Posts in Category "Tips"

Academic Acrobat – Tips and tricks for getting more done

Chances are that in schools and universities these days you are reading and generating more PDF documents than ever and there’s a good chance that many of these documents are being printed out to paper like they have been since the dawn of the digital publishing age. As creatures of habit, hitting the print button works well for many situations, but that’s so 20th century. Why are you  re-using, citing, re-keying, and editing, much like our parents did back in the day when they were in the hallowed halls of academia? It doesn’t have to be that way especially with Adobe Acrobat X.

SInce Acrobat X Pro was released one year ago,  It has received numerous awards across the knowledge worker industries.  I have been working with several university departmental initiatives on moving towards a more green and sustainable approach with respect to printing to paper. These faculty and students were also interested in becoming more efficient in the process of gathering and digesting more and more PDF content and want to improve the quality of their work.. PDF preserves the integrity of the original source file while making it easy to exchange and distribute information. Using Acrobat’s powerful toolset, you can do more in less time.

Based on these requests and trends, I have put together some video tutorials showing some of the top “tips and tricks” that are sure to improve your academic efforts and make you a more efficient “knowledge worker.” I have started posting them on YouTube for easy access and reference. Here’s a summary of these available now. In these videos, I have focused on the use of acrobat for annotation and mark-up as well as re-use and combining content from different sources.  There will be more to come in the new year. I hope these tips and tricks help you recover more time in your academic pursuits for doing all those other things on your list this holiday season!

Here you go.

  1. An overview of Acrobat Note Taking and mark-up tools. Check out the different ways you can mark-up and annotate a typical document for improving your organization and productivity.
  2. Academic Productivity with Acrobat – Learn how to enhance a PDF document with Adobe Acrobat Professional to streamline your workflow using highlighting, document snapshots, comment summary, and page combining tricks.
  3. Note taking made easy part 1 – working with the essential markup tools in Acrobat. Learn about the useful markup tools that you can customize for use in your note taking and annotation of PDF documents.
  4. Note taking made easy part 2 – more useful mark-up tools – Acrobat has even more tools for use in note taking such as the attachment tool, the recording tool, and the stamps tool; all great for your academic research and collaboration.

If you have any comments or requests for upcoming tips and tricks, please leave a note. In the meantime be sure to check out the Acrobat User community website.


Wrap Up Your School Year in an Acrobat 9 PDF Portfolio


As the school year winds down, its time to get organized and one of the best places to start is with the files on your computer. All that hard work that went into creating and submitting assignments, reports, projects, and just about anything digital shouldn’t be filed away in multiple locations or directories only to be forgotten or lost over time. Chances are you have the tool you need right on your desktop, Adobe Acrobat 9 Professional.

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Use Acrobat 9 Professional to assemble a unified PDF document

Adobe Acrobat 9 Professional has many useful features for Educators and students. One that is perfect for building a unified PDF document from two or more individual documents takes advantage of a little known technique for dragging and dropping pages directly from one document on to another and then adding a unified set of headers and footers.This technique can save valuable time and produce a very useful document that can be updated as needed.

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Get rid of that bloat (in your PDF)

I don’t know about you but if you’re like me we could all use a little shaping up. All the good food and drink at Super Bowl parties and Mardi Gras makes me feel a bit bloated and I could definitely shed a few pounds. Unfortunately it won’t be that easy. The treadmill awaits! So lets quickly change the subject.

Lets talk about BDS or Bloated Document Syndrome and PDF. We’ve all experienced this. A PDF approaching 10s of megabytes only to open up to reveal a couple of pages of text and graphics. Why? you may ask. Isn’t PDF supposed to be efficient? Well in theory yes, and there are many reasons why this can occur. Fortunately, Acrobat has a much easier way to shed those excess bits and bytes

Lets start with the the most probable cause – third party or “free” PDF creators. The PDF specification is available to any developer as it is now owned by the ISO organization (ISO 32000-1 as of July 2008). As a result anyone can create software for creating and managing PDF files. Its not that easy to develop good software and one of the most obvious signs of this is when a PDF is created that is suffering from BDS.

