Posts tagged "acrobat"

Using Adobe CQ5 as a repository for Acrobat Shared Reviews

Acrobat has a great feature called Shared Reviews, which allows an Acrobat Pro user to send a PDF to one or more people for their comments while allowing each of the reviewers to see all of the comments that had been made by all of the other reviewers. While the default method in Acrobat 9 and X is to use Acrobat.com as the repository, it is possible to use another server, such as Adobe CQ5, as the repository.

In a shared review, Acrobat needs two things: a PDF that has been prepared to receive comments and share them with other reviewers, and a network location that all of the reviewers can access for storing the comments. In a Shared Review, the comments are stored in a comment repository that is disconnected from the PDF itself. Acrobat uses this methodology so that it can always check with the repository to determine whether there are new comments that have been added to the PDF while you were away from it. It is very important that the repository be in a network location that is accessible to everyone, and that means using a WebDAV server. Why WebDAV? WebDAV shares use a path that looks the same on all operating systems, which is not the case for a SMB, AFP, or other operating system specific file system protocols. In addition, it is not necessary to mount the remote volume in order to communicate with it, since WebDAV has a number of file system access features that can be used through standard web calls. Acrobat knows this, so it does not need to mount the repository in order to use it for shared reviews.

To begin, we need to create a folder in CQ5 that will act as the repository for reviews. It is important that this repository be somewhat obfuscated to the casual user, so it is good to put it inside of a universal access folder that sits inside of an admin access folder. For instance, if I made a top level folder in the DAM called acrobat_reviews and inside of that another folder called repository, I would set the permissions on acrobat_reviews so that only the administrators can see it, and I would set the permissions on the repository folder so that everyone can read and write. You can also create a folder elsewhere in the repository that’s not in /var/dam. This is handy because it prevents Adobe Drive users from seeing the repository at all when they mount CQ DAM through Adobe Drive. Of course, you will want to consult your CQ system administrator to ensure that your repository location and permissions abide by your corporate policies.

Create a new folder in CRXDE LiteLet’s create a folder outside of CQ DAM and use it as our repository for Acrobat shared reviews. You will need a CQ5 Author instance to which you have administrative access and Acrobat X or a version of Acrobat that supports shared reviews. First, open up CRXDE Lite. You can create a folder other ways, but using CRXDE Lite is quick and only requires a web browser.

Navigate to the root of your CQ system, right-click on the root, and choose Create>Create Folder.

Name that folder acrobat_reviews. Right click on “acrobat_reviews” and choose Create>Create Folder again, and then name this new folder “repository”. The path bar should now show /acrobat_reviews/repository.

You’re not done yet, though, because the changes to the repository haven’t been written. You must click the “Save All” button to save the repository changes.

Now, let’s set permissions for the folders. Recall that we want to forbid access to the acrobat_reviews folder but allow access to the repository folder. In this example, we will use the user known as anonymous. You might want to use your LDAP or Active Directory groups to govern access, for instance, assuming that you have connected your LDAP or Active Directory system to your CQ instance. To set permissions, we need to use the CQ User Manager, otherwise known as CQ Security. Return to your CQ author instance landing page and click the User Manger. Double click the Anonymous user and click the Permissions tab.

Click the plus sign to the left of acrobat_reviews to show its subfolders. Leave the permissions on the acrobat reviews alone, and set the permissions on the repository to Read, Modify, Create and Delete as shown.

Click the Save link above the Path column heading to save the permission changes.

Now, we’re ready to use CQ as a repository for our Acrobat X Shared reviews.

In Acrobat X, open a PDF you want to send for Shared Review and click the Comment button to open the Comment Pane. Click the Send for Shared Review button, and then choose “Automatically collect comments on my own internal server” and click Next.

Choose the Web Server folder option. Enter the full URL to your repository. In my example, my repository is operating on my laptop and is running on port 4502. The URL to the repository is therefore http://localhost:4502/acrobat_reviews/repository. You will need to know your server URL and active port to the author instance in order to enter your own information, though. Click Next and Acrobat will prompt you for your credentials to access the repository. I used the Anonymous user, so I enter anonymous (lower case “a”) for the user and leave the password blank. If you click Save this Information, then the userid and password will be saved in Acrobat’s keychain. Each user who accesses the review will have to enter their own credentials. For groups, therefore, it makes sense to use groups to control access to the folder and therefore provide at least userid and password access to the reviews. Acrobat will create and delete a test file on the server, after which it will prompt you to choose how to send the review notification to reviewers.

