Posts in Category "Acrobat How-to’s"

Code Obfuscation for Patent and Court Filings

If your firm does IP work for technology companies, or is involved in cases involving software source code, you may be obliged to submit your client’s source code to the USPTO, a court or third party.

Since source code is considered a trade secret, most regulatory agencies use a "50%" rule. Source code submitted is obscured so that it cannot be used as-is.

Picture showing obfuscated codeThis process, referred to as code obfuscation, protects your client from disclosure of their valuable software source code.

Curiously, some law firms use a paper-based process for this. One law firm I visited created a series of diagonal bars on transparency film, then photocopied thousands of pages.

As you can guess, that workflow was time-consuming and expensive.

Fortunately, the process is easy to automate in Acrobat X. Not only can we hide the code, we can completely delete the hidden code so it can never be recovered.

Step 1: Create a Code Mask

A Code Mask is an overlay on your document which hides the underlying text or images. The mask must have transparent areas where codes shows through and opaque areas which hide the text. You can create a mask using a graphics program like Adobe Illustrator or Adobe InDesign.

Tip: Use a Vector Code Mask
Although you could use a bitmap image as a mask, I have found you get much better results using a vector illustration program. Instead of pixels in the PDF, the lines are drawn electronically which scales nicely to various page sizes.


You can download a sample Code Mask below.

sample_code_mask.pdf (37K) (letter size 8.5 by 11)

Step 2: Convert Source Code to PDF

If your client did not supply PDFs, you’ll need to convert the source code files. Most often, you’ll receive plain text files.

Check your court rules or eFiling guidelines to see if your court requires specific font sizes or margins. You can open the source code text file in a word processor and print to PDF.

Alternately, you can convert the text to PDF directly in Acrobat. Simply open the text file in Acrobat and— poof— you’ve got a PDF.

Want more control over text conversion in Acrobat?
You can change the Text conversion settings. Here’s how:

Choose File> Create> PDF from Web Page and click the Settings button

To change the font:
Adjust the File Type to Text and click the Settings button
to change the font used.
Click OK when done.

To change the page margins
Click the Page Layout tab in the Settings window and adjust the margins.

Step 3: Add the Code Mask to the document

You will use the Watermark feature to add the Code Mask to the document.

  1. Start watermarking . . .
    A) Click the Tools panel
    B) Open the Pages section
    C) Click the Watermark menu and choose Add Watermark
    Picture of Acrobat X Tools Panel
  2. The Watermark window opens.
    Here’s what to do:
    A) Click the Browse button and locate the Code Mask file. (You can use my sample above)
    B) Set the Scale relative to target page to 100%

    Picture of Acrobat X Watermark window
    C) Option: Click Save Settings . . . to save your setting so you can use it again later.
    Picture of Save Watermark window

  3. Click OK
  4. Open the Protection section of the Tools panel, and choose Sanitize Document.

    Picture of Acrobat X Sanitize panel

  5. The Sanitize alert opens. Click OK.
    Picture of Sanitize Warning window

    What does Sanitize Document do?
    Sanitize Document is a robust
    metadata removal function in Acrobat. Sanitize will rasterize the document turning it into an image so that the underlying code cannot be recovered. Functionally, it does in one step what Remove Hidden Information does with all options set to ON.

  6. Give the file a name and click the Save button.
    Picture of Save As window

Automate the Process using an Action

With an Action in Acrobat X, you can automate the process above across:

  • A file open in Acrobat
  • Any number of txt or PDF files you want to combine, then obfuscate
  • Multiple individual files
  • Grab an image from your scanner and obfuscate.

I’ve created an Acrobat X Action you can use to automate the process. This action:

  1. Asks you to locate the code files (can be PDF or TXT files)
  2. Asks you for the destination for the obfuscated files
  3. Obfuscates the code as shown with a watermark
  4. Sanitizes the document removing all code underneath the code mask
  5. Saves the file as an Acrobat 5 (PDF 1.4) level file
  6. Adds the suffix _obfuscated to the file name (e.g. mycode_obfuscated.pdf)

Because the watermark action requires a file local to your file system, you’ll need to tweak the Action a bit. Don’t worry, it’s easy! Here’s how:

  1. Download the Acrobat X Code Obfuscation Action (2K)
    Note: This file is stored on Click the download button after the page loads.
  2. Double click the Code Obfuscation Action.sequ downloaded in Step 1.
    Click the Import button to add it to your Actions panel.
    Picture of Import Action message
  3. The Edit Actions window appears.
    Make sure the Code Obfuscation Action is selected and click the Edit button.
  4. Click the Options button next to the Watermark step of the Action.
    Picture of Action Steps
  5. Acrobat won’t be able to find the Source code mask file, so you will see an error message. Click OK.
    Picture of Error Message.
  6. The Watermark Window appears. Click the Browse button and locate the watermark file, following the steps noted above in the Watermarking section.
  7. Click OK then Save the Action.

