Adobe yesterday introduced a scanner app for mobile devices that includes optical character recognition, so you can edit documents after you scan them. It also introduced notable updates to Adobe, including cross-device signature capture.

The scanner app, Adobe Scan, is free and available for iOS and Android devices. Regular readers of this blog may remember that, last November, Adobe added a scanning tool to its Adobe Reader app for iOS and Android devices. This new app improves on that by adding OCR and better integrating with Adobe Document Cloud.

The app is quick and easy to use for scanning documents, receipts, business cards, notes and forms. Simply hold your phone or tablet over a document and the app automatically detects borders and captures the image. For multi-page documents, just flip to the next page and the app will continue the capture. You can then crop, rotate and edit the image, if need be, from within the app.

When you are satisfied with the scan, hit save. The app performs OCR on the text and then uploads the scan to Document Cloud. From there, it is available to work on from any device. You can also share the scan from within the app by sending an email or link.

The OCR function converts the image to text that you can select, copy, edit and annotate using Adobe Reader DC or Acrobat DC. Users of the app can create a free Document Cloud account to store scans. Paid subscribers to Acrobat DC get added functionality to edit and organize documents, collect signatures and more.

Enhancements to Adobe Sign

Last June, this blog reported on plans by Adobe and other industry groups, working through a group called the Cloud Signature Consortium, to build an open standard for cloud-based digital signatures across mobile and the web, enabling anyone to digitally sign documents from anywhere.

Then, in February, Adobe announced the first cloud-based digital signatures built on an open standard and said that both Adobe Document Cloud and Adobe Sign would enable digital signatures — the most secure form of e-signatures, using certificate-based digital IDs issued by a trust service provider (TSP) — in any browser and on any mobile device.

Send a text message from your desktop to collect a handwritten signature.

Yesterday, Adobe formally rolled out the promised cloud-based digital signatures — the first cloud-based digital signatures based on an open standard — and is making them available in any browser or on any mobile device.

In addition, Adobe unveiled a feature it calls cross-device signature capture. This enables you to obtain handwritten electronic signatures, even when your computer is not touch-enabled. Instead, from within Adobe Sign, you send a text message to your mobile device and sign with your finger or a stylus, then finish the job back on your desktop. With one tap, you can add the signature to your document.

Another addition yesterday to Adobe Sign is customizable email templates. These let you create branded and personalized email templates for requesting and confirming signatures through Adobe Sign.

 

asian woman hand holding tablet and using tablet in coffee shop with vintage toned.

Last June, this blog reported on plans by Adobe and other industry groups, working through a group called the Cloud Signature Consortium, to build an open standard for cloud-based digital signatures across mobile and the web, enabling anyone to digitally sign documents from anywhere.

Now, the consortium has published a preliminary specification, and today Adobe is announcing the first cloud-based digital signatures built on an open standard. Both Adobe Document Cloud and Adobe Sign will enable digital signatures — the most secure form of e-signatures, using certificate-based digital IDs issued by a trust service provider (TSP) — in any browser and on any mobile device.

In addition, Adobe today is announcing new functionality for Adobe Sign that takes it beyond electronic signatures. These include new tools in the mobile version of Adobe Sign as well as new workflow tools and SharePoint integration.

Adobe Sign now includes document scanning.

New in the mobile version of Adobe Sign are:

  • Mobile scan and sign.  Last November, this blog reported on the scanning function added to Acrobat Reader’s mobile version. Now, that scanning tool has been added to the Adobe Sign mobile app. That means you can scan printed pages and then sign them or send them for signature from your mobile device. Like the Reader version, it uses special technology called Adobe Sensei to automatically crop and correct the scanned image.
  • Mobile reading and reflow. Reading a long legal document in PDF form on a mobile device can be tedious. This new feature lets you reflow the text and adjust the fonts with a tap of your finger to make the document more readable, and then just as easily return to the PDF version.
  • Mobile tracking. A new tracking widget for smartphones and tablets lets you track and manage signatures in real-time from your home screen, without opening the Adobe Sign mobile app.