You can choose to send the file with your default email application or send it later. If you are on a Mac, Acrobat looks for Microsoft Entourage, so if you aren’t using Entourage, then you might have trouble sending email from Acrobat on your Mac. In that case, save the file to attach to email later. On Windows, Acrobat supports more email clients. In any case, test to ensure that Acrobat supports your email client. If you decide to allow Acrobat to create the email, there are two options. You can choose to send the PDF as an attachment or as a link in the email message. Pick one, click Next, and then enter a name for your Server Profile. This will allow you to reuse these settings when you start Shared Reviews later.

Once you send the file to someone for review, they will need to be able to access the server, so be sure that the server URL is accessible to all of the reviewers. When a reviewer opens the PDF, they will login to the server, add comments, and then post them to the repository for other reviewers to see.

Because of its built-in WebDAV and easy to configure security, CQ5 is a great technology for Shared Review and Forms Data Collection workflows.

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Form Field Flattening in Acrobat X

While at Adobe MAX last week, I was asked how a user could flatten form fields with Acrobat X. Flattening form fields means removing the form fields themselves and placing the data onto the PDF as regular items. This is a common request for folks who want to “lock down” a form without using password protection.

A person who overheard the request chimed in with “just print it to a new PDF!” While correct, printing to PDF to flatten form fields is not optimal. If there are any transparent art elements in the PDF, for instance, they will be replaced with non-transparent “flattened” artwork. Any interactive content will also be removed and replaced with poster frames, if available. What, then, are we to do if we want to keep our PDF just like it was, but without any form fields?

Acrobat Pro can automatically preflight PDF documents using a robust and configurable preflighting engine. In addition, since Acrobat 8, it can also apply what are known as fixups to PDFs in addition to preflighting. Preflight profiles in Acrobat often contain only fixups, and we’ll use one of these fixups now.

With a PDF open, open the Tools pane and open the Action Wizard panel. Next, we need to create a new Action. Click the Create New Action button to open the Create New Action dialog.

 

The Action Wizard allows you to schedule a series of steps from a pre-determined pool of steps on one or more PDFs. All of these steps get bundled into an Action, which you can start by clicking the Action’s name in the Action Wizard panel. We’ll name our new Action later. First, we need to determine on what the Action will act. By default, Acrobat will start with A File Open in Acrobat. This will use the currently open file as the target for the Actions that are about to take place. You can also choose other sources, such as a file or folder to which you would browse, a scanner, or even let the user decide at the start. I’ll keep the default setting, since I want to be able to flatten form fields in a PDF that I am completing.

The Action Wizard allows you to provide instructions to users as well, and it’s a good idea to let the user know what’s going to happen. Click Add Instruction Step to add an instruction step. Enter a title for this step and also the text that will show in the dialog. I included the following: “This Action will flatten form fields in the PDf that’s open in Acrobat. It will not flatten form fields in an XFA (LiveCycle) PDF. When complete, it will save a new PDF with the word flattened inserted before the .pdf extension” Click Save to close the dialog.

Having given our user instructions, we can now choose the sequence of events. For this Action, we want to execute a Preflight profile. Acrobat X comes with a wide assortment of Preflight profiles, some of which contain only fixups. The one we want is called Flatten Form Data. To choose a Preflight Profile, open the More Tools panel and then click Preflight, which is at the top of the list. A Preflight step will now appear in the list under Action Start. To configure which Preflight Profile will be executed, click the Options button in the Preflight step. Having chosen the Flatten Form Data Preflight Profile, click Safe to save the step.

The last thing we need to do is to configure how the flattened PDF will be saved. I want the flattened PDF to go in the same folder as the original PDF, but with a new name to indicate that it has been flattened. To the right of Save To:, click the menu and choose Same Folder Selected at Start. Then, click the Options button to open the Output Options dialog. Choose Add to original file names: and enter “_flattened” into the Insert After field. Ensure that the output format is set to Save File(s) As Adobe PDF, and then click OK to close the dialog. You can choose to Overwrite existing files if you wish; it will not affect the original form.

Having configured the Action, it’s time to save so that we can use it. Click Save, and enter a name for the Action. I called mine “Flatten Form Fields” and entered the text from our alert dialog as the description. Click Save to save the Action, which will make it available in your Action Wizard panel.

