« Custom Sticky Notes Using Custom Stamps | Main | Formatting a Text Box »

Why Shared Reviews?

We already had browser-based reviews from Acrobat 5.0, and then email-based reviews in Acrobat 7.0. So why do we now have Shared Reviews to deal with too?

A good question! It is an important one to consider if you are looking at standardizing on a way to conduct reviews on documents as quickly and as pain-free as possible.

If you are not familiar with Shared Reviews, then I am sorry to say this is not the blog entry to find out. But don’t stop reading! There are lots of good articles and tutorials on the subject, including a video tutorial yours truly created last year, posted on this page, and an article on this very subject here from 2006 with Randy Swineford, Acrobat Product Manager.

So why are Shared Reviews the way to go…?

  1. You do not need Acrobat 8 to be a reviewer. That reason alone could justify the cost of Acrobat 8 Professional or Acrobat 3D Version 8, as those are the software applications you need to initiate a Shared Review AND enable the document for commenting and markup in the free Adobe Reader 8. Basically, it means virtually anyone can participate in a review cycle. Note, Acrobat 8 Standard can initiate a Shared Review, but it does not have the Reader-enablement goodness.
  2. The PDF document can be distributed anyway you like. Via the web. To an email list. From a network folder. On your childs iPod. It does not matter. It is a totally flexible workflow, because all the information that Acrobat or Adobe Reader need to participate in a Shared Review is baked in to the PDF document itself (at 400 degrees fahrenheit for 35 minutes, in case you were wondering). Whether you open the PDF locally in Acrobat or Adobe Reader directly, or within Internet Explorer, Firefox Windows or Safari, you can go ahead and give your feedback.
  3. You can get feedback from people almost instantaneously. Shared Reviews work by uploading comments to a Shared Location: a network share, a WebDAV folder (such as Apple’s .mac iDisk), or a Microsoft Sharepoint Workspace. Other reviewers can see what everyone else is saying by reading those comments from the shared location. And Acrobat and Reader 8’s Tracker And Shared Reviews Welcome screen also read those comments so that they can show who has responded and how many comments have been made.
  4. You can work online or offline. Unlike browser-based reviews which required you to be online at all times to submit and view comments, Shared Reviews cache the comments you add to the document until you tell Acrobat or Reader to publish them, or they get published automatically after a certain period of time (that is set in the Preferences, by the way). If you are working offline, the comments are cached in the PDF until you are back online and ready to publish. If you are disconnected, Acrobat or Reader will know it, cache your comments, and try to reconnect to the shared location to check for and publish only the new or updated comments. And if after all that you still cannot connect to the shared location server, Acrobat or Reader 8 will ask you a) if you would like to email your comments back to the initiator who can upload them on your behalf and b) if you would like to see ways to improve your social and professional status so that you always have access to the shared location server (kidding on that last one).
  5. Comments are tagged with metadata about you as a reviewer. Nothing too revealing (“this reviewer is currently participating in his pajamas” isn’t in there), but information such as name, email, and a time and date stamp are included. This has a couple of benefits: 1) everyone can see who said what and 2) other reviewers cannot change your comments. That last one is particularly important. If you want to comment on someone else’s comment, you can just reply in the pop-up for each comment or markup. It’s like social networking chat, but with a purpose.

If any one of the above reasons seem compelling to you, and if you have not tried a Shared Review in Acrobat 8, it may be time do so. It really is easy to start a Shared Review session, and even easier to participate. Grab a document you are working on right now, convert it to PDF, and send it for Shared Review using Acrobat 8 to someone you know will give you glowing-but-constructive feedback, no matter how bad your writing skills are. Have fun!


    Any reviewer can copy and paste the stamps or comments from any other reviewer. I can’t find any way to disable this capability, which allows folks to falsely add someone else’s “approved” stamp to other documents.

    [ALI’S REPLY: It is true that reviewers can copy and paste comments and the text within them. However, with Shared Reviews, that newly pasted annotation will be tied to the person with the name and email address they used to join the Shared Review, along with a time and date stamp. So if you see two comments that are the same, take a look at who added at it and when, and you will have a clue as to what’s going on. Note that you cannot change or delete another’s comments. And to be honest, if your reviewers are going to lengths to try to mimic someone else’s comments, you might want to consider sending them an email-based review separately, or excluding them completely.]

    I’ve been using Acrobat for Shared Reviews for years, and I update review comments with the Set Status tool religiously, but I’ve never understood the meaning or purpose of the Migration and Review menu items. I use Review>Completed or Review>Rejected to mark comments I’ve acted on or rejected, and I use Review>Accepted for comments I act on but in a different way from what may have been suggested. I never use Canceled (how is that different from Rejected?) or any of the three Migration options. Are these documented anywhere, or is this a mystery feature only for Adobe insiders?