In addition to the new mobile tools, Adobe announced new capabilities for Adobe Sign:

  • Advanced document routing. Adobe Sign lets you route documents to clients and others for signatures. But now it also lets you route documents for other purposes. For example, you can use this to route documents to recipients to ask them to fill out a form or to notify them of policy updates. You can now also send documents using “certified delivery” when you need proof that your recipient both viewed and acknowledged a document. (This feature will be available within 30 days, Adobe says.)
  • Complete online processes. This allows you to use Adobe Sign to complete complex document workflows that may involve multiple people and approvals, such as a loan application. Automatically generate, send and route documents specific to the workflow and monitor progress through a dashboard.
  • Work directly within SharePoint. Adobe Sign can now be added to SharePoint, allowing SharePoint users to generate signature requests, track their progress and then archive documents.

Adobe says that mobile and web signing will be available in an Adobe Sign preview release due out in a few weeks. Digital IDs compliant with the new consortium standard will be available in the coming months from the following providers: Asseco Data Systems, Certinomis (a subsidiary of La Poste Group), D-Trust (a subsidiary of Bundesdruckerei), InfoCert, Intarsys, Intesi Group, and UniverSign. Adobe customers can contact their customer support manager to join the product preview, Adobe says.

Acrobat Reader Mobile Scan 2Adobe is today releasing a new scanning tool built into its free Acrobat Reader app for iOS and Android mobile devices that lawyers should find useful for scanning documents, receipts, business cards and other paper.

If you already have the Adobe Reader app, the scanning tool will be available as soon as you update it. If you do not have it, you can download it from the iTunes Store or from Google Play.

The scanner lets you take a picture of any document — a form, receipt, business card or whatever — and create a clean PDF that you can share or store.

The app uses special technology called Adobe Sensei to automatically crop the scan to the proper boundaries, correct its perspective, and make the text sharper and easier to read.

Sensei, which Adobe announced earlier this month but has been using for some time, is a machine-learning framework that builds on Adobe’s extensive volume of data and content relating to documents and imaging. Adobe says it is using Sensei to enhance a variety of its creative and document cloud services.

Once you’ve created a scan using the Reader app, you can add annotations and signatures if you like and store the scan either on your device or directly into Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive and Adobe Document Cloud.

There are plenty of scanning apps available for mobile devices. One of my favorites is Evernote’s Scannable, which I reviewed in 2015. This morning I tested a somewhat crumpled receipt using Reader’s new scanner on both an iPhone and an iPad, and then scanned the same receipt using Scannable.

As you can see above, the results varied. (Click any image to enlarge.) Scannable produced the cleanest receipt. Adobe on the iPad produced the crispest text.

I also tested the Adobe scanner on clean, uncrumpled documents and got very good results.

For legal professionals, the best reason to use Adobe’s new scanning tool is that it is integrated directly into the Acrobat Document Cloud ecosystem, which offers a broad range of useful functionality. (See this recent post and also my full review of Acrobat DC.) Plus, if you already have Reader on your mobile device, then you already have this tool.

AcrobatDC_Compare_Files

Adobe released an update last week to its Acrobat DC PDF software that significantly enhances a tool often used by legal professionals, Compare Documents, and that updates its Certificates tool to make it easier to digitally sign, certify and verify documents with a certificate ID.

(See my original review of Acrobat DC.)

The enhanced Compare Documents tool uses color coding and other features to make it easy to compare the differences between two documents. The tool compares all changes to text, images, annotations, formatting, headers and footers, and background differences.

adobecompare2

To use it, select the two files you want to compare and then click the Compare button. Acrobat DC generates a results report summarizing the total number of changes and providing a color-coded overview of the differences between the two files. From there, you can move through the documents arranged side by side or in a single-page view, easily seeing the differences.

Adobe has also updated Acrobat DC’s Certificates tool to make it easier to place a digital certificate in a document. Now, when you select the option to digitally sign a document, Acrobat DC presents a series of prompts that walk you through the process of configuring a digital ID and inserting it into the document.

adobe digital id

Last week’s update also improved Acrobat DC’s pen tool to add support for Microsoft’s DirectInk technology. This makes Acrobat DC run better when using finger or stylus actions on a Microsoft Surface Pro.

All of these changes were rolled out automatically to subscribers to Acrobat DC. For users of the perpetual-license version, these updates will be added to a future product update.

