Posts in Category "Acrobat How-to’s"

Acrobat DC New Feature: Tools Search

Acrobat, like other business software, has a lot of tools. In most software, you have to know where to access a tool to use it. That can be frustrating if you don’t use the tool frequently.

One of my favorite features of Acrobat DC is Tools Search. Now, you can type in the name of the tool to find it.

Here’s how it works . . .

Let’s say you have some confidential information in a document which needs to be redacted (permanently removed).

Redaction tools aren’t part of the default panels in Acrobat DC, and maybe you don’t use them very frequently.

Just click your cursor in the Search Tools field:



Then, type a few characters of the tool name. Boom! You just found the tool!



Even though I used Acrobat all the time, I still will search for tools from time to time. It’s fast and it means I don’t have to remember where a tool is to actually use it.

Creating a PDF at the Right Output Size and Dimensions

Most of us are familiar with typical document sizes such as letter (8.5″ by 11″), legal (8.5″ by 14″) and ledger/tabloid (11″ by 17″).

A recent email I received made me realize that not everyone knows how to actually format their documents to match:

I have the attached document that I need to output at 14 inches wide by 14 inches high. When I print to PDF, there is not a choice for this. I’ve attached the Word file so you can take a look . . .

When I opened the document, I realized that the document was set to Letter size in landscape orientation (11″ by 8.5″). I was able to work with the customer to find a solution, so I thought I would share it here.

Setting the Page Size in Microsoft Office

If you are using an Office application, such as Word, Excel or PowerPoint, you should create and edit your document at the desired print dimensions. That way, your editing process will reflect the physical page size.

When you change the page size in Word, the layout will adjust automatically and text will reflow.

Here’s how to change the page size of a document in Word. This is for Office 2013, but 2007 and 2010 versions are substantially identical.

  1. Go to the Page Layout Ribbon in Word
  2. Click the Size button
  3. Choose More Page Sizes at the bottom
  4. Enter your desired page size and click OK
  5. Click the Acrobat ribbon in Word
  6. Click Create PDF

Checking the Page Size in Acrobat

Acrobat will convert the document to the exact page size specified in Word.

Here’s how to check. With the file open . . .

  1. File> Properties
  2. Click the Description tab
  3. The PDF Page size is listed:

Using the PDF Printer and Preserving Page Size

Maintaining page size is tricker when printing via the AdobePDF printer. For example, when I created a 5.25 X 7.25 custom page size and printed to the PDF printer, the output looked like this:


It is possible to maintain the PDF page size by creating a custom page size for the PDF Printer. Here’s how . . .

  1. Create your document in the tool of your choice and make note of the page size
  2. Choose File>Print
  3. Select the AdobePDF Printer
  4. Click the Settings option for the Adobe PDF Printer
    Note: The labeling and position of this option will vary depending upon the application used
  5. In the Adobe PDF Document Properties window, click the Add button . . .

  6. Give the new page size a name
  7. Set the dimensions of the new page size and click Add/Modigy

  8. Choose the new page size from the Adobe PDF Page Size menu and click OK.

  9. Print the document. The results should match the page size:

Note: Word and other applications may complain about margins and paper size when you go to print.. You can ignore these issues.

In my testing, the page size setting wasn’t “sticky”, at least in Word. That’s probably a good thing since I think most of us create standard letter-size and other documents.

Dial a Phone from a PDF Link on Mobile Devices

Clients and customers often review PDFs on their mobile phones. Perhaps you’ve sent an Intake Agreement to your client which they open on their iPhone or Android device.  Your client then has a question and they want to call you.

Your phone number appears on the PDF you sent, but your client needs to know how to copy it, then paste it into the dialer application on their phone. That’s a hassle. Wouldn’t it be great if they could simply click the phone number in the PDF and dial the phone?

Yep, that’s possible! This capability is also very useful to add to your marketing brochures. Why not make it easy for potential clients to contact you?

