Burney’s Legal Tech Reviews – Software Rundown: Adobe Acrobat 7.0; ZoneAlarm Security Suite 5.5; Diskeeper 9 and Norton SystemWorks 2005

Brett Burney is the Legal Technology Support Coordinator at Thompson Hine in Cleveland, Ohio. He regularly reviews products for Law.com’s Automated Lawyer and Law Office Computing Magazine. Feel free to e-mail Brett with your legal technology questions .

Acrobat 7.0 – Updated and Streamlined

The upgrades and improvements that Adobe has made to the Acrobat line of products are marvelous.

I am currently using Acrobat 7.0 Professional, which offers the most features and is the most expensive. Acrobat Standard is a little more streamlined and the Adobe Reader still remains a free download for everyone else who only needs to view a PDF .

First and foremost, I am happy to report that Acrobat 7.0 loads much, much quicker than its predecessor. I’ve seen lots of people complain about how long it took Acrobat 6 to load, and I equally saw lots of tips and tricks for getting around the issue (i.e., hold down shift key when you launch Acrobat 6 – articles here and here).

Acrobat 7’s quicker launch isn’t pure magic, it has a lot to do with the “Adobe Acrobat Speed Launcher” that you’ll find installed in your “Startup” folder. I normally don’t like things getting installed there and running the in background without my permission, but in this case, I haven’t experienced a single problem with “Speed Launcher.” And I am so impressed with Acrobat 7’s launch speed that it will stay in Startup.

Next, I am tickled pink about the new Outlook integration. I can select one or several e-mail messages and hit the the “Convert to PDF” button on the new toolbar in Outlook. Multiple messages are automatically saved together as one PDF, complete with bookmarks for each message.

Similarly, I have always used Acrobat as a way to archive Web pages. Instead of making a physical printout of a Web page, I simply “print” it to a PDF file. Acrobat 6 did a wonderful job of correctly converting Web pages, complete with images and animations.

Acrobat 7 continues this great tradition I’m happy to say, and now I can elect to only convert a portion of a Web page. I can select the specific text and images I want to PDF on a Web page, and pick the option to only convert those selected portions of the Web page to PDF.

The “Text Select” tool is improved in Acrobat 7.0. I found selecting text or images in Acrobat 6 could sometimes be a little taxing, but in Acrobat 7.0, a secondary menu pops up next to your mouse cursor whenever you select text.

Acrobat’s “Paper Capture” tool has finally become mainstream in its name, adopting the moniker “Recognize Text Using OCR.”

The biggest news in Acrobat-land with version 7.0 is that when you share a document with someone that only uses Adobe Reader, you can now share comments on the PDF file. If you have Acrobat 7.0 Professional, you can elect to send a document to an Adobe Reader user and enable them to make comments, notes, and other annotations on the file. Adobe is basically providing a way to actually collaborate on documents rather than just sharing and letting people read them.

Lastly, Acrobat 7.0 comes with a tool called “Organizer” which is basically a staging area to collect, file, and merge various PDF files together.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of Acrobat 7.0. If you work with PDF files at all, I would highly recommend upgrading as soon as you can to take advantage of the new tools and features.

ZoneAlarm Security Suite 5.5 Sounds the Alarm on Bad Stuff

I have been a fan of ZoneAlarm for quite a while. The firewall is hard to beat and with the added features in the Security Suite, it has become a powerhouse of an application for computer protection.

Installation and setup is a breeze, thanks to the intuitive wizard, built-in tutorials, and automatic configurations.

The interface is clean and not overwhelming. Ten tabs down the left side of the screen let you tweak all of your settings for maximum protection. You could simply let many of the default settings stay where they are, or elect to dig deep into the advanced configuration panels to do some masterful tweaks.

The firewall has been improved to recognize some of the more common applications and files that need to access the Internet, so it’s not constantly asking your permission for access. You still have to train ZoneAlarm to know good connections from bad, but it does a much better job of staying out of your way. It’s not as annoying as it once was.

One of the biggest additions to the ZoneAlarm Security Suite is the anti-spam technology licensed from spam-expert MailFrontier. I found the anti-spam toolbar in my Outlook worked well and did exactly what it was supposed to do.