Tip: Save your code masks in a location that won’t change
Since the watermark function in Acrobat references a specific code mask file, if you rename it or change the location. you’ll get an error message. Save the file in a location and leave it alone . . .


Running the Action

Running the Code Obfuscation Action is simple!

  1. Open the Tools panel in Acrobat and then open the Actions Wizard section
  2. Click the Code Obfuscation Action
    Picture of running the Code Obfuscation action
  3. Click Add Files button and add the files you wish to process.

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Free Transcript Mark-up Script for Acrobat

Example of highlighting using scriptThe creativity of legal professionals using Acrobat never ceases to amaze me.

One area, in particular, that some of our geekier (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) customers have exploited in Acrobat is scripting.

Acrobat may be extended using JavaScript, a scripting language used in a variety of applications including web browsers.

Attorney Michael Tracy has developed a unique transcript mark-up utility which is is used to highlight, underline, and annotate deposition transcripts.

You can read an explanatory article and download the utility here:

Many thanks, Michael, for sharing this script with the rest of us!

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Download my Thirty Top Tricks for Acrobat 9

If you follow this blog, you already know that my colleague Mark Middleton and I offer eSeminars on various topics such as Security, Forms, etc.

I’ve rolled up the Thirty Top Tips for Acrobat 9 into a ten-page, illustrated document so you can try them on your own!

Download Rick’s Top Tricks for Acrobat 9 (354K)

If you read on, I’ll tell you how you can share the document with others.

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Creating a Click-thru Agreement in a PDF

A click-thru (sometimes called ClickWrap) agreement is a software or web-based acceptance of terms.

Click-thru agreements rely on the recipient clicking "OK" or "I agree" to accept the terms of the agreement.

Click thru example

I recently received this email message about Click-thru PDF agreements:

Is it possible to create a message that appears prior to a [PDF] document being opened to accept terms and conditions? If the user would click "Yes" the PDF would open. If the user click "No" the document would close.

Short answer: Yes!

Do Click-thru Agreements have Legal Precedent?

Yes, there are a number legal decisions on the subject.

The earliest reference I found was to ProCD v. Zeidenberg (text), which established that clicking a button in a software program constituted acceptance of terms.

A number of relevant court decisions may be found here: Click-Wrap Agreement – Internet Library of Law and Court Decisions.

In this article, I’ll show you how to create an alert message that pops up when a PDF is opened:

JavaScript Message Window for Click-thru agreement

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Converting Color PDF to Greyscale PDF (An Update)

Converting Color PDFs to Grayscale or Black and White in Acrobat 9

It’s rare to find color printers or copiers widely deployed in law firms. When color documents appear in discovery, firms don’t always know what to do with them. Examples include PPT files, images scanned in full color, etc.

Converting a color slide to a grayscale slide

Acrobat files can contain color and non-color elements:

  • RGB: Red, Green, Blue color
  • CMYK: Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and Black
  • Greyscale: Shades of gray ranging from 0 (white) to to 256 (black) in value
  • Monochrome: Black and White

RGB or CMYK image-only PDFs, in particular, can be quite large. Converting these PDFs to grayscale or black can reduce the size of the file and speed printing.

Other times, litigation support departments will have to satisfy the odd attorney who prefers to read grayscale documents.

Whatever the reason, it is fairly easy to convert RGB or CMYK PDFs to Greyscale. It’s a bit more difficult to convert to monochrome, but I’ve included a workaround for that, too.

You’ll need Acrobat Pro to make this work for you . . .

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Reducing the File Size of Scanned PDFs

It seems like a lot of folks are struggling with the size of scanned PDFs. Below are excerpts from two emails I received recently:

My [Fujitsu] ScanSnap makes PDFs that are too big . . . like around 60K per page! What can I do to make these smaller in Acrobat?

I have to eFile [with the Federal Court] and am having to split the filings into many segments to go through the [Court] gateway. The issue seems to be with documents that are scanned on our network scanner. PDFs produced directly from Word are a lot smaller. Is there some trick to reduce the size of scanned files?

Before covering how to reduce the size of scanned documents in detail, let’s discuss four factors that affect the size of scanned images:

  1. Scanning Resolution
    A scan at 600 dpi results in a much larger file than at 300 dpi.
  2. Color Space
    Color and grayscale files result in much larger files than black and white files.
  3. Physical dimensions of the scanned page
    A legal-size scan will be larger than a letter-size scan, with all other factors being equal.
  4. Compression
    Raw scan data can be compressed to make it smaller.


Compression Types

Lossless compression retains the exact appearance of the original.

