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June 09, 2008

Commenting on Video: Your camera will still add 10 pounds of weight though

So, here’s the next area of Acrobat 9’s new collaboration features I’m really excited about…the ability to comment directly on video. But it’s more than just adding a sticky note to an embedded video clip…

Acrobat 9 will tie the comment or markup you add to the video to a frame and write the timecode in to the text pop-up.

Screen shot of commenting on an embedded video in Acrobat 9

Then, you click on a comment in the Comments pane at the bottom of the document window and jump back to that particular frame. To see it in action, click here to view a video tutorial.

Here’s why I am excited about this capability…

  1. You can use the same tools and methodologies you use already for text and images in a PDF document – no additional training required.
  2. You can enable the PDF for comment, markup and analysis in Acrobat 9 Pro and Acrobat 9 Pro Extended, and Reader 9 users can give their feedback on the video too.
  3. You can do exactly the same thing with embedded Flash content and essentially any video clip (that you have the rights to share).
  4. You can embed the video with other content – or a bunch of videos in a single file – and make all of it part of a Shared Review, say, as well as secure it to prevent changes or control access.

A few things to keep in mind though. For the Adobe Premiere Pro users reading this right now, this is not the same thing as Clip Notes. That is specifically for Premiere Pro-based workflows. The other important thing is that this is for Acrobat 9 and Reader 9 only, as it uses the new Rich Media Annotation type for embedded video and Flash.

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document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + gaJsHost + “google-analytics.com/ga.js’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”));

var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-3983211-1″);
pageTracker._initData();
pageTracker._trackPageview();

June 04, 2008

Synchronized Document Views: Look ma! No hands!

Feedback can never come fast enough, can it? We live in an age where we are overwhelmed with information, yet we still need more of it NOW! If you are that kind of person – whether you want to be or not – then Acrobat 9 has a capability for you: synchronized document views aka page view sharing. It’s a capability we are so excited about, we just had to call it by more than one name. ;)

Until you try this for yourself, the only way to really understand it is to see it in a real-world scenario.

Here’s a possible one…let’s say I’m an architect for a new office building. The project manager at my client’s location calls me, and leaves me a voicemail saying “Hey! We have a problem with the plans. Call me when you get this.” We’ve all received those messages before, right? So, you start leaving voicemails or sending emails to each other, never really understanding what the problem is or what to do about it. So frustrating. So unproductive. So 2007.

What I really want to do is to have my customer show me exactly where in the floor plan they have a problem, as if they were standing next to me moving my mouse, rubbing my back (this architect is very close to his clients). Only problem is they are on the other side of the country, and I have a meeting in 15 minutes with Mr. Trump about a major construction project. How can we control the view we have of the document right in Acrobat 9 or Reader 9 without having to go into an online or real meeting room, so I can find out where to make the change quickly and accurately?

This is where synchronized document views comes in. It literally allows you to share your view of a PDF document with up to 2 other friends at the same time. You are actually controlling the view of the PDF file in their installation of Acrobat 9 or Reader 9 (yes, Reader 9 users can participate too).

Here is one way you can get to the command…from the new Collaborate taskbar button in Acrobat 9…