But what do you do if you have received a PDF or have created one that seems extremely large. In developing course materials, submitting papers, or sharing documents, the last thing you want to do is clog up e-mail and bandwidth with oversized files. No matter how you share and distribute documents, the PDF Optimizer in Acrobat 9 Pro is well worth a look.

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On-Demand ePortfolio Seminar


Last month’s eSeminar on using Acrobat for ePortfolio was a great event. We had over 800 people attend. i demonstrated how to use the ePortfolio capabilities in Acrobat 9 to enable students and faculty to easily organize and collect, and present information from a variety of sources into a media-rich PDF Portfolio. I also demonstrated how you can easily collaborate and share documents and portfolios in real time or asynchronously. Acrobat 9 makes it possible to reflect, collect and manage feedback in multiple ways.

In case you missed the seminar you can view it on demand on Adobe’s OnDemand Seminar site. Here is the link. You will need a free Adobe ID to access it. By the way, your Adobe ID is also used to access the free web service. This is a great resource for students and educators.

Creating a rollover definition in your PDF

Creating a rollover glossary in a PDF
A customer asked me about the ability to use forms to create a rollover definition of words on a PDF page. Although you can do this with forms, another down-and-dirty way to create such a thing is with the Highlighter tool among the Comment and Markup tool set, and it’s easier.
First, select the Highlighter tool. Tools: Comment & Markup: Highlight text tool.
Next, highlight the word over which you want a rollover definition to appear when you hover your cursor over it. The default appearance will be yellow, 80% opaque. The trick is to reset the appearance of the highlight to 0% opaque.
Right (or control) click on the Highlight. In the Appearance tab of the Highlight properties dialog box, set the Opacity value to 0% and click OK.
With the Hand tool, double-click the now-invisible highlight and enter a definition for the word. You will see a small word balloon above the text to indicate that there is text there (there is no way to hide this).
Return to the properties (right or control click on the highlight) and choose Make properties default, so that the next time you create a highlight it will be invisible. Finally, click the Locked checkbox to prevent a user from editing the comment. If you need to protect the comment even further, you can use Security in Acrobat to restrict the permissions so that no one can change anything about the document—including comments.

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.

Distributing Adobe Reader on campus

Many schools and universities have one-to-one initiatives in place that provide preconfigured laptops to students. And I’m sure nearly all of you in IT who read this look after a standard image for your institutional computers. Either way, I’m willing to bet my last box of instant Mac-and-Cheese that the free Adobe Reader is a standard part of those builds that you have.

You’re free to distribute the Adobe Reader in this fashion – that is, deploy it yourselves without redirecting everyone to Adobe’s website. However, you should read and agree to the Adobe Reader Distribution Agreement. This is a one-time step intended for institutions that need to deploy out many copies of the free Reader. You can also use this if you want to make the latest Reader installer available within the secure confines of your intranet.

From these pages you’ll also find links to the icons to "Get Adobe Reader" or "Includes Adobe Reader". Neat!

BTW, there is a similar agreement for the Flash Player and Shockwave Player available here:

Difference in margins when printing PDF documents

A member of the NDLTD (Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations) email list posted the the following message last week regarding Electronic Theses and Dissertations from their students:

I have had 3 or 4 students over the last couple of months who have reported that their margin specifications have NOT been retained when they convert their ETD from Word to PDF. Our Grad School has rejected the documents, and the students are confused because Word shows that their margins should have been correct.
I just created a dummy document and printed a page in Word then converted to PDF and printed that. (I have Acrobat 7 Professional). The margins on the printed pages were different by a quarter inch.
Has anyone else had a problem with this and have you found a solution?

The margins in this case weren’t changing on conversion from DOC to PDF, but when the PDF was printed. Acrobat and Reader may scale pages on printing, depending on the printer and print driver. Make sure you choose “None” from the “Page Scaling:” drop-down list in Acrobat or Reader’s Print dialog box. The setting is sticky so if you set it once it should remain that way until you change it again.

