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October 10, 2008

How Do I Add A Custom Stamp, Without Actually Creating a Custom Stamp?

That sounds a bit like a paradox, doesn’t it? But metaphysics aside, it is a valid question. What if you want to add a custom stamp to a document just for one-time use, without having to configure a custom stamp in Acrobat itself?

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October 01, 2008

Could you step aside, please, I can’t see!

Last week I was lucky enough to give four classes and a keynote (sounds like a movie title to me) at the Acrobat and PDF Central Conference 2008 in Minneapolis, MN. One of the sessions I attended was on Comment and Review Best Practices, which was very well presented by Keith Gilbert of Gibert Consulting. He shared some great tips for marking up documents efficiently which I hope to write about some more. One of the suggestions he had was to make sure that Callout Tool text box should NOT be placed on top of page content as you cannot see what’s underneath it.

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August 25, 2008

Neat Article: Enabling Commenting of SWF Content in Acrobat 9

Adobe’s PDF Technical Evangelist, Joel Geraci, has written a great article on how to review and markup Flash content in a PDF document using Acrobat 9.

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July 21, 2008

“A shortcut is the longest distance between two points.”

Or so someone once said. Another person also said that “there are no shortcuts to Life’s greatest achievements.” Well, getting everyone’s feedback on time and easily so I can achieve my writing goals and deadlines is an achievement for me, and I use some shortcuts – of the keyboarding kind, that is. Here are some you can use right away with the commenting tools in Acrobat or Reader (when the document is enabled for commenting).

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June 30, 2008

Deadlines for Shared Reviews: Now When I Say Stop, You Just Stop!

I was just going through my hard drive cleaning out old files. A severe thunderstorm just went through and knocked out our cable connection, so I had to do that instead of wasting time shopping for things I do not need. (Luckily it was after the Germany – Spain UEFA Euro 2008 Cup Final – ¡Viva España!) I noticed how many “review versions” of draft documents I had eating up my hard drive space. Which is quite a coincidence, as someone at an Acrobat event I was speaking at this past week asked me if there was a way to control which version of a draft document was being reviewed by others.

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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…


Watch this video to see how it works in action…

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • It uses In case you missed the news, 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’s servers to handle the communication between clients. 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 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, 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.


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.


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.


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 09, 2008

These Stamps Are All Sticky!

I recently wrote an article on creating custom sticky notes by using Custom Stamps in Acrobat. You should check it out. It was a good one. Or so my mother told me.

Anyway, just today someone asked me the question about how to have a toolbar with buttons for the custom stamps they created. This would make it easier for users in the organization to access and use the custom markup. Although this is technically possible to do using the Acrobat API, Acrobat JavaScript, or easier yet with the fantastic AcroButtons from WindJack Solutions, it’s worth taking a look back at the Stamps Palette. I’m all for doing things in as few steps as possible. 🙂

To get to the Stamps Palette, open the Comment & Markup Toolbar, then click the arrow next to the Stamp Tool and choose “Show Stamps Palette”. From there, choose your favorite category of stamps from the drop-down list at the top of the palette.


Why I am telling you something you can get right from Acrobat Help? The part you may not know is that the last category you chose is sticky. Not sticky like jam trousers, but that whatever state you leave the palette in here when you quit Acrobat, it will be the same the next time you launch the app and open the palette.

You can also make your favorite stamp the default for all stamps – that is, the first choice when you click on the Stamp tool in the Comment & Markup toolbar. Choose the stamp, custom or built-in, and add it to a PDF page. Set things up just so, then right-click the stamp and choose “Make Current Properties Default”. The last stamp and settings will be the one used from now on – until you change the selection again.

Now where did I put those useless jam trousers…?

April 08, 2008

Formatting a Text Box

The Text Box Tool, part of the drawing comments on the Comment and Markup Tools toolbar, allows you to draw, well, a box with text in it. At first glance it’s not immediately obvious that you have full control over the formatting of the text in it, as well as the box it’s in. But you do, actually. This applies to Acrobat 8 and earlier.

To format the text, select what you want changed, then press Ctrl+E (Windows) or Cmd+E (Mac). That will open Acrobat’s Properties Bar. From here you can choose font, weight, color, size, alignment, underline, strikethrough and super-/subscript attributes.


To format the box itself, click on the border to select the box (you’ll see the corner grab handles) then right-/ctrl-click and choose Properties… Or you can use the Properties Bar again: it’s context sensitive, and clicking on the box border will now give you the options to set fill and border color, line style, and opacity.


The Properties Bar comes to life during other tasks in Acrobat. I’ll let you discover those on your own.

March 21, 2008

Custom Sticky Notes Using Custom Stamps

An forum member posed the question:

I can’t figure out how to change the size of the sticky note icon. Is it possible to change the size of the icon? I can change the size the the sticky note it’s self, but not the icon.

The (correct) response from forum moderator Lori Kassuba was:

You cannot change the size of the sticky note icon only the size of the pop-up.

This got me thinking…if you would like to have a resizable sticky note, and you can’t use the built-in Sticky Note, why not create your own using Acrobat’s Custom Stamps?

Stamp annotations can be resized and rotated, and have their own pop-ups for you to enter text in to. Sound like a good idea to you? Then read on to learn how to create your own if you haven’t done that before. These instructions apply to Acrobat 8, but work similarly in previous versions.

First of all, create your customer stamp in whatever application you prefer to use, or find one online that you are legally allowed to use (in this case, I’m gratefully using one from the Simplistica Icon Set at

You can either convert that stamp to PDF, if it isn’t already. Or if it’s one of the file formats that Acrobat can convert directly, just keep it in that format.

Now in Acrobat, open the Manage Custom Stamps dialog box by clicking on the Review & Comment taskbar button and choosing Comment and Markup Tools > Stamps > Manage Stamps… You can also get to this command from the Stamp tool drop-down menu on the Review & Comment toolbar or from the Comments menu.


Once that is open click “Create” and browse to your PDF or image containing your customer stamp for your custom sticky note.

After clicking OK a couple of times, the Create Custom Stamp dialog will open. You can reselect the image for stamp. I assume you don’t change your mind that quickly, so we’ll skip that and go to straight to setting the Category and Name.


The Category is a good way to organize custom stamps. Although you can choose one of the existing ones in Acrobat, I suggest creating your own category. In this case I’ve created a new category called “My Stamps” by typing in to the field.

The Name is very important. Use a short but descriptive name: luckily when you go to choose your custom stamp in the future Acrobat will present a preview of it, so you don’t have to be too explicit.

If the image you chose was a large, high-resolution one, Acrobat gives you the option to downsample it so it’s smaller and easier to manage.


Once you’ve clicked OK a couple more times, you’ll be able to use your new stamp. The easiest way to do is to use the Stamps Palette. Else, just select it from the Stamp Tool drop-down list and click on the page.

To resize it, click on the stamp once, and then click and drag out (or in) one of the corner handles. To rotate it, grab the handle at the top, click and drag it to the left or the right. Finally to add a pop-up note, just like the built-in Sticky Note, double-click the custom stamp.


Having fun with reviewing PDF documents now? Oh, we’ve only just begun!

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