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Adobe develops a new intelligent document architecture

The rapid uptake of XML has greatly improved the manageability of unstructured information. This article outlines Adobe's work in the field.

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Adobe develops a new intelligent document architecture
The rapid uptake of XML has greatly improved the manageability of unstructured information. XML provides additional structure in a document allowing it to be accessed and processed independently of the application used to create it. Adobe, a major vendor of document processing solutions, has already embraced XML and is taking this concept further by recognising "Intelligent Documents" as independent entities with the same level of intelligence as an object in an object-oriented application.

Intelligent documents, exchanged between parties, provide a universal and portable interface not only to the information contained within the document but also to applications that support the document. In other words, the document is its own interface. Intelligent Documents manage their behaviour and determine how they can be manipulated and by whom. They enable organisations to create robust and cost-effective document-centred information systems that deliver information worker efficiencies with lower costs and risks than traditional on-line applications. These enhanced information-processing capabilities are based on a document model used successfully over thousands of years. Intelligent Documents enable organisations to make big improvements to efficiency without the wrenching business changes associated with major enterprise application implementations.

The Adobe Intelligent Document management architecture handles Document Creation, Collaboration including shared editing, Document Security and Process Management. Adobe's provision of Document Centred security is a critical element of this architecture. Information security is a critical concern today. An FBI survey of 223 companies in 2002 found that losses of $171m from the theft of proprietary information exceeded the total for the next two categories of loss from financial fraud and viruses.

Enterprise Content Management systems can only protect documents held in the repositories they control and documents are unprotected when they are most vulnerable, outside the enterprise. The Adobe Intelligent Document Platform provides security that tracks and travels with the document, protecting the document inside and outside the corporate firewall and allowing organisations to assure their partners of the integrity, authenticity and privacy of the documents they exchange.

Adobe plans to release two new servers in 2004 and early 2005 marking the continued expansion of Adobe capabilities from its ubiquitous client-based Adobe Reader to Enterprise Business Systems Support. The first of these servers, Adobe Document Security Server, extends the facilities of the Adobe client to enterprise-level batch systems, allowing large volumes of documents to be secured, for example when sending out bank statements to customers.

The second new server, the Adobe Policy Server, gives document authors and IT administrators a new capability to control dynamically who can view a PDF document and to determine whether the recipient can modify, copy, print or forward the document wherever it is. These permissions can be changed after the document has been distributed and documents can be made to expire on a specific date or, if need be, revoked immediately. The Adobe Policy Server provides assurances that only intended recipients can open a protected document inside and outside the firewall regardless of how widely copies are distributed.

The requirements of compliance have highlighted the importance of managing document security but the Adobe Intelligent Document model goes further than this to offer a host of additional opportunities for rapid process improvements, improved customer services and better control of intellectual property.

Copyright 2004. Originally published by, reprinted with permission. provides IT decision makers with free daily e-mails containing news analysis, member-only discussion forums, free research, technology spotlights and free on-line consultancy. To register for a free e-mail subscription, click here.

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