Previous  |  Next



Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Adobe Share Promises to Make Any Document into an Embeddable Widget

At the same time as the Buzzword acquisition, Adobe announced the beta release of a new service called Share, which allows you to share documents either with a list of named contacts or with the world. Share provides a convenient place to host for free up to one 1Gb worth of documents that you want to share, but (unlike with buzzword), there's no ability to do collaborative work on the shared documents. It's just a place for upload and download of any digital object, just like scads of other file upload services.

But there's one feature that got me to pay attention: Adobe plans to provide an embed code for a Flash preview of any document hosted on the service. Right now, this works only for pdfs and image files, but they intend to make it work for any kind of document, including Microsoft Office files and files. You can still upload and download these files today, but the embed code will just produce a dummy image, not a real preview.

This is a great idea -- a kind of YouTube for documents. I'd love to be able to turn any document into a web-embeddable widget, especially if Adobe manages to do successful preview of many specialized file formats.

However, even allowing for the fact that this is a beta, the preview for the objects they do support is a bit rough, as you can see from the embedded pdf of one of Saul Griffith's Make columns:

Controls allow you to page through the document, but unlike a YouTube video that you can watch right on the page, the text is too small to read, so this isn't really that useful. Clicking on the preview takes you to a full size window where there are additional controls for resizing the document, downloading it, and so forth. (Because this document was marked as public, you go right to the full shared document in the new window. If it were private, you'd go to a login page to retrieve the document.)

There are some other infelicities in the user interface that suggest that Adobe has a lot more work to do before this service is ready for prime time.

For example, in the sharing panel, shown below, Step 2 is relevant only if you select "Limited Access" in Step 3. Since open access (world readable) is the default, why are they confusing us by asking us for a list of people to share with first? Step 3 should be Step 2, with what is now Step 2 clearly subordinated to the Limited Access option.

Adobe share upload screen

This may seem like a nit, but it seems to me to indicate a bit of a tin ear for user interface design. At least I'm glad to see that Adobe chose the viral option pioneered by Flickr -- to make "public" the default value.

A couple of other complaints:

  • The Flash widget is surprisingly slow, with a noticable download time (and progress timer.) YouTube does a much better job of giving you a sense that the document is there and ready to go and that you're not waiting for it to load, even as it loads in the background.

  • I'm disappointed not to be able to drag and drop files directly onto the application, rather than having to pick them from my file system via a chooser.

  • Even when a document is shared with "Limited Access" provisions, it's still possible to show the document on a web page with the embedded preview. While, as noted above, the preview isn't terribly readable, it still shows enough data that it might compromise private documents. For private documents, Adobe ought to use some kind of generic image for the embed code.

  • It's disappointing that Adobe doesn't provide more tools for dynamic resizing of the object that is produced for embedding. Especially given that the preview isn't readable in the embedded widget itself, why does it need to be one size fits all?

  • Another thing I'd love to see is the ability to manage groups -- for example, to be able to say "share document C with the same group that got document A." While I can see who I have shared documents with, and can drag and drop their name onto a document to share it with them (or the reverse), it's all one-by-one. Managing groups is one of the really important functions of a shared application, and I hope Adobe does some more work on this to get it right.

  • When you click on a thumbnail in your library (see image below), arrows point to the people on your contact list with whom the document was shared. This is obviously not a very scalable UI, since once you have many contacts, many of the people in question may well be "below the fold." It would be much better to show a dynamic list of the people associated with each document.

Share's Library view

Still, the application has a lot of promise, and I'll look forward to seeing how it develops.

tags: adobe, collaboration, Flash, pdf, share, widgets  | comments: 2   | Sphere It


0 TrackBacks

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments: 2

Search☸ Engines WEB   [09.30.07 09:59 PM]

What would really be helpful, would be the ability to embed only the portions of a particular document that one needs, in a readable resolution.

PDFs and Flash are just too blurry to read with comfort unless set to a high resolution - and then they consume more bandwidth.

However, this does present an opportunity for authors to get more publicity for their books while protecting their copyrights.

Also, scholars can promote and share their articles via this outlet - while preserving the integrity.

rick   [10.02.07 07:04 PM]

This is an interesting idea, but it's completely illegible--clearly documents are not meant to be read in widgets. I think the application is more interesting than the widget--for which a simple thumbnail would suffice.

A Flash-based document-sharing application, however, could be useful. I don't think it would work well if it uses PDF however, which is simply too slow and cumbersome. It's time for them to deliver something better for interactive use and reserve PDF for printing.

Post A Comment:

 (please be patient, comments may take awhile to post)

Remember Me?

Subscribe to this Site

Radar RSS feed