Add a Phone Dialer Link to a PDF

You can add a special URL to a link so that it will dial the phone. Here’s how to add a “Dial the Phone” URL in Acrobat.

  1. Open a PDF document
    A) Choose the Selection tool
    B) Highlight a phone number
  2. With the phone number highlighted, right-click and choose “Create Link”:
    Create Link Option
  3. The Create Link window opens.
    A) Set the Link Action to”Open a Web Page”
    B: Click the Next button002_create_link_window_1 
  4. Enter the phone number you wish to dial in the following format: tel:3125558888
    NOTE: Do not add any spaces or dashes.
    A) Enter phone number into URL field
    B) Click OK003_enter_phone_number_r2
  5. Save the document.

What happens on the mobile device?

When your client or customer clicks on the phone number, it will open the dialer application on the phone:



I’ve tested this on Adobe Reader Mobile on both Android and iOS, but other PDF viewers may also support this.

If the recipient opens the PDF on a desktop or tablet device, the link will be ignored.

Old Dogs and New Tricks? A Key, Keyboard Command

This might very well be my shortest blog post ever. It’s also a chance to admit that I don’t know as much about Acrobat as I thought I did.

On my blog, I answer a lot of questions about how to put various navigation tools in the toolbar. I always advise putting the Previous View and Next View buttons on the toolbar. Right click on the toolbar, choose the Page Navigation section and add the buttons you want.

The Previous View and Next View buttons allow you to easily switch between pages you have visited in the PDF. They operate a lot like the Back and Forward buttons in a browser.

For example, let’s say you look at the something on page 9 of an eBrief and then click a link that goes to an exhibit on page 36.

Using the Previous View button, you can quickly jump back to page 9. Just press the Next View button to hop back out to page 36,

What? They cited that?

Doh! I can’t believe I didn’t know . . .

There is a keyboard command for both Previous View and Next View. Objectively, I suppose I knew they existed, but I’d never tried them:

Previous View
ALT-Left Arrow
OPT-Left Arrow
Next View
ALT-Right Arrow
OPT-Right Arrow

I find I’m using these keyboard commands all the time now. So, maybe you can teach an old dog a new trick.


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Get Reader or Acrobat to work in Chrome, Compact PDF Output from Chrome

Google Chrome is a browser that is growing in popularity. I’ve recently switched to Chrome, myself.

Chrome IconThere’s a lot to like about the Chrome browser:

  • Fast
  • Excellent bookmark handling
  • Protected Mode (sandboxed) for more secure browsing and prevention of phishing attacks
  • Built-in Google Sync to keep all your bookmarks synchronized across your computers

Chrome offers built-in basic PDF viewing and PDF conversion of web pages.

Nice as this sounds, Chrome can’t display every kind of PDF. When that happens, you’ll see this message

Chrome also lacks some of Reader (and Acrobat’s) navigational features such as Previous View and Next View.

Since Chrome is growing in popularity, of late I’ve received quite a few questions about PDF in Chrome:

  • How do I get Adobe Reader (or Acrobat) to work in Google Chrome?
  • How do I turn off the Chrome PDF viewer?
  • Why does Chrome make huge PDFs?
  • How do I get Chrome to print PDFs as text?

In this blog article, I’ll show you how to:

  1. Use Adobe Reader (or Acrobat) as the default PDF Viewer in Chrome
  2. How to create smaller, better quality PDFs from Chrome

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Turning off Read Mode while viewing PDFs in your Browser

This week, I had a couple of folks ask:

How do I turn off that weird bar that comes up while reading PDFs in the browser?
Can I turn off Read Mode when viewing PDFs in the browser?

These are the same questions and both refer to this floating toolbar visible when viewing PDFs in the browser:
Adobe Acrobat X Read Mode Toolbar

In this article I’ll explain:

  • What is Read Mode?
  • Why would I want to turn off Read Mode?
  • How to turn off Read Mode for an individual PDF
  • How to turn off Read Mode permanently via Preferences
  • How to turn off Read Mode when deploying Acrobat

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Download a PDF Copy of the Acrobat Help File

I recently received this note from a law firm:

I know that Adobe offers online HTML help, but I’d really like to get a PDF copy of the help? Is one available?