sendcollablivemenu.gif

Watch this video to see how it works in action…

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • It uses Acrobat.com In case you missed the news, Acrobat.com is a set of online hosted services from Adobe for sharing and collaboration. It’s currently free (and a public beta), but page view sharing uses Acrobat.com’s servers to handle the communication between clients. Acrobat.com uses HTTPS and SSL, and the review initiator can control who can download the PDF document. But it is the only server you can use today for synchronized document views.
  • You need an Adobe ID to initiate. An Adobe ID is a way to authenticate yourself with Acrobat.com to enabled a document for Page View Sharing in Acrobat 9. If you don’t have one yet, you can get one right from within Acrobat 9 or Reader 9: it’s free, you sign up once, and the only information you need to provide includes your name, an email address, your password and the country you reside in. However, you do not need an Adobe ID to participate in page view sharing – you can just sign in as a guest.
  • You need Acrobat 9 to initiate. But you can participate in page view sharing using only Reader 9. It’s not available in previous versions of either application. But you’ll upgrade, right?!
  • It works with 3D content. It’s all about views. So if one of the participants changes the view of a 3D object in the PDF file, the others see the same 3D view. The implications for the manufacturing and AEC industry are huge for when it comes to rapid collaboration on documents.
  • Only three participants at a time. Keep this in mind when distributing your collaboration-enabled documents. Just you and two friends. What you show your friends is up to you…
  • It’s only for PDF documents in Acrobat 9 or Reader 9. This is not screen sharing. But if you need to share other application views, you can also the select the “Share My Screen…” from the new Collaborate Live panel, or from the Collaborate Taskbar button. This will open your free ConnectNow beta meeting room on Acrobat.com, and invite those two friends to join you in a desktop/application screen sharing session.

Which might bring up a good question…why not just use the screen sharing option that’s available? It’s a good discussion point, but one reason is that anyone who is participating in page view sharing can quickly and with minimal fuss share the view of the PDF file they have with others. It’s a conversation where everyone has a say and can contribute.

I think they call that collaboration, don’t they?!

May 23, 2008

Tell It Like It Is. Or How Marketing Wants You To Tell It

This has to be one of my favorite applications for the annotations in Acrobat 8, but has nothing to do with reviewing documents!

One of the most popular ways to publish and share content in the form of PowerPoint slides is as a PDF file. Makes sense, right? You can secure the file to prevent changes. Everyone sees exactly the same thing. You can include slide transitions and bullet-point animations. And more. But that’s all for another time and another blog.

Many presenters, eLearning content authors, and Adobe marketing types like to (always?) put speaker notes with the PowerPoint slides. This is as a guide, for ancillary information, or in the case of those Adobe marketing types, telling everyone else in the company what to say. But converting a PPT to a PDF used to mean that those notes would either be “lost” or have to “printed” to PDF separately. Not any more.

PDFMaker’s preferences for PowerPoint on Windows (sorry my Mac brethren) includes an option to “Convert Speaker notes to Text notes in Adobe PDF” under the Setting tab. You can get to this dialog box by either clicking on the “Preferences” button in PowerPoint 2007, or choosing “Change Conversion Settings” from the Adobe PDF menu in PowerPoint 2003 and earlier.

pdfmakersettings_notes.gif

Click OK and the settings will remain for future conversions. Now convert to PDF from PowerPoint using the PDFMaker buttons or the Adobe PDF menu, and take a look at the resulting PDF file in Acrobat.

What you will now see on every page that has speakers notes is a PDF Sticky Note in the top left of that page (my Mac brethren, you can now come back into this conversation). If you hover over that Note or double-click to open its pop-up, lo-and-behold, there are the speakers notes from PowerPoint.

presentation_notes.jpg

Now those notes will always appear on the page unless you delete or hide them all. The neat thing is that these notes are on a PDF Layer, whose view you can toggle on or off. Open the Layers Panel tab on the left of your Acrobat window and you will see a layer called “Background” and another called “Presentation Notes”. Just as you would do in other Adobe creative tools that use layers, click the eye icon to toggle the display of the layers on or off.

notes_layers.jpg

By the way, the Background layer will show and hide any background graphics you may have had in your PowerPoint design. That’s useful if you want to print the slides but don’t want to use up all that expensive ink when printing backgrounds – yes, layer visibility can affect printing too! Look at the detailed “Layer Properties” under the Layers Navigation Panel Options menu button.

It’s important to remember: Acrobat is not a replacement for tools like PowerPoint when it comes to creating presentations and eLearning content. However, it’s ideal when it comes to being able to share that interesting and engaging content reliably across computers, networks and devices. The ability to then use that content in meaningful ways as a PDF just makes it all the more valuable.

May 16, 2008

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.

March 28, 2008

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!

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