By default, Acrobat and Reader will use one of the scaling options to make sure all the page content fits in to the printable area of a page. A PDF file is inherently scalable, and need not have white margins (a color brochure, for example). Also some desktop printers don’t print all the way to the edges of the page. Hence the page scaling options.

The screen shot below is from Acrobat 8 Professional on Mac OS X. Windows and earlier versions of Acrobat and Reader may have slightly different options, but the main page scaling options are there.

Image showing Page Scaling options in Acrobat 8 Professional for Mac Print dialog

If you ever come across printing problems like this one, then use Adobe’s online support knowledge base first (you DO check there, don’t you?). Search for "troubleshoot printing" on the support pages at For example, here is one for Troubleshooting Printing Problems in Acrobat 8 on Mac OS X.

The scenario and solution I write about above is just one possibility: there are others as you’ll see if look through the troubleshooting technical notes. I am happy to report that this particular issue was addressed by my answer, and it has not deterred the school from using PDF as the format for sharing and archiving electronic documents that must be viewed on screen and in print, both now and in the future.

Optimizing Scanned Pages: Part 1

On a recent visit to my alma mater for some Acrobat workshops I was giving, a member of the campus’ own training team asked me how to get smaller file sizes for their scanned documents when using Acrobat to convert them to image-only PDF’s. They found that the resulting PDF files weren’t that much smaller than the original monochrome (black-and-white) TIFF files. They have a lot of older how-to’s, tutorials and other learning materials that exist as paper. They now need to make them available electronically for anytime access and posterity, and to just get rid of all that paper! When Acrobat 8 was used, the results were the same.

By default, Acrobat uses a compression method called CCITT Group 4 for monochrome images in PDF. This is an old protocol developed for faxing, but works in Acrobat and Acrobat Reader 3.0 and higher. However, a newer compression method has been available since Acrobat 5.0 for monochrome images such as blank-and-white scans. It’s called JBIG2 (Joint Bi-level Image Experts Group) and offers compression orders-of-magnitude greater than can be achieved with CCITT G4. It supports both lossless compression (a la ZIP) and lossy compression (a la JPEG), the latter resulting in even smaller file sizes but at a cost of possible reduction in the quality of image.

However, it’s not enabled in the default Acrobat preferences for conversion to PDF. Here’s how you can change that.

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences… (Windows) or Acrobat > Preferences… (Mac).
  2. Select the "Convert to PDF" category on the left to open the conversion preferences.

Screen shot of Convert to PDF Acrobat Preferences

  1. From the list of file formats that your version of Acrobat can convert to PDF "directly", choose TIFF. The current settings for conversion from TIFF to PDF are listed to the right. If your list shows "Monochrome Compression: CCITT G4" then click the "Edit Settings…" button.
  2. In the Adobe PDF Settings dialog box that opens, change the Monochrome Compression setting from "CCITT G4" to "JBIG2 (Lossless)" or "JBIG2 (Lossy)". Again, the latter will give the smallest file sizes but slightly reduce the quality of the scanned image. Click OK.

  1. Click OK to close the Preferences dialog box.

Now when you open a TIFF file in Acrobat (for example, choose File > Create PDF > From File…) the resulting PDF will be using JBIG2 compression. Save the PDF file, compare it to the original TIFF files, and you should see that they are taking up significantly less space. When we tried this with the training team’s scans and JBIG2 (Lossy) compression, we saw PDF file sizes a quarter of what they originally were as TIFF. If only ROI was measured in bits and bytes!

Note that when you create a PDF file from a scanner, JBIG2 is now used as the default compression method.

There are other ways you can optimize your scanned documents, whether you scan them ahead of time, directly in to PDF with Acrobat and when running Acrobat’s built-in OCR (Optical Character Recognition). I’ll follow up with those tips for optimization another time.