Short answers . . . Yes!

Downloading the Help File

Follow these steps to get a PDF copy of the Help file:

  1. Choose Help>Acrobat X Pro (or Standard) Help or press the F1 key
  2. The Help file will launch in your default web browser or possibly in the Community Help Viewer

    Click the View Help PDF link in the upper right corner of the window

  3. The Help PDF will open.
    Hover over the bottom of the window until the Heads Up Display (HUD) appears, then click the Floppy Disk icon on the HUD toolbar to save the PDF to a location of your choice.

Using the Help File

When you open the Help file, the Bookmarks panel will open automatically. You can browse through the bookmarks to open the section of your choice.

I also suggest you try using Advanced Search. Choose Edit>Advanced Search to open the Advanced Search window and enter the term of your choice.

Advanced Search lists all the "hits" within the document. For example, when I typed in PDF/A as my search term, here was the result . . . 67 hits!

Just click on any of the results to go directly to that page in the PDF and highlight the term.











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Quick Access to Frequently Used Stamps in Acrobat X

Acrobat allows you to use a number of stamps that "live" in the annotation layer of the document.

For example, you could quickly add a Confidential stamp to your document:

Picture of a PDF document with a Confidential stamp on it

Adding a stamp isn’t difficult in Acrobat X, but it is a few steps:

  1. Open the Comments panel
  2. Twirl open the Annotations section
  3. Click on the Stamp tool
  4. Choose a Stamp category
  5. Choose a Stamp
  6. Stamp it on your document

That isn’t hard, but it’s easy to reduce the number of steps. Here’s how . . .

Step 1: Add the Stamp to your Quick Tools bar

You can add your own favorite tools to the first row of tool icons in Acrobat.
Pictue of the Quick Tools area of Acrobat X

To add the Stamp tool to the Quick Tools area:

A) Open the Comments panel
B) Twirl open the Annotations section
C) Right-click on the Stamp tool and choose Add to Quick Tools

Picutre showing where to click to add the Stamp tool to the Quick Tools bar

The Stamp Tool is added to the toolbar:
Picture: The Stamp tool has been added to the toolbar

Step Two: Choose your Favorite Stamps

Acrobat allows you to easily access frequently used stamps without having to dig through sub-menus. Here’s how to "favorite" a stamp . . .

  1. Click the Stamp Tool and locate a stamp you like and stamp it on the document
  2. Click on the stamp on the page to select it.
    Hint: When selected, the stamp selection handles will be visible:
    Picture of a Confidential stamp which is selected
  3. Click on the Stamp tool menu and choose Add Current Stamp to Favorites
    Picture: Addiing the selected stamp to Favorites

Now, your favorite stamp is available to apply in two clicks:

Picture: The stamps menu now has the new favorite stamp

Bonus Tip 1: Use the Stamps Palette

The Stamps Palette is a floating, resizable window which offers a large preview of multiple stamps.

To open the Stamps Palette, simply go to your Stamp tool menu and choose Show Stamps Palette:Picture: Finding the Stamps Palette option in the Stamps menu

The Stamps Palette opens. Select a stamp and drag it onto your page:

Picture of the Acrobat X Stamps Palette

Bonus Tip 2: You can "favorite" from the Stamps Palette

Here’s another way to favorite a stamp . . . just right-click on it in the Stamps Palette:

Picture: Favoriting a stamp from the Stamps Palette

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Creating PDF for Digital Letterheads

Law firms often have corporate letterhead designed to reflect the professionalism of the firm.

It’s only natural, then, that firms want to create digital letterhead that retains the firms branding when creating PDF files.

I recently received an email from a law firm that complained about “fuzzy text” when they attempted to create their PDF letterhead. After a bit of digging, I determined that the firm had scanned their existing letterhead, placed it as an image in Word, then PDFd the file. The result, was poor quality, fuzzy text.

