Adobe today announced an update for Acrobat Reader that leverages Sensei, the company’s machine learning platform, to make it easier to read whole documents on smartphones and tablets. Beginning with iOS, Android, and ChromeOS ahead of desktop and browser support in the coming months, Reader will gain a viewing option called Liquid Mode that automatically reformats text, images, tables, and more to make them readable on small screens.
Reading documents — particularly PDFs — on mobile has never been a stellar experience. According to Adobe’s own research, 65% of people in the U.S. find it frustrating and 45% stopped reading or didn’t try. But the number of files in the wild continues to rise, with estimates of over 2.5 trillion in circulation today.
Adobe describes Liquid Mode, which began showing up for some Acrobat users earlier in the year, as the first step in a “multi-year vision to fundamentally change the way people consume digital documents.” Another step is Adobe’s PDF Extract API, a beta service that taps Sensei to extract text, table structure, cell data, images, and more from PDFs automatically.
When Liquid Mode is enabled, it attempts to spot and make sense of headings, paragraphs, images, lists, tables, and other parts of PDFs and where they fit in a hierarchy and order. It simultaneously creates an intelligent outline, collapsible and expandable sections, and searchable text for faster touch navigation. Users can adjust things like font size and spacing between words, characters, and lines to suit their reading preferences; words become resizable and reflowable, images tappable and expandable, and tables fully responsive.
Adobe says it’s exploring partnerships with institutions to use Liquid Mode as an educational tool to “unlock the secrets of reading … for people” of all ages and abilities. “Digital experiences have never been more critical — cutting across all industries and impacting daily work and personal lives. And this has never been more apparent than the demand we’re seeing for our Document Cloud products and services, which have skyrocketed,” Adobe VP Ashley Still wrote in a blog post. “Sign usage has risen more than 200% and Acrobat DC monthly active users have more than doubled in 2020, reflecting the growing role PDF plays across all segments of the economy.”