Adobe Cloud Signature Consortium

Thanks to Brexit, there’s been no shortage of news about the European Union of late. What you may not have heard, however, is that an EU regulation is taking effect July 1 that aims to expand the use and reliability of electronic signatures, particularly within the EU. One of the purposes of the eIDAS regulation is to overcome conflicting laws among EU states and the lack of interoperability of electronic signatures among different service providers in order to facilitate their use in international commerce.

With the goal of simplifying compliance with this new regulation and of eventually helping to drive worldwide adoption of digital signatures, Adobe today announced the launch of the Cloud Signature Consortium, a group of industry and academic organizations coming together to build an open standard for cloud-based digital signatures across mobile and the web, so that anyone will be able to digitally sign documents from anywhere.

Why an open standard? Although the terms “electronic signature” and “digital signature” are often used interchangeably, the latter is actually a subset of the former. Digital signatures are a more secure form of e-signatures because they use certificate-based digital IDs backed by trusted certificate authorities.

The problem with digital signatures, however, is that their use is generally tied to the desktop because they require a physical device for authentication, such as a USB token or smart card, as well as special software. While there are also cloud-based approaches to digital signatures, they are proprietary to specific vendors and therefore cannot be used across platforms and devices.

Led by Adobe — which says it processes more than 6 billion digital and electronic signature transactions a year through Adobe Sign and Adobe Document Cloud — the consortium’s goal is to build an open and interoperable technical standard for cloud-based digital signatures. Having invented the PDF standard, Adobe has some experience in this area. It is joined in the consortium by a dozen EU-based cloud digital signature providers, trust services providers, academics, and standards and security focused organizations. It expects and welcomes others to join also.

They will focus first on developing a technical specification and then on the specification’s adoption and implementation. While the initial effort will center on the EU, the consortium expects the effort to impact all countries as the use of digital signatures continues to expand. The consortium expects to complete the standard specification by the end of the year with the first cloud-based implementations to follow soon after.

For more information, see:

AcrobatBoxOnedrive

I recently reported that Adobe would be rolling out Box and OneDrive integrations for Acrobat DC on the desktop. As of yesterday, those integrations are live.

From the Home tab within Acrobat DC, click Add Account to add a Box or OneDrive account. You may have to download the latest version of DC to see this option, which you can do by going to the Help tab and then clicking Check for Updates.

Once you add a Box or OneDrive account, you can access your PDF files in those accounts from directly within Acrobat. This also works with Acrobat Reader.

Still to come with the Box integration are two additional features: the ability to sign documents in Box using Adobe Sign and the ability to access and edit PDFs from directly within Box.

Acrobat DC already integrated with SharePoint and Dropbox.

To read more, see:

05_Acrobat_Add_Cloud_Storage_Account_Lifestyle (2)

It’s been a year since Adobe introduced its all-new Acrobat DC version of its popular PDF software, which came packaged and tightly integrated with another new offering, Adobe Document Cloud. (See my review here.) Today, to mark that one-year anniversary, Adobe announced several enhancements to Acrobat DC and Document Cloud.

01_Adobe_Sign_Splash_Screen_iPad (1)
Adobe Sign mobile app.

New Adobe Sign. As part of last year’s launch of Document Cloud, Adobe rebranded its EchoSign e-signature service as Document Cloud eSign Services. Now it is rebranding it again, this time as Adobe Sign.

Along with the rebranding comes a new Adobe Sign mobile app designed to make it easier to send, sign and track PDF documents from an iOS or Android device. This is an updated version of the app formerly called Adobe eSign Manager DC.

Adobe Sign will also now tightly integrate with Adobe Marketing Cloud, a customer-engagement platform. The integration will allow companies to integrate e-signing into forms-based processes, such as signing up for a credit card. I was not able to determine whether any law firms use Marketing Cloud, but Thomson Reuters uses it for Westlaw customers.

Integration with Box and Microsoft OneDrive. A nice feature of Acrobat DC is that it is agnostic about where you store your documents. When it launched last year, it integrated not only with its own Document Cloud, but also with SharePoint. Last October, it added Dropbox integration. Now, Adobe is adding integrations with Box and OneDrive.

06_Acrobat_DC_Commenting (1)
Touch-friendly annotating and commenting.

