Adobe Acrobat and Digital Signatures at JHU

We get a lot of questions about Adobe Acrobat in WSE IT.  Those questions are often motivated by digital signature questions, so we’ll tackle both here.

  • Acrobat used to be covered by a site license at JHU.  It is no longer licensed that way, and the old versions that we had licenses for (Acrobat X or XI) have known security issues — they cannot be safely used and must be uninstalled.
  • We try really hard every year to negotiate a license with Adobe, but have never been able to come to terms that make fiscal sense versus our negotiated discounts.  While this “feels” expensive to individuals, since copies need to be paid for per user, the price we’re getting for the site is still nowhere close to the cost of all those individual licenses added together.  This makes it harder on everyone, but the money just doesn’t make sense.  Nobody likes this, users or sysadmins or finance people.
  • We do have good negotiated pricing on a couple of options to get Acrobat.
    • In the Service Now Software Catalog you can find a perpetual license version of Acrobat (sometimes called Acrobat Pro, and “perpetual” means you’ll get updates for two about years) for about $120.
    • You will also find in the catalog annual subscriptions to Adobe Creative Suite (about $240 per year, but includes Acrobat, Photoshop, Illustrator, and many other tools and cloud services).  Importantly, it also includes access to Adobe Sign.
  • If you really need exactly Docusign for your workflow and can’t work with the much more affordable Adobe Sign, there is a contract available for Hopkins users.  We in WSE IT don’t know that much about it, but the administrator for DocuSign at JH is Scott Biggs.  This JHURA information about DocuSign might be useful.
  • If you have questions about what this all means you should ask us and we’ll walk through it with you.

Which Acrobat Option Should I Choose?

Many users will not actually need Acrobat.  If you are simply creating or editing PDFs, and aren’t doing sophisticated document management or forms creation, then you should definitely investigate the tools you already have.  On the Mac, these include Preview to edit / sign PDFs, and any application can print to PDF through the print dialog.  On Windows, the Microsoft Office suite can both create and edit PDF documents.  If your job requires more advanced capabilities, here’s some comparison information to help decide what to pick.

Feature Acrobat Pro (“perpetual”) Creative Cloud with Acrobat (annual subscription)
Length of use Updates provided for roughly two years Renews every July 1 (price is pro-rated)
Read, Edit PDFs Yes Yes
Other included applications None Photoshop, Illustrator, and MANY (about 47) other PC / Windows / mobile applications
Additional Cloud Storage None 100GB on the Adobe Cloud
Sign received PDFs Yes (though many other tools do this too; Acrobat not generally required) Yes (though many other tools do this too; Acrobat not generally required)
Create Adobe Sign workflows (similar to Docusign) No Yes

How Do I Get Acrobat Installed?

Once you’ve decided what kind of license you require for your job, you should buy the license with your procurement info on the Software Catalog.  You will get installation information when the procurement is complete (it can take a bit for the licenses to get processed — they need to be activated with Adobe).  If, once you’ve gotten your license, you have trouble installing the software (like, you are given a notice about requiring administrative privileges on your computer) please let us know at [email protected] and we will be happy to assist.

Scroll to Top