To use the Action, open a PDF with Acrobat form fields that contain data. In the Action Wizard panel, click the name of your new Action. You will be reminded of what’s about to happen, and then you can click Next to proceed. You can choose not to show this Actions dialog again. Next, Acrobat will pop up our custom alert, and when you click Next, Acrobat will flatten the form data and save the new PDF. This new PDF will have all form data flattened onto page content and all fields will be removed. This is a great example of how Actions in Acrobat X can help get complex or obscure jobs done quickly and easily.

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Establishing Trust in an ad hoc Electronic Signature Workflow with Acrobat

I had a customer ask me about why signatures in their PDFs that they had signed with Acrobat would not verify. Doing a little digging, it became apparent that while the group had created and begun using signatures in Acrobat, they had not established trust within the group.

An electronic signature, like a pen-and-ink signature, is only as good as your belief that the signature is genuine. In a paper workflow, we can witness someone applying their mark to the paper. We use ink because it is hard to remove from the paper. How, then, do we trust an electronic signature when we can’t witness the signature being applied to the PDF?

There are several mechanisms to establish and maintain trust in the context of Adobe PDF workflows. In this article, we’ll look at the ad hoc signature workflow. In order to for a signature workflow to work, we need two elements: signatures and Identities. In this workflow, all of the parties create electronic signatures and Identities with Acrobat, and all of the parties must exchange Identities in advance of using the signatures.

Digital Identities

In Acrobat X, signatures depend on digital identities, so we must start with creating an identity. When you have a document open, you can click on the Tools panel and then choose Sign & Certify>More Sign & Certify>Security Settings… At any time, you can find these controls under Edit>Protection>Security Settings…

Note: Click on these or any of the following images to view them full size.

You create a Digital Identity in the Security Settings Panel. A Digital Identity is a file that contains information specific to you, such as your name, email address, and company contact information. In addition, it contains half of a key that can be used to decrypt content that you have encrypted. This is important, because the person with whom you are sharing a signed PDF needs this key in order to be able to decrypt your signature and verify that you are who you say you are. Without this key, we don’t have trust in the workflow, so the key is how we establish this trust.

Let’s make a Digital Signature. In the Digital Signatures panel, click the Add ID button and then choose A new digital ID I want to create now and then click Next.

Now, you need to enter your personal information, select an encryption strength, and also make a choice about how you’ll be using this ID. In this example, I have entered my personal information, chosen my region, and have chosen 2048-bit RSA encryption. The default is 1024-bit RSA for backwards compatibility, but in this age of WikiLeaks and other data security compromises, I’ll opt for more modern protection. I’ve also chosen to use this digital ID for Digital Signatures and for Data Encryption. This is the default setting, but you can choose to use this ID exclusively for either Digital Signatures or Data Encryption.

 

A note about Unicode Support: if you need to use this signature in a region that uses Unicode characters, such as many parts of the Middle East and Asia, then you will want to enable Unicode support here as well. Enabling Unicode Support will expose another set of fields that allow you to enter Unicode data in addition to the Western characters.

Having made your choices, click Next.

Now, choose your password. This is a tricky business, since once you create the signature, you will need to know this password in order to use it. Ah, yes, in order to use it, you need to know its key to entry. This protects you from anyone else using the signature to impersonate you. To this end, choose a strong password. Acrobat X provides a thermometer that lets you know how strong your password is, or how hard it would be to guess. It bases this strength on a number of factors, including use of upper and lower case, use of special characters, apparent randomness of the string, and length of the string.

 

When you’re done, click Finish to complete the ID creation process, then close the Security Settings panel.

Establishing trust

Now that we have an ID, we can share it with people with whom we want to exchange signed documents. In a paper workflow, we can compare an ink signature against a government-issued ID, such as a passport or a driver’s license. In an electronic signature workflow, we exchange Digital IDs in advance of exchanging signed documents. This establishes the trust between the participants and allows Acrobat to verify the signatures on documents as having come from trusted sources.

There are several ways to exchange Digital IDs in Acrobat X, and I’ll focus on the two easiest ways to do it.

Let’s pause a moment to consider what’s being shared when you export an ID. An ID is an encrypted token that contains your personal information. The encryption scheme depends on two very large prime numbers. When you encrypt a signature (or any electronic content), the encryption routines use the key in your ID to do the encryption. Under this scheme, if someone has one of your two prime numbers, known as a public key, they can use it to decode your encrypted content. Sharing the public part of your ID is critical to establishing trust, because it enables the person with whom you are exchanging signatures to read the encrypted information in your signature.

