Acrobat Pro #Fail: Why Software Standards Matter for Accessibility

Acrobat Pro Resolution-dependent Window
Acrobat Pro 9 -- not just the Reader, but the commercial off-the-shelf product -- is a mainstay product of Adobe. Adobe is a publicly held company with more than 7,000 employees. It's Fortune rank in 2009 was 601. It is reasonable to expect that Adobe has in place solid standards for its products. These standards make Adobe products similar across platforms, consistent with each other, and consistent with platform-specific standards -- that is, Windows, Apple or Linux platforms. 

For these reasons, coupled with the maturity of Acrobat 9 Pro, when a customer contacted me with a Windows problem, the working assumption is that the user had accidentally clicked on some setting.  The symptom was that a dialog box used to control automatic insertion of headers and footers, such as Bates numbering, was partly off screen. There was no scroll bar for this dialog box, which had apparently been coded using the Multiple Document Interface (MDI) standard.  Unlike some daughter windows in Acrobat, this window could not be maximized, minimized or resized. The standard Microsoft Windows "Move" command worked, but the "Size" commands did nothing. As a result, the user couldn't see all the settings available, nor even click OK to invoke what few settings were visible.

A little casual research showed that my customer was not alone.  There is no solution for customers who use 800 x 600 resolution, single monitor displays. The "fix" is to increase resolution.

Not only is this a major nuisance, but for visually impaired and some netbook users, it creates a serious obstacle. Adding to the annoyance factor are the abundant comments in various forums which show that this problem must be known to Adobe. I don't know whether it's been "fixed" in Acrobat Pro X, which specifies a minimum resolution of 1024 x 576 (a bit odd, but there are a few netbooks that use this resolution), but the analyst producing requirements for the Acrobat Pro developer team should have either specified that all dialog boxes must operate within 800 x 600, or alternatively, since this is by today's standards a low resolution, provide an Acrobat startup warning that the resolution was below the minimum required.

Update I cross-posted this message to the aforementioned Adobe forum, and a user requested an explanation. One was received. In essence, no patch for the V9 problem was ever produced, but Adobe did address the problem in version X. The message as relayed by user cyberbiker1 follows. I'm not fully convinced that the accessibility issue has been addressed:
 "Unfortunately the 9.4.2 patch did not address anything relating to screen resolution.  The system requirements for Acrobat 9 on Windows operating systems includes a minimum resolution of 1024x768.  Simply put, Acrobat 9 and previous versions weren't designed for netbooks.  During the Acrobat 9 development cycle, netbooks were in their infancy. Acrobat X however, was designed with netbooks in mind, supporting a minimum resolution of 1024x576."

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