Adobe to switch on silent PDF updates for Reader, Acrobat

Move takes effect on Tuesday; users will have to configure tool for hands-off updating

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In most cases, the silent updates will not trigger the UAC (user account control) warnings in Windows Vista and Windows 7, Arkin said in an e-mail reply to follow-up questions. "However, if the update requires inclusion of a full installer or an update to the updater itself, the UAC dialog box will appear," he explained. "In those instances, the fully automatic option cannot be supported, and the user will have to accept the update installation via the UAC dialog, thus performing a semi-automatic update."

UAC is a security feature that Microsoft debuted with Windows Vista, and tweaked for Windows 7. UAC prompts users for their consent before allowing a task such as the installation of a program or a device driver to take place. In an attempt to quash user complaints about the constant intrusions, Microsoft modified UAC so it appears less frequently in Windows 7.

Mac users will not be able to take advantage of the new silent mode for the same reason. "There's separate code for the Mac," Arkin said, pointing to Mac OS X's demand for the user's password before installing new software. Mac users, then, will only have the fully-manual and semi-automatic modes as options.

Most enterprises, which already support Adobe Reader updates through patch management software from the likes of Microsoft and IBM, will also see no change, as they have already turned off the current updater's ability to notify users of impending patches. "But there's been more interest in the new update technology from enterprises than I expected," Arkin said.

Adobe is dabbling in other ways to keep users of its software up to date. Last week, Google and Adobe announced a partnership that will automatically update Flash Player -- another piece of Adobe software that is frequently targeted by hackers -- when Google updates its Chrome browser.

Other software vendors also offer a fully-automatic updating mode. Microsoft, for example, has long let users set its Windows Update service to an in-the-background mode.

The new updater only works with Reader and Acrobat, but Adobe is considering expanding the silent patch feature to other software, including Flash. "Flash, because of the way it integrates with the browser, may not be an easy transition [to silent mode]," acknowledged Arkin. "But we're always looking for ways to improve security and updating."

Also today, Adobe issued its usual advance warning of the number of patches it plans to release next Tuesday.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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