    [ALI’S RESPONSE: Glad to hear you have been using Shared Reviews, Jim. I will be writing an article on these flags and how they are used with the “migrate comments” command soon. But for now, there’s nothing secret about them. In fact, continue to use them as flags to help you track the status of reviewing comments from others. Stay tuned.]

    Sorry for the late post. I hope you can help me. I am trying to use Acrobat 8 to perform shared reviews using a network folder.

    After I click Finish in the wizard, the process freezes. Nothing else happens. The review is not created.

    I do have read/write permission on the network folder. I am using Acrobat 3D version 8.1.4.

    Do you know how I can fix this?

    Thank you,

    [ALI’S REPLY: Sorry for the delay in posting these comments – Adobe recently updated our blogging system. Anyway, you need to be able to read, write and delete files to the folder. Ensure you have full access to the folder’s contents. Also, try a different folder or new sub folder just as a trouble shooting step to see if that works.]

    How to automatically enable Shared Review?

    We are starting to use Adobe Shared Reviews for our workflow. We write our own in-house tools to do much of our workflow and document management. We want to start a shared review without going through the normal GUI interface – I.E. we want to automate starting the review from within our own in-house developed tool. Is there a way to do this? Are there command line arguments that make it possible? Are there scripts or other methods to automate starting a Shared Review that can be called from third-party tools (mainly our own)?

    [ALI’S REPLY: There is no way to automate the initiation of shared reviews. However, there is a collaboration API to create custom review repositories: check the online collaboration documentation on http://www.adobe.com/devnet/acrobat – it was created for Acrobat 8, but is still relevant for Acrobat 9]

    We’ve had excellent results using shared review, but now there’s a problem we can’t solve.

    Some users who could open a shared review pdf no longer can. They can open the pdf, but as a normal pdf, not shared. I can’t find any reason why this has stopped working for some users.


    Is it possible that a deadline may have been applied on the PDF file sent for Shared Review? Also, check where the comments are being stored online, and whether the relevant Shared Review folder and comments are still there (if a web server, network share or SharePoint workspace).

    I’ve been sending email and shared reviews the last few years using Pro 8 on a shared Novell server. We can make it work but it’s completey non-intuitive to the poor reviewers themselves. When they publish comments it will tell them the comments couldn’t be published and for the reviewer to close the PDF they need to click NO I don’t want to publish, however the comments DO get published. Is this a Novell server mess-up?

    I keep running into problems using shared reviews. The latest, like Bill above, is the shared file is opening as a regular pdf for some, but other participate successfully. I am using Acrobat Professional 9 and Sharepoint to create the shared review. Users have Adobe Reader 8.0 or 9.0 or Acrobat. The ones having the problem have Internet Explorer 8.0. Others successfully using the shared review have Internet Explorer 6.0. I’m guessing the problem has to do with the version of Internet Explorer. I think shared review is really nice to use and those who can use it love it, but I need to be able to rely on it consistently across the company. Any suggestions? Is there a setting I should have them change in IE 8?

      Hi Anita, thanks for the comment. I wonder if it’s because users are trying to open the original PDF file from the SharePoint library directly? Also, make sure they have the ability to read and write files to the SharePoint library.


    Have been happily using a shared review approach for PDF comments for about 2 years now, but have run into a server migration glitch this week. The local “shared” server where all of the archived comment server links were pointed toward was replaced with a new server . . . all the root folders and files were migrated and the XML files look okay to me? (sample included below)

    The issue mainfests as a call to work offline since the orginal server named in the Welcome Back screen under “Comment Server: xyz” cannot be located.

    Can we apply a system wide fix of some kind to re-direct the comment server associations? I am concerned that we have lost the archive of previous comments and may be unable to complete document reviews that were begun in advance of the Server Migtration, but were not yet consolidated for action.

    Thanks in advance for any insight you can share.

      [Lenny and I had been communicating off-blog on this topic. I meant to share the suggestions with everyone else sooner, so forgive me for the delay here]

      I received a couple of options from engineering. They are based on the fact that PDF files under shared review have the original server location URL stored inside them in JavaScript.

      1) Ask IT if they can create a redirect on the DOT’s internal DNS servers to reroute requests for the old server name and IP address over to the new one. This should work best, as the only thing that has changed is the server name – the path to the folder and file for the shared review is the same across the servers. That way, when the PDF file requests access to the old server, it should be redirected to the new one.
      2) Modify the JavaScript in the PDF file under shared review. I suggest trying this with a test file first, should you make a mistake.
      a. Open the file under shared review that is pointing to the older server.
      b. Choose File > Save a copy… and give the file a new name. What this does is remove the Reader enablement so that you can make changes to the file.
      c. Open the copy. Choose Advanced > Document Processing > Document JavaScripts…
      d. There should be a couple of functions there. One will end in .register. Edit this function.
      e. Look for all occurrences of the old server name and replace with the new one.
      f. Save the PDF file. Close it. Reopen the file. See if it now syncs correctly with the new server.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Copyright © 2017 Adobe Systems Incorporated. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy and Cookies (Updated)