The Box integration will allow users working in Box to open documents into Acrobat DC and make edits that are automatically updated in Box. Users will be able to open documents stored in Box from within Acrobat DC’s desktop version or the Acrobat iOS apps. Users will also be able to open Box files directly within Adobe Sign to add an e-signature to any document. Users will also be able to open Box documents from within the free Adobe Reader.

The OneDrive integration will allow users to open documents stored in OneDrive from within any of the iOS apps, Acrobat DC or Acrobat Reader. Unlike the Box integration, however, users will not be able to access Acrobat features from within OneDrive.

The Box integration for Acrobat DC should be available by the end of May and with the Acrobat iOS apps by the end of June. The OneDrive integration should be available by the end of June.

Enhancements to Acrobat DC. Adobe has updated Acrobat DC with touch-friendly commenting and annotating tools for marking up documents on a touch-screen computer or a tablet. Acrobat DC is also getting menu and dialog updates to improve accessibility for users who are visually impaired.

You can now authorize Adobe Acrobat to access your PDFs on Dropbox.
You can now authorize Adobe Acrobat to access your PDFs on Dropbox.
Open, edit and save Dropbox files within Acrobat.
Open, edit and save Dropbox files within Acrobat.

Last May, in a post here, I reviewed the new Adobe Acrobat DC, the all-new version of the popular PDF software. (I also have a more extensive review in Law Practice magazine.) The “DC” in the name stands for Document Cloud and this latest version of Acrobat is designed to tightly integrate with the cloud, so users can access and manage PDF documents via the cloud using any device — computer, tablet or phone.

Toward this goal, Adobe conceived Acrobat DC to be agnostic about cloud storage platforms. Adobe provides its own document-storage platform, Document Cloud, but it wanted users to be able to access their PDFs from whatever document-storage platform they used.

When the product first came out earlier this year, it integrated with only one third-party site, SharePoint,  but Adobe said it would be adding connectors to OneDrive, Box and Dropbox.

This week, the Dropbox integration went live. Now, you can authorize Acrobat to access your Dropbox account. Once you do, you can open Dropbox PDFs from directly within Acrobat and save PDFs directly into Dropbox. The integration also works with Acrobat Reader.

So far, this works only with the desktop versions of Acrobat on Macs and PCs. Before the end of the year, Acrobat Reader’s iOS versions will be upgraded to allow the integration on iPhones and iPads. The integration on Android devices will be available sometime next year.

In addition to allowing you to directly open a file from Dropbox into Acrobat, the integration also allows you to directly attach a file from Dropbox to an email or export a PDF to a different file format, such as Microsoft Word.


Adobe’s legal department is striking a blow against legalese today. It is releasing to the legal community at large the style guide it developed to help its own inhouse staff write legal documents in plain English and avoid legalese.

Mike Dillon
Adobe GC Mike Dillon

Adobe is releasing The Adobe Legal Department Style Guide (embedded below) under a Creative Commons Atribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License so that others in the legal industry can use and adapt it for their own legal departments and law firms.

“We want to release this under a Creative Commons attribution and let others take our work product and make it their own in the hope that as a profession we’ll change the way we communicate,” Michael Dillon, Adobe’s senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary, told me in an interview last week.

“When you write a blog, you write to be engaging and accessible, but we don’t write our legal documents that way” said Dillon, who was one of the first GCs in the U.S. to have his own blog and who still writes both for his personal blog and an Adobe blog. “So we’ve tried to rethink the way we’re writing everything.”

To accomplish this, Dillon assembled a global team of a half-dozen “very passionate people” within his legal department. He also brought in outside experts such as Bryan Garner, often considered the leading authority on clear and effective legal writing.

Succinct, Accessible

The result, not surprisingly, is a succinct, accessible guide of just 30 pages — a sort-of Strunk and Whitefor the legal profession. It is a guide not only to language but also to layout, with a section detailing basic design principles to enhance the readability of documents such as contracts.

It includes some of what you would expect — use active voice, keep sentences short — and some of what you might not expect — such as an admonition against using the archaic but common phrase, “IN WITNESS whereof the parties hereunto set their hands and seal the day and year first hereinbefore written.”