Having that out of the way, let’s go back to the workflow. From the Security Settings panel, choose the ID you want to share and then click the Export button.

Here you’ll have to decide whether you want to email the ID to someone or save it somewhere on your computer. If you choose to email, then Acrobat will compose an email containing instructions as to how to import the ID. It will also include the ID as an attachment to the email. If you choose to save to a file, then Acrobat will save the ID as a file to the location of your choice. You will then be able to send it to whomever needs it without having to return to Acrobat. Make a choice, and click Next.

Acrobat creates an email message that explains what to do with the attached ID

In either case, Acrobat exports the ID as an FDF file. The recipient just needs to double click on the FDF file to install in either Reader or Acrobat.

You can also request that someone send you their ID. In Acrobat X, click on Sign & Certify>More Sign & Certify>Manage Trusted Identities and then choose Request Contact…

Enter your name, email address and phone number. Enable the Include my Certificates option, and choose Email request. Then, click Next…

In the following screen, select the ID you want to send and click Next. Then, enter the email address of the person with whom you want to exchange IDs. Click Send for Acrobat to compose the email and send it with your computer’s email program.

Making your digital mark

Now that we have created an ID and established trust, it is time to sign a document.

Open the PDF you want to sign. This PDF could be a PDF with a special form field for signatures or it could be a document with no signature field. If you have permission to sign the document, then you will be able to apply an electronic signature. The Sign & Certify panel has several options in it, including Sign Document and Place Signature. There is a subtle difference between these options: if the document is an electronic form and there is an existing signature field, then Sign Document will put the signature into the signature field. If there is no signature field on the document, then it behaves the same as Place Signature. Place Signature asks you to draw a box on the PDF where you’d like the signature to be.

Note: There is also an option called Apply Ink Signature, but that makes an annotation that looks like you signed the document with a pen. It is not an electronic signature like we’ve been discussing up to now and should not be used in an electronic signature workflow unless both parties agree that the annotation-type signature is acceptable as a signature. I want to take advantage of the work we’ve put in up to now, so we’ll be talking about Signing and Placing a Signatures.

I’ll assume that you are signing a document that does not have a signature field. Choose Sign & Certify>Place Signature. Acrobat will ask you to draw a box where you want the signature to go. Once you release the mouse from drawing the box, you’ll be able to determine which ID to use and also how the signature looks.

Choose the ID you want to use from the Sign As drop-down menu. Choose the ID that you used when you established trust earlier and enter the password for that ID.

You have options as to how the signature will appear on the document. By default, Acrobat includes your name and some of your personal information from the certificate. It is common to add a photo or scan of an ink signature to an electronic signature. To change the appearance, click on the Appearance menu and choose Create New Appearance…

Enter a name for the new appearance and configure the graphic option. You can have no name, choose to show your name, or choose the Imported graphic option and then browse to an image file. You can select just about any image file type that Acrobat can convert to PDF and have it appear in the signature. In this example, I chose a jpeg. You can also enable or disable different fields from the certificate. Make your choices and click OK.

When you have set all of your options, then you can click the Sign button to sign the document. You must save the signed PDF immediately. You may want to establish a naming convention for your signed documents, such as original_filename_SIGNED.pdf for signed PDFs. Having saved the PDF, you are done.

Final appearance of the digital signature with image

Final appearance of the digital signature with image

Note: If you are the last person in the workflow who needs to sign a document, then you may want to lock the document after you sign it. You can enable that option before you apply the signature.

Once signed, you can validate signatures in the Signature panel. This panel appears in any PDF that has a signature applied. You can also hover your mouse over a signature, and the tooltip will tell you whether the signature is valid. You can also click on a signature to check its validity.

There are times when you would want to remove a signature from a document. If you are the signer, then you can right-click on the signature and choose Clear Signature from the contextual menu.

Extending signature workflows to Reader users

You can include Reader users in your signature workflow by saving your PDF as a Reader Extended PDF. From the File menu, choose Save As>Reader Extended PDF>Enable Additional Features… A notice will appear letting you know what features will be enabled for Reader. Click Save Now to save the Reader Extended PDF. Give the Reader Extended PDF a name like original_name_Reader_Extended.pdf.

Conclusion

Once you create a Digital ID, then you can establish trust with someone else and exchange signed documents with them. Remember that you’ll need to establish trust by exchanging IDs with the other person in order to validate signatures.

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