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Diff’rent Strokes

It has just occurred to me that I’ve been writing about commenting and electronic reviews of PDF documents, without sharing with you all the different ways you can actually conduct and tracks reviews with others. Silly me. Unless of course, you’d rather just give feedback to yourself – how constructive.

  • Manually email the document. Then add comments, email to the next person or back to the initiator. Old skool methodology. Nothing wrong with it. As long as you don’t mind having to deal with multiple files, merging all the comments together yourself, and not having any tracking tools – apart from your email inbox.
  • Email-based Reviews. Introduced with Acrobat 7.0, this tracks who you invite to a review by email, and makes it easier to merge comments that are emailed back from reviewers in to your single master document. But the exciting thing about this was that it was the first time Acrobat Professional had the ability to enable the document for commenting and analysis in the free Adobe Reader. Meaning you can work with virtually anyone. Think you have to start buying Acrobat for all those you want to collaborate with electronically? No sir!
  • Browser-based Reviews. Actually older than email-based reviews, it was introduced with Acrobat 5.0. Instead of the comments being stored in the PDF file itself, the comments are stored in and tracked from a central shared location: a Network Folder, a SharePoint workspace, a WebDAV folder, or a SOAP repository. The PDF is opened and commented on in a web browser. This way, everyone can see each others comments. It makes review cycles that much quicker as reviewers can add comments in parallel (rather than waiting for an email), and be more efficient as you’re not saying the same thing as someone else (unlike some meetings I’ve been in). The downside is that it requires Acrobat to participate, and some configuration of the reviewers Acrobat preferences (either manually or via an FDF file).
  • Shared Reviews. This is my document review method of choice since the introduction of Acrobat 8. It provides all the benefits of Browser-based Reviews in that the comments are stored in a shared location for all the reviewers to see and reply to. But it’s much easier to participate in a review. The document is enabled for comment and markup in the free Adobe Reader, meaning virtually anyone can participate: but they work in their browser, in Acrobat, online or offline. Acrobat or Reader will synchronize the comments as soon as you are connected again. For review initiators, Acrobat will track who has responded and how many comments have been added. See my entry on “Why Shared Reviews?” for more details.
  • Customized Collaboration Workflows. This is one you won’t find an option for in the box. But developers can create their own custom commenting and collaboration workflows and repositories for Acrobat using SOAP. It’s based on Browser-based Reviews, and has many additional benefits for developers. Interested? I suggest reading the excellent “Acrobat Online Collaboration: Setup and Administration” guide.

Like the sound of one or more of these workflows? Good! You’re about to take a step into a world where review cycles are fast, accurate, efficient and kinda fun. If you want to learn more, check out my video tutorials on Email-based and Shared Reviews.

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