Sharing and Summarizing Presentation Notes

Those of you who have Acrobat (Standard or Professional) should be familiar with using the PDFMaker buttons in Office applications (the Create PDF buttons on the toolbar). If you use PowerPoint to create slides and eLearning content, then you may be using the speaker notes as a means of writing a transcript or to provide ancillary information to the learning content in the slides. However, that information can sometimes get lost when sharing the slides with others as a PDF file. If you’re using Microsoft Windows and Office you need not lose those notes (sorry Mac readers, but read on for things you can do). Here’s how…

Open your PowerPoint slide deck and look at the menu bar. You should see an Adobe PDF menu item and in there will be a "Change Conversion Settings" command. Select that. In the Acrobat PDFMaker dialog box that opens, make sure the Settings tab is displayed and look down the list of Application Settings. You will see an option to "Convert Speaker notes to Text notes in Adobe PDF" – make sure this is selected to enable this option.

Click OK and the settings will remain for future conversions. Now convert to PDF from PowerPoint using the PDFMaker buttons or the Adobe PDF menu and take a look at the resulting PDF file in Acrobat.

What you will now see on every page that has speakers notes is a PDF Sticky Note in the top left of every page. If you hover over that Note or double-click to open a pop-up, lo-and-behold there are the speakers notes from PowerPoint.

Now those notes will always appear on the page unless you delete or hide them all. The neat thing is that these notes are on a PDF Layer, whose view you can toggle on or off. Open the Layers Panel tab on the left of your Acrobat window and you will see a layer called "Background" and another called "Presentation Notes". Just as you would do in other Adobe creative tools that use layers, click the eye icon to toggle the display of the layers on or off.

BTW, the Background layer will show and hide any background graphics you may have had in your PowerPoint design. That’s useful if you want to print the slides but don’t want to use up all that expensive ink when printing backgrounds – yes, layer visibility can affect printing too! Look at the detailed "Layer Properties" under the Layers Navigation Panel Options menu button.

Now what if you wanted to create a PDF or printout of the slides and notes or just the speaker notes? The print dialog box in Acrobat and Reader do not provide the option to print just the comments in the document. Instead, you must look to the Comments menu in Acrobat 8 and choose "Print With Comments Summary" or "Summarize Comments". These commands will generate a summary report of the comments in the document, either directly to print or to a PDF file first. The Summarize Options dialog box will open first, allowing you to choose a layout. For this task, I suggest using either "Document and comments with connector lines on single pages" or "Comments only". The former may be good as a handout, the latter as a transcript when preparing a presentation. Use a font size (like your favorite coffee hangout, you can only choose "small", "medium" or "large") that fits on a page and can be read easily. If you choose the "connector lines" option you may want to turn down the opacity to 0%, else the connector lines will get in the way.

It’s important to remember: Acrobat is not a replacement for tools like PowerPoint when it comes to creating presentations and eLearning content. However, it’s ideal when it comes to being able to share that interesting and engaging content reliably across computers, networks and devices. The ability to then use that content in meaningful ways as a PDF just makes it all the more valuable.

4 Responses to Sharing and Summarizing Presentation Notes

  1. kenji says:

    My version of Acrobat (7) doesn’t have this “Convert Speaker notes to Text notes in Adobe PDF” option. Please help!
    FROM ALI: This feature is only available with Acrobat 8.

  2. Antje Soltau says:

    Hello, I’m working with the Reader (8), German version, on an Intel Mac. I can’t find the print comments functions anywhere. The comments menu shows only “show all, reduce all, forward & backwards, show (different choices of which notes to see), search, and options (includes only something about a protocol). Where else can I look for it? Thanks for your help.
    FROM ALI: Sorry Antje, the Print Comments (or Summarize Comments) command is only available with Acrobat 8 or earlier, NOT the free Adobe Reader.

  3. Qaisar khan says:

    hello please tell me how we download the acrobat files of educational notes.

  4. I found this blog while searching in Google. There is a lot of good information here. Those just starting out should bookmark this site.