Document Generation, PDF

Adobe Acrobat Has a New (Inter)Face

Subscribers to some versions of Adobe Acrobat may soon find themselves a little lost because the desktop application has a fresh new interface. Just when you had gotten used to the feature pane on the right, it has now moved to the left. What else has changed? Read on.

Out With the Old

Adobe Acrobat, whether through download or the subscription model, has been unafraid of making sweeping changes to the user interface with no warning. Prior to the subscription model, upgrading the software often meant relearning the tool and resetting preferences. While the subscription version has not gone through many dramatic interface changes, you may find that some folks in your office suddenly run an update and are left with a different screen.

Home Page

If you are subscribed to Acrobat and you get the update, the home screen will not be too different when you open the desktop application. The home screen will still show your files and scans, your esign agreements, and recent files. A new option appears under your Recent files so you can Star a file to appear in a list. Just mouse over a recent file and click on the star icon that appears. Across the top of the page, you can get to work immediately by choosing to edit a PDF, create a PDF, combine files, and other common functions. Or click “See all tools” to go to a familiar interface that lists all the functions that you are used to seeing.

Take Me Back

On the Home page click on “See all tools”.  If you click on buttons like “Create Custom Tool” or “Customize Stamp” you will see a pop-up message that reads “Feature support is coming”. At this point, if those are tools you use a lot you, the pop-up message also lets you know that you can revert away from new version from the Acrobat menu. In the upper left corner click on Menu and click on “Disable New Acrobat” in the drop-down menu.

New(er) Tools

There appear to be some newer tools that may be very useful for lawyers. Under the Sign tools there is a button to “Create a Web Form”, which opens in the web app on the browser. This feature debuted this spring, but without being inspired to navigate the new interface you may have never noticed it. The web form lets you take an existing PDF form or PDF document, add form fields and signature fields. The web form lets users upload additional files, which are concatenated to the filled-out form. You can add multiple layers of security and authentication, different participant levels (signers, approvers, etc.), and more. You can add conditional visibility (skip logic), validations, calculations, and internal countersigners. All of this is delivered via a link to a web page, which makes filling out the form much easier for end users.

Toolbar Shuffle

The biggest change you will see in the interface is when you open a document. The toolbar has moved from the right side to the left side. The contextual tools that appeared above the document in a horizontal bar when you were using a specific set of features now appear in the left navigation pane. The left navigation pane is truncated so you will need to click “More” to see all the tools at your disposal.

There is a floating toolbar on the screen that lets you select text or pan, add comments, highlight, sign, and other functions. Click on the ellipses to customize the toolbar and add any tools you like to use. This custom toolbar will reduce your frustration on having to navigate through multiple menus to find the feature you want to use. You can also search for text or tools at the top of the page. Instead of wading through menus you can just type what you want to do, like “redact” or “protect” or “watermark” into the search bar.

Streamlined Experience

One major benefit of the new interface is that the browser version of the Adobe Acrobat subscription is now much the same as the desktop version.  The Chrome and Microsoft Edge browser extensions are also available to let you work with Office files, Google Drive, scanned files, and generally work on PDFs directly in the browser. Without the extensions your browser software handled PDFs and you would have to download them and open them in Acrobat to manipulate them. The extensions help make working with PDFs more seamless.


Learning a new interface can be challenging, especially when you are trying to get things done and move to the next project. However, resisting change and not updating can put your firm at risk for security issues and you may be missing out on some innovations. The good news is, there are a lot of options for attorneys to choose from when it comes to creating and manipulating PDF documents. Consider features and functions, cost, and the need for mobility when choosing what is right for you and your firm’s users.