The guide even has its own haiku:

Clear Legal Writing
Represents Brand
Delights Customers

Adobe’s legal department deployed the guide internally last year and used it to rewrite all the company’s sales agreements to make them more understandable. That had an unanticipated benefit, Dillon said.

“Before, you’d see the sales people always wanting to use the customer’s agreements. As a result, you’d have friction between sales and legal. Now it’s completely flipped — our sales people are advocating our agreements.”

In fact, sales-staff support for the plain-English agreements was part of what led to Dillon’s decision to open-source the guide. Adobe’s sales staff began encountering situations where customers’ own in-house or outside counsel were pushing for overly complex revisions.

“We thought, what if we promulgate this through the profession and see if we can get some traction,” Dillon recalled.

Benefits in Efficiency in Savings

While making legal documents clearer is a laudable goal in itself, the style guide has also produced benefits in efficiency and savings, Dillon said.

“I frequently joke that attorneys are the greatest sampling artists in the world. We mix and sample clauses from a variety of sources. Anyone who says they’re writing from scratch, I don’t believe them. When we all use the style guide and write the same way in the department, it makes it much more efficient.”

Another benefit to Adobe has been in reduced translation costs. As an example, Dillon said his department used the guide to reduce a key licensing agreement from more than 40 pages to 13. That saved tens of thousands of dollars in translating the agreement for all the different countries it is used in.

Dillon cited two other benefits:

  • Enhanced employee engagement. “We’ve made this huge effort to rewrite our company policies so that employees will want to read them and will understand them when they do.”
  • Abbreviated negotiation cycles. “We’re finding its taking less time to get deals done because agreements are shorter–it takes less time.”

Dillon recognizes that he and his staff are not the first to push for clear language in legal documents. “There have been a few voices in the wilderness,” he said. “We wanted to add ours.”

But he hopes that by open-sourcing the guide, others will pick it up and run with it. “I think this is right for the current times.”

 

Acrobat DC Desktop Tools View on Surface Pro 3

I reported here last month that Adobe had officially launched an all-new version of its Acrobat PDF software, Acrobat DC. In the weeks since, I have been able to try it out and I am impressed with what I have seen.

Its usability and interface are dramatic improvements over prior versions of Acrobat. It includes new functionality that lawyers will love, including integrated e-signing services. And, on top of all that, it takes PDF management to the cloud and to all of your mobile devices.

Fill & Sign App SignatureAcrobat DC is packaged and tightly integrated with another new offering, Adobe Document Cloud. The integration enables users to create, manage, review, approve, sign and track documents from any device, mobile or desktop. Start working on a PDF on your desktop and then move seamlessly to finish it on your iPad.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Adobe’s general counsel and senior vice president Mike Dillon told me that the goal of this integration is to eliminate the hassle and clutter of dealing with paper, whether it is for a multi-million-dollar legal transaction or your child’s school permission slip, and to make the product easy and intuitive to use.

Acrobat DC can also be purchased as standalone software without Document Cloud, but at a loss of functionality. More on this below.

A Much Different Design

As soon as you first open Acrobat DC, you see that this is a much-different program. The user interface is completely redesigned. Gone is the clunky interface of past Acrobat versions. Acrobat DC’s UI is clean, modern and intuitive.

Acrobat DC Mobile App Tools View On iPadThe program opens to a list of the PDF documents you’ve recently viewed. The list includes recent documents wherever they are stored — on your computer, in your Document Cloud or on a third-party document storage site.

That’s right, Acrobat DC is agnostic about where you store your documents — or at least it will be. For now, the only third-party site it works with is SharePoint, but Adobe says it will add connectors to OneDrive, Box and Dropbox.

With the Document Cloud integration, this recent documents list is identical across all your devices. Whether you open Acrobat DC on your desktop, log in through your Document Cloud or open the Adobe app on your mobile device, you will have access to all the same documents, no matter where they are stored.

As soon as you open a document, you are again reminded that this is a much-different and much-leaner interface. Across the top is a simple, graphical menu bar that handles basic commands such as print, zoom and email. On the right is a collapsible panel that lists common tools such as Edit PDF, Organize Pages, Comment and the like.

This panel can be customized to show the tools you use most often. All other tools can be found by clicking the word “Tools” in the top menu bar, which opens a full-screen page showing all available tools. You can also search for a tool by name.

