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Acrobat and Word for Commenting Part 1: Export Word Comments to PDF

Adobe Acrobat 9 has review and markup capabilities. Microsoft Word 2007 has review and markup capabilities. Having said that, I am not going to go into a lengthy discussion of how one application excels in these capabilities over the other [phew!]. They are both great at what they are intended to do, and you can use both workflows together to help review cycles go that much smoother.

So how could you use them together? As expected, Microsoft Word can be used for seeing what’s changed as you author the document and go through versions, and Acrobat to gather feedback from one or more reviewers where they all the see the same thing, including other reviewers comments, without changing things in the document and without having to buy additional software. As you go through review cycles and various iterations of the document, you can incorporate comments and markup between the DOC/DOCX and PDF files, as well as have Acrobat apply the suggested and accepted changes for you back in to the source.

I have split these tips in to two entries: first up, going from Word to Acrobat…

[I am using Microsoft Word 2007 for these tips, but you can certainly use earlier supported versions of Word too. Sorry my Mac brothers and sisters who use Office 2008: this doesn’t apply to you. You can skip over this blog entry, but there are lots of others you can read instead.]

Export Comments From Word to PDF

If you already have comments in the source Word document, you can include those in the resulting PDF file that you send out for review.

First go into your Acrobat PDFMaker Preferences, either from the Acrobat ribbon in Word 2007, or the Acrobat menu in an earlier version of Word. Click on the Word tab. Select “Convert displayed comments to notes in Adobe PDF” (it’s deselected by default).

Once you have checked that off, you can then be more selective about what is converted to sticky notes in the PDF file. For each reviewer you can:

  • set whether to include their comments in the resulting PDF file
  • decide whether the notes should be open or not in the PDF file
  • choose the color the sticky notes will be (keep clicking the colored note to cycle through some standard colors)


Click OK to set the preferences (remember that PDFMaker preferences are sticky and will be used the next time you create a PDF file from Word this way). When you create the PDF file by clicking on the Create PDF button on the Word ribbon/toolbar (don’t create the PDF by printing to the Adobe PDF in this case), you will get a PDF file with the notes placed where you originally clicked to add a Word comment.

Acrobat will use the user name as configured in Word’s options as the Author for the PDF note. The note Subject will be empty as there is no equivalent in Word comments. And Accept and Reject are not flags in Word as they are in Acrobat – accepting a Word comment just keeps it in the document – so that is also ignored.

I have to thank the Acrobat engineering for also remembering to set the opacity of the notes in the resulting PDF to 30%, otherwise the notes would be covering all the text!

Note that if you send out the document for a Shared Review, these comments will have a new Author (whoever initiated the review) with “On behalf of…” added to the note pop-up text.



[It’s the little details that Acrobat 9 has that I personally love and that make all the difference.]

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article where I walk you through exporting PDF comments from Acrobat back to Word, and have Acrobat apply edits for you.

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