Two common types of lossless compression are ZIP and CCITT Group 4.

Lossy compression makes some (hopefully) non-noticeable visual trade-offs to further reduce file size.

JPEG is a common lossy compression method.

Ideally, you would control all of the above factors yourself by scanning at 300 dpi, black and white and using an efficient compression algorithm.

Unfortunately, you many not have that option. Many desktop and network scanners offer limited or confusing options— or— the scanned PDFs arrived from outside your firm.

Legal Scanning Recommendations
In almost all situations, scan at 300 dpi, black and white.

For the purpose of this article we will make a couple of assumptions:

  1. You have a black and white scanned document of unknown dpi and compression
  2. You have already OCR’d the document, or don’t need OCR

Read on to learn how to reduce the file size of scanned documents using Acrobat.

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Exporting a PDF to Excel

NOTE: I wrote this article for Acrobat 9. In Acrobat X, exporting to Excel is super simple and works great. Just choose File> Save As> Spreadsheet. It’s worth the upgrade for this feature alone!


I received this email from a paralegal at a large law firm recently:

Help! An attorney has asked me to convert PDFs we received in discovery to Excel. The PDFs are tabular in nature (probably originated in Excel). Some are scanned in from paper and others appear to be converted electronically. How do I do this?

Fortunately, Acrobat 9 offers a couple of different ways to export to Excel.

  1. Select table and open in Excel
    This allows you to select a portion of a page and open it in Excel.

    Works best when you only need small part of the table

    Better results if the file didn’t originate from a spreadsheet
  2. Export as Tables in Excel
    This method uses some artificial intelligence to convert multiple page PDF documents to multiple worksheets in an XML-based spreadsheet file. It works best on files which were converted directly from Excel to PDF.

To open the XML-based file output generated using method 2 above, you’ll need either:

Acrobat generally will usually do a pretty good job converting the text, but formatting and column widths will look different than the original. Acrobat only copies over the text. Formulas will not convert. Do not expect 100% fidelity.

In the full article, you’ll receive my usual step-by-step instructions.

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Batch Conversion of Excel to PDF

Updated! I added some more options in this article, October 2010.

I recently received the following inquiries below from customers:

I have several hundred Excel files to convert to PDF as part of a case. Is there a way to do this in Acrobat? A lot of the files have multiple worksheets, too. Do I have to convert each worksheet separately?

So Yes and No. Yes, Acrobat can convert multiple Excel files to PDF. And, No, you don’t have to convert each worksheet separately!

Converting Multiple Worksheets

Fortunately, Acrobat 9 and Acrobat X can easily convert all of the worksheets in your Excel files to PDF:

Excel file with multiple worksheets

When you use the PDF Maker in Acrobat 9 or later, you have some additional options to select just the worksheets needed:

Excel conversion window in Acrobat

A) Choose options to convert all worksheets, the currently selected worksheet or a subset of the worksheets.

B) To choose some worksheets, but not others, select from the list on the left and use the Add or Remove buttons to move them to the list on the right.

C) Click the Convert to PDF button to complete the process

The result is a nicely bookmarked PDF that looks like this:

A nicely bookmarked PDF created from Excel

What about batch conversion?

If you want to convert many Excel documents in batch to PDF, there are a few additional tricks involved. Read on learn how in the rest of the article.

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Extracting Non-Sequential Pages- Another Method

In my last entry, I discussed one method to Extract a Non-Sequential Range of Pages from a PDF.

One of my bosses always told us that our customers are smarter than we are.

I was reminded of this recently when I received this note from James Strupp of the Federal Office of the Public Defender:

A far easier and more direct way to do this, in my view, is to create a new PDF from "multiple files", even if you are just extracting pages from one file.

Doh! That’s a great idea! Jame even sent along his detailed instructions. I’ve added some screen captures and additional detail of my own.

Read on to learn about this alternate method to extract pages.

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Extracting Non-sequential Pages from PDFs

I received this email recently from a paralegal:

My colleague and I have been trying to extract non-sequential pages from a document to create a new document. It appears in the current version of Acrobat Professional (8.1.2) that only sequential documents can be extracted.  Is there a work around for this?  As an example, in a 100 page document we want to extract pages 12, 43 and 97 only.  The ‘extract pages’ option (Document—>Extract Pages) indicates it will extract pages 12-97 which is way more pages than we need.

Yes, it’s true that you cannot select and extract a discontinuous range of pages using the Extract Pages option and the Pages Panel.

However, you can drag and drop a non-sequential bunch of pages between two PDFs using the Pages Panel:

You can drag and drop pages from one PDF document to another. That's what this article is about.

Read on for instructions and screen shots. Are you a really visual person? I’ve also included a movie that shows you how!

Continue reading…