Gerber noted, it took a while to get to the point where being able to edit PDFs in a performant and real-time way was possible. “We could have done it earlier, but it wouldn’t have been up to the standards of being fast, nimble and quality.” He specifically noted that working with fonts was one of the more difficult problems the team faced in bringing this capability online.
He also noted that even though we tend to think of PDF as an Adobe format, it is an open standard and lots of third-party tools can create PDFs. That large ecosystem, with the potential for variations between implementations, also makes it more difficult to offer editing capabilities for Adobe.
With today’s launch, Adobe is also introducing a couple of additional browser-based features: protecting PDFs, splitting them into two and merging multiple PDFs. In addition, after working with Google last year to offer a handful of Acrobat shortcuts using the .new domain, Adobe is now launching a set of new shortcuts like PDF.new. The company plans to roll out more of these over the course of the next year.
In total, Adobe says, the company saw about 10 million clicks on its existing shortcuts, which just goes to show how many people try to convert or sign PDFs every day.
As Gerber noted, a lot of potential users don’t necessarily think of Acrobat first. Instead, what they want to do is compress a PDF or convert it. Acrobat Web and the .new domains help the company bring a new audience to the platform, he believes. “It’s unlocking a new audience for us that didn’t initially think of Adobe. They think about PDFs, they think about what they need to do with them,” he said. “So it’s allowing us to expand our customer base by being relevant in the way that they’re looking to discover and ultimately transact. Our journey with Acrobat web actually started with that notion: let’s go after the non-branded searches.”
Adobe, of course, funnels to the Acrobat desktop app all branded searches where users are explicitly looking for Acrobat, but for the more casual user, it brings them to Acrobat Web where they can easily perform whatever action they came for without even signing up for the service.