Bitmaps vs Vectors

In order to create good digital letterhead, you need to use the right kind of graphic format.

A bitmap image is composed of pixels, the small individual dots that make up an image. Bitmaps are resolution dependent meaning that their appearance varies depending on the type and resolution of the device on which they are displayed. Typical bitmap file formats are TIFF, JPEG, PNG, BMP and GIF. Because bitmap images do not scale well, they make a poor choice for your digital letterhead.

A vector image is mathematically defined and scales correctly to the device on which it is displayed such as a monitor or printer. Typical vector formats are EPS, WMF, and EMF. Vector graphics are a good choice for your digital letterhead.

Creating your Digital Letterhead Graphic

The best way to create your digital letterhead graphic is in a vector illustration program such as Adobe Illustrator.

However, since most legal professionals don’t have a copy of Illustrator laying around, I’ll show you how to create the letterhead graphic in PowerPoint.

The instructions below are for Office 2007 and 2010, but earlier versions will work just fine.

  1. Launch PowerPoint. A new, blank slide show should appear. If not, choose New and create one.
  2. You’ll insert a Text Box to type into:
    A) Click the Insert tab
    B) Click the Text Box tool
  3. Click and drag to draw a text box in a blank area of the slide.
  4. Type in your text and format it as you like. You can add borders, fills, and other text boxes if necessary.
    Getting the right Look for the Text Box
    Here are some links from the Microsoft website with some tutorials on using Text Boxes in PowerPoint:

    Change or remove a border from a text box or shape
    Add or delete a shape fill or shape effect


  5. Select the text box(es) on the slide (you might want to group them first), then right-click and choose Save As Picture

  6. From the Save As Type menu, choose Windows Metafile and save the file to a location of your choice.
    You might also want to save the PowerPoint file in case you want to make changes at a later time.

Using your Letterhead Graphic in Microsoft Word

It’s simple to use the WMF file you created above in Word.

You can use it in the body of the document or in the header or footer area.

To insert the image in Word:

  1. Open or create a new document in Word
  2. Click the Insert tab then click Picture (example here is inserting the picture in the header)
  3. Locate the letterhead graphic and insert it.

You’ll notice that the graphic looks nice on screen in Word.

Converting your Letterhead to PDF

Once your graphic is inserted, you can create a PDF by printing to the Adobe PDF Print Driver or by using the Adobe PDF Maker in Word.

The result looks great on-screen in Adobe Reader or Acrobat and also prints beautifully:

The Digital Letterhead as it looks in Acrobat.

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Code Obfuscation for Patent and Court Filings

If your firm does IP work for technology companies, or is involved in cases involving software source code, you may be obliged to submit your client’s source code to the USPTO, a court or third party.

Since source code is considered a trade secret, most regulatory agencies use a "50%" rule. Source code submitted is obscured so that it cannot be used as-is.

Picture showing obfuscated codeThis process, referred to as code obfuscation, protects your client from disclosure of their valuable software source code.

Curiously, some law firms use a paper-based process for this. One law firm I visited created a series of diagonal bars on transparency film, then photocopied thousands of pages.

As you can guess, that workflow was time-consuming and expensive.

Fortunately, the process is easy to automate in Acrobat X. Not only can we hide the code, we can completely delete the hidden code so it can never be recovered.

Step 1: Create a Code Mask

A Code Mask is an overlay on your document which hides the underlying text or images. The mask must have transparent areas where codes shows through and opaque areas which hide the text. You can create a mask using a graphics program like Adobe Illustrator or Adobe InDesign.

Tip: Use a Vector Code Mask
Although you could use a bitmap image as a mask, I have found you get much better results using a vector illustration program. Instead of pixels in the PDF, the lines are drawn electronically which scales nicely to various page sizes.


You can download a sample Code Mask below.

sample_code_mask.pdf (37K) (letter size 8.5 by 11)

Step 2: Convert Source Code to PDF

If your client did not supply PDFs, you’ll need to convert the source code files. Most often, you’ll receive plain text files.

