Acrobat and Word for Commenting Part 2: Export PDF Comments Back to Word
In Part 1 of this article, I wrote about exporting comments in a Microsoft Word document to a PDF file with comments when using Acrobat PDFMaker. When converting Microsoft Office files to PDF documents it is important, possibly even critical, to preserve as much information from the source as possible, and to have the option to be selective about it: Acrobat PDFMaker can help you there.
But the really productive part is after you have received comments from others on a PDF version of the document, possibly via a Shared Review. That is the time you will want to apply – or integrate – the changes to the source Word document: you got it, Acrobat can help you out here too by exporting PDF comments from Acrobat back to Word.
[As I stated in Part 1, this method applies only to supported versions of Microsoft Word on Windows. Apologies to my Mac brothers and sisters.]
Before you get started, I suggest opening the PDF file with comments, going through the feedback and suggested changes from reviewers. This is so you ca determine what is exported to Word and then integrated for you [this is optional, but will save you some time later if you have a lot of suggested changes, some of which you know won't be integrated]. You can do one or both of the following:
- Marking the valid ones with a checkmark by right-clicking the comments and choosing “Mark with Checkmark” or just clicking the checkbox to the left of the comments in the Comment List of the Comments Navigation Panel. Note that this checkmark won’t appear in the document when viewed by others. Otherwise…
- Right-click on a comment and choose “Set Status > Review” and either “Accepted” or “Rejected”. You can also do this from the Comments List. Others will see this status for the comment as part of the review.
With that done, let’s get to work…
Export PDF Comments From Acrobat to Word
To get started, choose Comments > Export Comments to Word… in Acrobat, or if you have the Comments list open, choose Export Comments to Word… from the Comments List Options button.
What this will do is launch Microsoft Word, if it isn’t open already, and now that you are there, open the “Import Comments from Adobe Acrobat” wizard [I know, I know, that's not the exact title of this article, but it is the same thing really]. If you are already in Word, or have the original DOC/DOCX document open, you can also go to the Acrobat ribbon (or menu) and choose “Import Comments from Acrobat…” under “Acrobat Comments”.
If you haven’t been through this before, a screen of instructions will appear first: click OK to continue. You will then see one of three possible scenarios, depending on how you launched the wizard:
- If you are coming from Acrobat in this step, the PDF file you had open before with all the comments will be shown under “Take comments from this PDF file:”.
- If you launched the wizard from within Word and the source DOC/DOCX file was open, it will be listed under “Place comments in this Word file:”. By default, the wizard will look for a PDF file in the same folder and with the same file name, and if it finds it, lists that too. It’s assuming that PDF file is the one that has comments.
- If you got to the wizard from Word with no file open, both fields will be blank.
Whatever gets listed there for files, you can change it by clicking on the “Browse…” button.
You can then choose what you would like to import to Word:
- All Comments. This includes drawing markups such as polygons and callouts. If a comment or markup has a pop-up with text in it, then this will be made the text for the Word comment. The PDF comment or markup type, and the date that the comment was made, are also added to the Word comment text. For example, “Comment [08/21/09#3]:Highlight: The text from the pop-up.”
- All Comments with Checkmarks.This will only include comments and markup that you checked off using Acrobat’s Comments List, for example.
- Text Edits only: Insertions, Deletions and Replaces. This will just integrate the suggested changes to the Word document, and not just add the Text Edits as Word comments.
- Custom Filters, for the comments you would like to include and apply. With this option you can be choosy about what is imported and applied to the Word document, including which authors comments you would like incorporated. For example, you can specify that only comments and markup that you have checked and accepted be imported by the wizard. Everything else will be ignored.
Finally for this part, as you can see from the previous image, you can also instruct the wizard to turn on Word’s Track Changes feature so you can see what gets changed once the wizard has completed its task.
Once you are back at the start of the wizard, the real fun begins when you click the “Continue” button.
First, the wizard will go ahead and import all the PDF comments into the Word document (unless you filtered them using the options I mentioned before). You should see them over on the right hand side of the pages, as expected with Word comments, pointing to the location where they were originally added to the PDF file. You will get the best results here if the Word document was converted to a PDF file using Acrobat PDFMaker and was tagged, but it still works otherwise. The wizard will then report back on how many comments were imported to Word, breaking it up by Text Edits and Other Comments:
If you thought that was cool, just wait for the next part…Integrate Text Edits is the next optional step (click Cancel to skip it), and it does just what it says on the tin. The wizard will go through the imported insertion, deletion or replacement Text Edits comments, and apply those changes for you. Acrobat is even doing your work for you now!
You can apply or discard them one-by-one by clicking on the appropriate button. You can then either click “Next”, or check the “Automatically go to next” option, and the wizard will jump to the next Text Edit comment and move the dialog and document so you can see the highlighted area to be changed. If you know you want to apply them all because you have already checked and/or accepted them in Acrobat beforehand, go ahead and click “Apply All Remaining”.
You don’t have to use what you see in the “New Text” field. As you can see in this example, a typo was missed in the original Text Edit comment: I don’t believe the author of this document really wants to extol the virtues of causing unwanted and annoying color changes to garments, but would rather mention the commitment to environmentally responsible practices [granted, I am the one who made the mistake]. Just go ahead and type in to that field what the text should be, and that is what the wizard will use.
Once all the changes have been applied, the wizard wraps things up by giving you a final report on the text integrations it made, with a couple of tips for cleaning things up in your Word document via the Acrobat ribbon/menu, including merging tracked changes and deleting comment bubbles.
Now think back to what you just read or tried yourself, and how you would have gotten to that same result before. If you were lucky to have two monitors, you may have the PDF and DOC/DOCX files open side-by-side and visually scanned from comment to comment applying those changes as you saw fit. If you had only one monitor, it was either a) very large or b) you are beginning to wear out your Alt and Tab keys on your keyboard. You may also have printed out the PDF document with comments, or the Comments Summary from Acrobat, and visually scanned that for changes to make [not very (su)stainable]. Either way, it was a process that was certainly slower than using Acrobat’s Export(Import) Comments command, and probably had a greater risk of introducing errors or missing important changes.
Give this real time-saver a try and see how it works out for you. Remember, for best results use a PDF document that was created from the same Word document using Acrobat PDFMaker – no refrigeration after opening required.