Review: Adobe Document Cloud

Introduction and design

Anyone who has worked in an office has probably interacted with an Adobe tool. More than likely you’ve opened a PDF using Adobe Acrobat Reader and wondered how, where and why that document became a PDF. That’s because for more than 20 years PDFs were primarily used by document creators to disseminate a combination of images and text to third-parties for passive viewing.

Today, because of cloud collaboration tools like Google Docs and Microsoft OneDrive, business users are more likely than ever to have administrative access to documents on which they are required to provide input, edits and signatures.

Until recently, making these changes on Adobe tools required an Acrobat subscription, from which you would download a document to your local drive on a desktop, where you would make changes. Then you would be required to email the edited version of the document to your colleagues. Forget about making edits or creating documents on mobile devices.

Adobe’s newest tool, Adobe Document Cloud (free with your $14.99, £13.33, AU$14.99 monthly Acrobat subscription), addresses these problems and more. Document Cloud lets you snap a photo of a document, save it to the cloud as a PDF, edit it, sign it and password-protect it – all from a mobile device. Built with a touch-enabled user interface, Photoshop imaging tools, a revamped Adobe Acrobat, and Adobe eSign technology, Document Cloud is a dream come true for business users. Like most Adobe tools, it is available in a free Reader version, a standard version, and a Pro version that you can upgrade to for an extra $9.99 (about £6.33, AU$13.08) per month.


If you’re looking for an avant-garde user interface, you’ve come to the wrong place. The Adobe Document Cloud is about as boring as a touchscreen architecture can be. Designed with a white background and pastel-colored buttons, Document Cloud doesn’t pop in any way shape or form. This is true across mobile and desktop environments.

Adobe Document Cloud review

Don’t fret. Despite its unappealing design, Document Cloud is a pleasure to use. On the desktop home screen, you’re provided with a list of documents saved to the application. Once you’ve selected which document you want to work off of, you’re taken to a screen that provides you with a large format view of the document itself, and a toolbar with options that include turning the document into a PDF, editing, exporting, commenting and e-signing. Each option comes with its own colorful icon and a text label, so it’s not as confusing as Photoshop, in which you have to hover over abstract icons to determine what you’re about to click.

At the top of the page you’re provided with a text button that lets you return to the home page or enter the neat Adobe tool trove. You’re also provided with gray and white icon buttons that let you save the document (locally or to the cloud), print, or search within.

If you click on the tool button you’re taken to a page that features 27 text and image icon options – the mother lode of Document Cloud tools. You’ll only be able to access all 27 if you have a Pro account, but a Standard account will let you edit and sign, among other basic features.

A nice little feature that Adobe added to this page is the ability to search within the set of tools to find options that help you accomplish a given task; for example, when I type in the word “text” I am shown the 11 tools that have text adding and editing functionality. When I type in the word “sign” I am shown the three tools that let me add or edit signatures.

The mobile environment is much more bare bones. On the home page I’m shown a list of available documents, as well as a search box where I can look within documents to find a given phrase, and a red home icon. When I click the home icon I am given the following options: comment, create PDF, export PDF, camera to PDF and organize pages. I am also provided with text buttons to access my account or ask for technical support.

Features and performance

Document Cloud is based on three simple premises: the ability to electronically sign and create PDFs on a mobile device, accessing and sharing documents across mobile and desktop environments, and restricting access to cloud-based documents.

To create a PDF from an image, I simply took a photo of my daughter’s car seat instruction sheet within the Document Cloud’s Image to PDF tool on my iPhone. Once the image was snapped, it began converting to PDF. The conversion process took about two minutes, which will likely be an annoyance for users who are uploading multiple receipts as separate files for expense reports, or anyone performing similar repetitive tasks.

Adobe Document Cloud review

Once the image was done converting, I saved it to the Document Cloud so that I could edit it on my desktop and tablet. Saving the document from my phone to the Document Cloud took less than 10 seconds. The document appeared within my Document Cloud document feed without having to refresh. You can then send a link to the document to anyone, just like you would with Google Drive or Dropbox.

Note: you will not be able to make wholesale edits on PDFs on smartphones. This kind of sucks, but I assume it will be remedied in future versions of the software.

Upon opening the document on my MacBook Pro, I was immediately prompted to adjust the borders of the image to fit a more standard document format, then I was told to click “enhanced image.”

Adobe Document Cloud review

Because I took an image off of a phone, my document wasn’t as high resolution as it would have been had I tried to create a PDF on the phone based on a document I’d scanned using an actual scanner. In addition to the resolution issues, there was some burn and shadowing around the edges of the newly created PDF that I needed to edit out by adjusting the enhancement level.

Adobe Document Cloud review

In order to make edits that look organic, Adobe was able to read my document and create a font that matched the font on the image. As you can see in the image below, I used a non-standard font and color, and Adobe was able to replicate the font. Unfortunately, because the document was scanned in low resolution, there are alignment issues. The text is somewhat crooked and curves upward around the edges.

Adobe Document Cloud review

So don’t expect to produce images that are of perfect quality off of your phone. This tool should be used as a quick fix for rapidly submitting documents that need to be processed immediately. If you’re on the go and you need to submit expenses and you don’t have a scanner, the tool will let you edit, adjust and write notes on receipts that you collect while on your trip.