Check your court rules or eFiling guidelines to see if your court requires specific font sizes or margins. You can open the source code text file in a word processor and print to PDF.

Alternately, you can convert the text to PDF directly in Acrobat. Simply open the text file in Acrobat and— poof— you’ve got a PDF.

Want more control over text conversion in Acrobat?
You can change the Text conversion settings. Here’s how:

Choose File> Create> PDF from Web Page and click the Settings button

To change the font:
Adjust the File Type to Text and click the Settings button
to change the font used.
Click OK when done.

To change the page margins
Click the Page Layout tab in the Settings window and adjust the margins.

Step 3: Add the Code Mask to the document

You will use the Watermark feature to add the Code Mask to the document.

  1. Start watermarking . . .
    A) Click the Tools panel
    B) Open the Pages section
    C) Click the Watermark menu and choose Add Watermark
    Picture of Acrobat X Tools Panel
  2. The Watermark window opens.
    Here’s what to do:
    A) Click the Browse button and locate the Code Mask file. (You can use my sample above)
    B) Set the Scale relative to target page to 100%

    Picture of Acrobat X Watermark window
    C) Option: Click Save Settings . . . to save your setting so you can use it again later.
    Picture of Save Watermark window

  3. Click OK
  4. Open the Protection section of the Tools panel, and choose Sanitize Document.

    Picture of Acrobat X Sanitize panel

  5. The Sanitize alert opens. Click OK.
    Picture of Sanitize Warning window

    What does Sanitize Document do?
    Sanitize Document is a robust
    metadata removal function in Acrobat. Sanitize will rasterize the document turning it into an image so that the underlying code cannot be recovered. Functionally, it does in one step what Remove Hidden Information does with all options set to ON.

  6. Give the file a name and click the Save button.
    Picture of Save As window

Automate the Process using an Action

With an Action in Acrobat X, you can automate the process above across:

  • A file open in Acrobat
  • Any number of txt or PDF files you want to combine, then obfuscate
  • Multiple individual files
  • Grab an image from your scanner and obfuscate.

I’ve created an Acrobat X Action you can use to automate the process. This action:

  1. Asks you to locate the code files (can be PDF or TXT files)
  2. Asks you for the destination for the obfuscated files
  3. Obfuscates the code as shown with a watermark
  4. Sanitizes the document removing all code underneath the code mask
  5. Saves the file as an Acrobat 5 (PDF 1.4) level file
  6. Adds the suffix _obfuscated to the file name (e.g. mycode_obfuscated.pdf)

Because the watermark action requires a file local to your file system, you’ll need to tweak the Action a bit. Don’t worry, it’s easy! Here’s how:

  1. Download the Acrobat X Code Obfuscation Action (2K)
    Note: This file is stored on Click the download button after the page loads.
  2. Double click the Code Obfuscation Action.sequ downloaded in Step 1.
    Click the Import button to add it to your Actions panel.
    Picture of Import Action message
  3. The Edit Actions window appears.
    Make sure the Code Obfuscation Action is selected and click the Edit button.
  4. Click the Options button next to the Watermark step of the Action.
    Picture of Action Steps
  5. Acrobat won’t be able to find the Source code mask file, so you will see an error message. Click OK.
    Picture of Error Message.
  6. The Watermark Window appears. Click the Browse button and locate the watermark file, following the steps noted above in the Watermarking section.
  7. Click OK then Save the Action.

Tip: Save your code masks in a location that won’t change
Since the watermark function in Acrobat references a specific code mask file, if you rename it or change the location. you’ll get an error message. Save the file in a location and leave it alone . . .


Running the Action

Running the Code Obfuscation Action is simple!

  1. Open the Tools panel in Acrobat and then open the Actions Wizard section
  2. Click the Code Obfuscation Action
    Picture of running the Code Obfuscation action
  3. Click Add Files button and add the files you wish to process.

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