The Adobe User Experience

The other day I needed to edit a PDF document so I borrowed an Adobe CS3 installation disc from our IT department in order to install Acrobat 8 (yes, I realise I'm a version out of date). This is where things started to go wrong.

Issue #1: The installer doesn't work properly on a 64-bit OS

Towards the end of the (very long) installation process, the installer displays an error saying that AdobePDF.dll could not be found and that I needed to insert my Windows Vista installation DVD to find it. This was baffling for two reasons:

  1. AdobePDF.dll does not ship on the Vista install DVD
  2. I'm not running Vista (I'm using the Windows 7 RC)

It turns out this is a known issue with the Adobe CS3 installer - it fails on 64 bit Vista (and Windows 7). I particularly like this quote from the knowledge base article:

Although Adobe has tested Adobe Acrobat 8.0 (Standard and Professional) on Microsoft Windows 64-bit operating systems running on a 64-bit processor machine, there are known limitations.

Yes. Limitations. Like your installer not working.

Jeremy's suggestion to Adobe: Consider testing the installer for your extremely expensive, flagship product *before* shipping it.

Issue #2: Automatic updates should install....automatically

The fix for the above issue is to install the latest update to Acrobat. "Great", I thought, "I'll just run the auto-updater, let the updates install, and then get on with my work." However, apparently Adobe's auto-updater doesn't work behind a proxy server.

I would have expected the auto-updater to read the proxy settings from Internet Explorer, or at the very least provide options for manually configuring proxy settings. Obviously, this is too difficult for Adobe's software engineers as instead I'm presented with a message saying that no internet connection could be detected.

Jeremy's suggestion to Adobe: Funnily enough, the use of proxy servers is quite common in businesses! It might be sensible if the auto updater for your expensive, flagship product actually worked when using one!

Issue #3: Adobe updates have to be applied one at a time

As the automatic updater didn't work, the next step was to download the latest update for Acrobat 8. I proceeded to the Acrobat updates page and downloaded version 8.1.6 only to be presented with a message saying the update does not apply to my system.

So apparently you can't install the latest update for Acrobat unless all the previous updates have been applied first. This means in order to get to 8.1.6 I would first need to manually install 8.1, 8.1.1, 8.1.2, 8.1.2, 8.1.3, 8.1.4 and 8.1.5. I was not particularly inclined to do this, so I just downloaded and installed 8.1

Jeremy's suggestion to Adobe: Consider providing combo-updates for your products so I don't need to waste time manually applying updates. Thanks!

Issue #4: The Dreaded Activation

So at this point I have the 8.1 Update installed (which has fixed the missing AdobePDF.dll issue) so I decide to open Acrobat and get to work.

Not so fast.

Apparently, before I can use the version of Acrobat installed from the CS3 DVD, I have to activate it. However, in order to activate it I have to run Photoshop at least once. So I now have to go through the long install process again in order to get Photoshop installed. Only then can I run Acrobat. Phew.

So...if I need to have Photoshop installed in order to run Acrobat, why does the installer let me install Acrobat by itself?

Jeremy's suggestion to Adobe: Allow me to install Acrobat without installing Photoshop as they are completely unrelated products!


Has any of this been fixed in CS4? I'm not particularly inclined to find out.

Written on July 23, 2009