Adobe Document Cloud review

If you don’t need to start from scratch, there are several features available on mobile and desktop versions that help you improve and add upon your document. Adding a signature on mobile and desktop is as easy as scrolling your finger along the screen as if you were signing with a pen. I tapped on the Fill & Sign icon, then tapped on the Sign icon and I was prompted to create my John Hancock. Once I did I was able to change the thickness, the location, the color and the opacity of the signature. Shrinking the image of the signature was a bit difficult because it required a two-finger pinch. On a desktop you can just drag one corner of the signature box. With the iPhone you have to grab both ends you want to expand, which can be quite difficult, especially with smaller signature boxes.

Once a signature has been added and saved to a document it is difficult to edit. You have to make sure the signature is in the right place and is the right size when you first drop it in. This is especially true on the mobile app, where I found it nearly impossible to move or resize my signature once I’d placed it onto a document. Notes, drawings and comments are much more easily remedied on mobile and desktop.

Adding notes to a document is as simple as clicking on a dialogue box and typing in text. However, the note-added indicator is so small that iPhone viewers might miss it as they are browsing through documents. Adding text is equally simple. Unfortunately, text appears in bright blue font, so you will have to manually adjust it to fit the typical black font that appears on legal documents. Drawing over documents is really simple. Like the signature, you can adjust the font, thickness and opacity. Unfortunately, the drawing appears in bright red so you’ll have to adjust this as well, unless you’re grading someone’s homework.

The search function within the document makes looking within PDFs so much easier than it would have been if I’d just opened the document within iOS. Like most desktop search functions, you can simply click the hourglass, type in text and you’re ready to explore. Unfortunately, unlike other tools’ search functions, this one doesn’t tell me how many instances are in the document. Nor is it able to search in the notes or signatures, so any information added that doesn’t sit within the body of the PDF won’t be searchable.

One feature that I really enjoyed was the ability to share documents with and without comments editable. Flattened Copies of documents lets viewers see the comments, but they can’t make edits. So your word is final once you’ve added your input. You can also share the document so that select viewers can’t see comments at all, which is quite handy.

The Document Cloud’s Measurement tool easily allows you to determine the height and width of two previously marked points. This feature is excellent for scaling on maps or creating powerpoint presentations that require precise modeling. You can also create triangles to determine the area between multiple points, which would have helped me pass high school geometry in fewer than three tries.

Like most document software, you can secure your PDFs by restricting editing. This enables you to create a password that limits who can open and edit the document.

Adobe Document Cloud review

Once you’ve edited your image, added text and signed the document, you can also do cool things like add check boxes, add a box where you can give readers choices (such as keep, delete, edit). You can add a dropdown list, add a signature request, and even a barcode field that encodes data added to the document. You can combine documents to create a single PDF of images, PDFs and Word docs, among other file formats.

Adobe Document Cloud review

The redaction tool lets you pretend you’re in the CIA. You can select text, or search for text that you want to cover up, and the tool creates a black box that can’t be undone by future readers or editors.


Unlike Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, Adobe is directing Document Cloud at the expense report- and data management-driven world of the office administrator. It’s highly unlikely that consumers will adopt this tool as their everyday document creation and storage application. However, the niche market that does use the tool will find themselves loaded with a vast feature set and a simple interface that makes PDF creation and management easier than it has ever been.

We liked

Anyone who has ever used a cloud collaboration or document creation tool will be able to begin using Document Cloud immediately. Its user interfaces on mobile devices and desktop are incredibly intuitive. Unlike other Adobe tools (ahem, Photoshop), Document Cloud makes it abundantly clear what each icon represents. Once you’ve clicked into a tool, the instructions and prompts provided by Adobe are fool-proof.

The amount of use cases and practical applications for each tool, especially on the Pro version, are seemingly endless. You’ll likely never find yourself searching for a capability that doesn’t exist. In fact, you can literally search for a capability within the search bar on the Tools page and Adobe will tell you which features are there to help you out.

Creating PDFs is as simple as snapping a photo and following a few prompts. Once you’ve started editing on desktop, you’ll be able to add text and signatures to images in an organic manner. Because Adobe can replicate the font of whatever document you turn into a PDF, you’ll never have to worry about your final documents looking cobbled together.

We disliked

The big issue here is that you can’t edit PDFs on your smartphone. This seems like a missed opportunity, one that I’m sure Adobe is scurrying to correct.

Another minor problem is the crooked and curved output of images that are turned to PDFs. Unless you scan a document and turn it into a PDF on your desktop, you won’t wind up with a pristine file. This isn’t really an issue for someone who is just trying to file receipts for an expense report. However, if for some odd reason you’re trying to snap an image of a contract to turn into a PDF, it won’t look as good as it would if someone typed it up in a word processing application.

Editing a signature on your smartphone is impossibly difficult. If you don’t drop your signature in at the perfect spot, you’ll spend an unnecessary amount of time trying to make an adjustment. This isn’t true on desktop and tablet versions, but the mobile e-sign functionality is the bedrock of this software.

Final verdict

Document Cloud’s pros absolutely outweigh its cons. Adobe has turned an antiquated document management process into a more streamlined and creative artform. Handling PDFs before and after Document Cloud is almost like editing photos before and after Photoshop. The ability to sign PDFs via mobile device, turn paper into PDFs via your phone’s camera, and share a PDF via a link is revolutionary. Office administrators and paper-haters will rejoice.