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August 27, 2008 /News, Views & Updates /

Comparing Documents

In Acrobat 9 we decided to take a fresh look at document comparison. Customers indicated a need for comparing documents across revisions generally associated with a review workflow. They wanted to save time by only reviewing parts of the document that had actually changed. They also wanted to make sure they did not miss any changes that had occurred. This need appeared across document types, job function and industries.

A horizontal workflow requiring a consistent experience across document types? If that’s not Acrobat territory I don’t know what is. More after the break…

Our goal was to create a simple, yet powerful tool which could generate meaningful compare results on the wide variety of documents which can be converted to PDF. So that is why we worked on document comparison but how did we make it great?

Some example include:

  • We give users flexibility in terms of what kinds of changes they want to see. For example, you can decide to see or not to see text formatting changes. You can make these decisions after the compare has occurred and those changes appear or disappear on the fly.
  • We are using algorithms which are optimized to run on different types of source documents like text documents, slide decks and images. For example, when comparing PowerPoint presentations we can detect that slides have been moved and we compare the correct slides to each other. In text documents words can flow freely from one page to the next so we detect moves differently.
  • We optimize compare results for different types of content like text, images, or tables. For example, when showing image changes, we highlight the areas of the image which have changed. When you mouse over those areas, we show you how the old image appeared.
  • We used the existing annotation framework so that compare can leverage the power of Acrobat. After all, what do you do once you know what the changes are? Compare can be used seamlessly with other Acrobat workflows like shared reviews, real time collaboration and more.

We welcome any comments or suggestions so please give Compare a try and tell us what you think!


Carlos Araya, Acrobat Product Manager

Categories: News, Views & Updates


  • By Daniel Milne - 1:54 PM on December 1, 2009   Reply

    I have used the compare document feature for many years. It was fast, it showed only pages that had changes. File sizes were reasonably small. Now, with Acrobat 9, compare documents is terrible and nearly useless. I would like to see a way to revert to the old functionality.

    [Daniel – It would be best if you could report your concerns via our bug/feature request web form here. This way, we can log the issues and take a look at them. As part of this process, any sample files you can provide exhibiting the issues would be great. Thanks. – Dave]

  • By Kevin Feldman - 3:05 PM on February 25, 2010   Reply

    I use Adobe Acrobat Professional 8 very frequently and the compare documents feature is very useful. I did have one issue/question, however. A lot of times, the comparison file will indicate false positives between the documents. That is, the words in question look identical between the two PDF documents, but Acrobat will identify one side with a strikethrough, and the other side with a blue underline. Is there any way to handle this issue? Or is editing the comparison file possible?

    [Kevin – Thanks for the feedback. This most likely got resolved in Acrobat 9, as the Compare feature went through a lot of changes in Acrobat 9. If possible, please upgrade to Acrobat 9 or download and try the Acrobat 9 Trial. Thanks – Dave]

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