There are many options on the market today for PC protection, but I recommend ZoneAlarm Security Suite 5.5 as one of the best.

Keeping it Clean and Organized with Diskeeper 9.0

The hard drive of a computer becomes defragmented over time with regular use. Defragmentation refers to the process where bits of information get stored in a variety of spots on a hard drive. When the computer needs to access this information, it has to search long and wide for it, which can make the computer sluggish.

The solution is to regularly defragment your hard drive.

Windows has bundled a small defragmenter for several versions now. This utility works well but an application like Diskeeper from Executive software works much better.

The latest version of Diskeeper is 9, which tells you right off the bat that this is a very mature product. In fact, it was a very early version of Diskeeper that became the basis for the default Windows utility today.

Installation went smoothly and an update patch was applied without a problem. After a quick reboot, I launched Diskeeper and really liked what I saw.

The first thing you’ll want to do once Diskeeper is launched, is to analyze your hard drive. When that’s done, Diskeeper provides detailed information on what needs to be defragmented and why.

I was very impressed with the speed at which Diskeeper worked. With the Windows defragmenter, you could wait for hours as it slogged through your multi-gigabyte hard drive, but Diskeeper is efficient and quick.

Plus I was able to continue working on my computer while Diskeeper toiled away. Diskeeper is smart enough to know when you’re working and scales its work back accordingly. Then when resources are free, it whirs back up to finish the job.

If that’s not good enough for you, Diskeeper also features a “set it and forget it” feature that lets you schedule the defragging for later.

It might seem silly to purchase a defragmenter when you already have a free one built into Windows, but I have to tell you that it is one of the best investments you can make to maintain your computer. I’ve compared Diskeeper’s operation with the free Windows utility and it was amazing how much better Diskeeper worked.

Norton SystemWorks 2005

I have used Norton SystemWorks for many versions and many years. I’ve always appreciated the way that the SystemWorks line has bundled several good utilities together in one package.

As I install and use each new version, however, I find that I use less and less of the utilities. The AntiVirus package is good, and I still like to run WinDoctor to find a bunch of broken Windows’ shortcuts or missing registry references. And every once in a while I’ll still run SpeedDisk and DiskDoctor just to make sure everything’s running smoothly.

With SystemWorks 2005, I am almost ready to give up on the whole line. The first blow came during the process of installation. The fact that it almost took me a whole hour to install and update the application was just ridiculous. The machine I used wasn’t the speediest box I have, but it’s only a couple of years old and had plenty of memory and processing power to handle the minimum requirements for the application.

This isn’t the first time I’ve discovered issues with Norton SystemWorks. Back when I reviewed SystemWorks 2002 here on LLRX.com, several astute readers vocalized their issues with installing the application. I did a little research and reported some tips and tricks in a follow-up column, but I still hear about people having issues with installing newer copies of SystemWorks over old versions.

After the initial install, you have to visit Norton’s LiveUpdate service several times to make sure that you’re running the most up to date virus definitions and latest patches. You also have to reboot a couple of times. The Microsoft .Net service was also required for at least one utility, which required another installation.

Next, a couple of tray icons appeared by default after installation. I don’t like a lot of icons down there so I usually turn them off. Unfortunately, Norton Ghost (one of the utilities in SystemWorks) installed an icon in the tray and there was no way to remove it. This infuriated me and after searching Norton’s support site, discovered that there was no way to remove the icon save for un-installing Ghost altogether.

I did find a couple of things I liked about SystemWorks 2005. There is now a “Plug-In Cleaner” which lets you find and kill extraneous plug-ins that have been downloaded for your Web browser. I also liked the small improvements that were made to the interface.

If you’re a diehard SystemWorks fan (I once was) then enjoy 2005, but otherwise I can’t necessarily recommend this product. This is a shame because while there are other products out there that mirror the utilities and functionality of SystemWorks, nothing came close to bundling them all together as effectively as Norton did.

Posted in: Adobe Acrobat, Burney's Legal Tech Reviews, Viruses & Hoaxes, Web Utilities