New Admin/Contributor

Hey all. Ali Hanyaloglu has moved to another position at Adobe to help promote Acrobat across the globe in all verticals. This has given me the opportunity to step into his shoes (big ones to be sure!) and take the reigns at the Acrobat in Education blog. Look for new content (including some Video Bogs!).
My goal is to use this as a way to answer your How-to questions. So feel free to post the or send them to me directly at

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.

Virginia Tech: Our Thoughts and Prayers

For the last 24 hours I’ve been thinking about what to say following the horrible events at Virginia Tech yesterday. There isn’t much we can do at this very moment, except to say that the victims and their loved ones are in our thoughts and prayers.
I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple of days at the beautiful Blacksburg campus. Everyone there was absolutely wonderful. I had the pleasure of talking with some of the most talented and enthusiastic students I have ever met. To have so much brilliance needlessly extinguished in such a horrific way is something I and everyone else will never forget.
Stay together Hokies. Console and look out for each other. And know that the whole world is there with you. I look forward to visiting you all again soon.
Ali H.

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.

Instructional Material Accessibility Standards

An instructional technology specialist in New Jersey recently pointed out to me an accessibility standard for state textbooks in the United States called NIMAS or National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard. Information can be obtained from the American Foundation for the Blind and the Center for Applied Special Technology. "One of the great things about standards, is that there are so many to choose from!" said a wise and witty individual once-upon-a-time. How true that is! The first thing that I wanted to find out was how did this standard differ from what the US Section 508 law requires, and the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines already offer?

This particular requirement is impacting textbook publishers first and foremost, as well as the state and local departments of education, as set forth by the US Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA). The main part of the standard is that it provides a common, XML-based file format for textbooks and other instructional materials, so that they can be centrally archived and published in alternative, accessible formats such as braille and digital text that can then be read back by assistive or "screen-reading" software. Guidelines like WCAG are primarily intended for HTML/XHTML+CSS web pages, but the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative also encompasses Rich Internet Applications.

NIMAS is good news, as it ensures students with visual disabilities have equal access to learning materials. But there are two key words here I want to point out: "content" and "alternative". The material (content) is in an additional (alternative) format to be used with assistive technology like the DAISY/NISO Digital Talking Book. And that’s a good thing, as it is all about the content, and the presentation should not hinder access to learning, as print publications and many older (and unfortunately, current) web sites do.

However, NIMAS implies that publishers and state and local agencies have to deal with the burden of managing multiple formats for the same publication, albeit a burden that must and should be carried considering the goal. One of the good things about the W3C’s accessibility guidelines is that it provides a means for all web content to be accessible, whilst at the same time have presentation that is clear and easy to follow for those who can see the screen i.e. one piece of content, multiple reading channels.

PDF is related to all this too. It’s already a common format for educators and publishers to use for learning materials (yes, eBooks are back!), as well as being the number 2 file format for documents on the internet today (after HTML). It’s also a document format required by NIMAS for submitting and storing images. But PDF is typically thought of – and used – as a presentation format for consistent viewing of content on screen and in print. It can, however, also be used a single source for content that can be richly formatted and be interactive with assistive technologies.

By default, PDF’s created using the PDFMaker that comes with Acrobat 5.0 and later include structure or tags that make it somewhat accessible, but not completely. In order to ensure PDF learning materials are completely accessible when opened with Acrobat or Reader, a document author or producer must use the tools available to them in the Professional version of Acrobat. Version 8 of Acrobat Professional includes a number of tools to not only verify that PDF documents are fully accessible and comply with W3C guidelines, but also has tools to add information to the document that allows authors, publishers and producers to ensure their documents work with assistive technology correctly, irrespective of how they were created. For example, adding alternative text to images and form objects, and defining a reading order for a highly stylized document that may have been created with Adobe InDesign, say.

But what should be included in a PDF to ensure a document is accessible to students? That brings us to yet another standard: PDF/UA or PDF, Universal Accessibility, which is currently a draft. The PDF/UA Committee, under the auspices of AIIM, is creating a set of guidelines to what should be included in a conforming PDF so that it is truly accessible by all. It’s a promising, important and large effort in ensuring the same PDF-based content students use to learn from can also be viewed by those who have special needs. I hope organizations like the AFB are paying close attention to this emerging standard, and consider it as part of their own guidelines and requirements, especially since their target audience is already used to working with – and has workflows around – the ubiquitous PDF format.

As mentioned on the AIIM web site and the committee’s wiki, PDF/UA is not a "how-to". If you’re looking for that kind of information, I suggest taking a look at the resources that Adobe provides on its accessibility pages. The information here was created for Acrobat and Reader 7.0, but is still relevant to those of you who are using Acrobat 8 and would like to learn more about this. It’s informative reading that I suggest anyone in education take, even if just to be enlightened about what should be done to make sure documents – any document – are accessible to our students and colleagues with special needs.

Welcome back!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to this blog, but I’m glad I can get back in to the swing of things again.

For the last few months I’ve been all over North America showing educators all the new features in Acrobat 8 and brainstorming with them some of the ways that they can use them. Whether you’re a teacher or an administrator, a researcher or a student, I really do believe that this technology can help you save a little bit of time each day to focus on what you really should be – or want to be – doing. And there’s a lot in this release! Ted Padova (famed author of the Acrobat PDF Bible series of books) talks about his top features here on the web site.

So stay tuned; I promise to get this blog rolling again.

Thanks for reading!

Acrobat 8 for Mac is a Universal Binary

I have had a few Intel Mac users in academia ask me this week if Acrobat 8.0 for Mac OS X is a Universal Binary application. The answer is “YES!”

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Acrobat 8.0 Announced!

Adobe has announced the all new Acrobat 8.0 family of products. There is A LOT in this release that those in the academic community will find useful, so keep an eye on this blog for my thoughts and ideas on how you can use those features effectively.

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