I sometimes found prior versions of Acrobat to be frustrating when it came to finding a particular tool for a particular purpose. With Acrobat DC, no tool is ever more than a click away.

All The Capabilities Lawyers Expect

Acrobat DC’s Pro version includes all the capabilities lawyers expect in a PDF program. These include Bates numbering, redaction and compliance with PDF/A and PDF/X. It also includes several new tools that lawyers will find useful.

Acrobat DC Mobile App Tools View On AndroidOne is Send for Signature. It uses the Document Cloud e-sign service — which was formerly a separate product called Adobe EchoSign — to let recipients easily sign documents from anywhere using either a Web browser or mobile device. The tool notifies the people to whom you’ve sent the document of the need for their signatures, notifies you when they’ve signed and sends signed copies to all involved.

Another useful new tool is Fill & Sign. It is part of Acrobat DC but also free for anyone to use via the iPad or Android app. It lets you turn any document — paper or electronic — into a fillable form. On your tablet use the free app to take a picture of a paper document and convert it to PDF. Then simply click the parts you want to make fillable and enter your text. If you want to add a signature, you can add one electronically or by writing with your finger or stylus.

One other nice feature in Acrobat DC is the ability to edit PDF and scanned documents much as you would with any text editor. Scan a paper document to PDF and make changes directly within Acrobat. Acrobat automatically generates fonts to match those in the document so the edits appear seamless. Of course, you can also lock documents so that they cannot be edited.

PURCHASE OPTIONS

Acrobat DC Mobile App Tools View On iPadThis package of Acrobat DC and Document Cloud is sold as a monthly subscription. The subscription buys you the full desktop installation of Acrobat DC as well as a full set of complementary features in Document Cloud. These include:

  • E-signing. All subscriptions now include e-sign services. Sign and send documents from any device and use Fill & Sign to turn virtually any document into a fillable form that can be completed and signed from any device.
  • Mobile link. Retain access to all of your files, settings and signatures, no matter what device you work from.
  • Document management and control. Document Cloud allows you to manage, track and control documents. Track whether documents have been opened, signed or downloaded, and revoke permissions to block access to documents you previously shared.

The subscription can be purchased at two levels. For the Pro version, the monthly price is $14.99 if purchased annually or $24.99 if purchased month-to-month. For the Standard version, the monthly price is $12.99 if purchased annually or $22.99 monthly. The subscription includes 20GB of cloud storage.

You can purchase the standalone software without Document Cloud, but you lose the features described above. The price for the standalone version is $449 ($199 upgrade) for Acrobat Pro and $299 ($139 upgrade) for Standard.

The Bottom Line

I find Acrobat DC to be a dramatic improvement over the software’s prior versions. I had most recently been using Acrobat X and sometimes found it clunky, confusing and cumbersome for certain tasks. This new version not only looks better, it seems to run better — faster and smoother across every function I’ve performed.

The integration with Document Cloud just makes sense in this age of cloud and mobile computing. It enhances Acrobat’s usefulness by allowing users to seamlessly transition across devices and manage key operations anywhere at any time.

As noted, you can buy just the software license without the cloud access. But for lawyers the right choice is the full Document Cloud option. It provides the flexibility of accessing your documents from any device and adds features such as e-signing, document management and document tracking that are useful to a law office.

Lawyers have various options for PDF software. One strong option that I reviewed last year is Nuance Power PDF Advanced, which sells for just $149, significantly less than the $449 price for the standalone version of Acrobat Pro. It has most of the same features as Acrobat that lawyers would want, such as Bates numbering and redaction. It does not have full cloud integration similar to Document Cloud, but it does integrate with file-sharing sites and document-management systems.

Another that I reviewed quite a while ago but that remains a good alternative is CutePDF Pro. I have not used it recently, but a check of its website shows that it is currently selling for a marked-down price of $49.95. It lacks some of the features of the other programs, but the price can’t be beat.

All of that said, you won’t go wrong with Acrobat DC. It is a full-featured, mature PDF application in an intuitive interface that lets you get your work done on any device at any time.

[Disclosure: Adobe provide me with a free, one-year Acrobat DC/Document Cloud subscription in order to review the product.]