Adobe Public Sector Blog

Acrobat-Swiss Army Knife of Software


Many times I refer to Acrobat as a Swiss Army Knife? Why? Like a Swiss Army Knife you need to have it with you always, it can help you in emergencies, and is a tool you can use daily. I use Acrobat daily in my work, even prior to joining Adobe. Many times it has been my life saver as I needed to edit a PDF file that no one could find the original document. Enter Acrobat, as my emergency rescue, I just export the PDF to Word and begin editing.

In state and local government, I find they use Acrobat the way we sometimes use a Swiss Army knife. We get out the knife blade or in Acrobat’s case the Create PDF blade and we forget there are other tools in Acrobat. In our post today I would like to explore some of the other uses of Acrobat or its other blades.

The Most Used Blade-Create PDF

Now no one will argue the blade, on the Swiss Army knife, is the most used tool and for Acrobat, the equivalent tool is Create PDF. Acrobat does create PDF from all the sources we could possibly want and with exceptional intelligence (things like bookmarks, index, and hyperlinks). You can create PDF from all the Microsoft Office Suite applications, Internet Explorer, web pages, email archive, scanned documents, and anything that can print (using the PDF printer). But like any other Swiss Army Knife User, it’s time to use the other blades to get the value from our Swiss Army Knife.

Edit or Reuse Content

The next tool in Acrobat that most people will find helpful is the Edit or Reuse functions inside Acrobat, yet I would venture that most people don’t even know this exists. How many times have you gotten a PDF and you don’t know who the author is but you are being asked to make changes in the document? Did you know Acrobat XI has made numerous enhancements so that editing a PDF is something that is feasible? What if you have major edits? That’s when exporting out to Word, Excel or PowerPoint can be a life saver. I can open the documents and begin my extensive editing knowing that most of my formatting was preserved from the PDF file. Being able to export to PowerPoint is new in Acrobat XI.

You can export to Word, Excel or PowerPoint from within Adobe Acrobat to be able to reuse your content in the PDF file.

Protect and Secure

Protection of both the PDF application and PDF files from harmful viruses has been a major focus in the past two releases of Acrobat. Since PDF has become so ubiquitous it became a target of hackers. Adobe really went to work in Acrobat X and XI to provide users of the Adobe Reader and Acrobat the security to minimize any damage of harmful viruses being attached to PDF files. The protected view allows the IT department to restrict opening of files from unsafe locations and to deem “safe” locations.

Screen shot of Protected View bar in Acrobat XI

Equally important to users of Acrobat is to be able to secure PDF files so sensitive information like financial documents, proprietary information or security-related documents will not be able to be edited. We have features like redaction, which allow us to eliminate sensitive information, such as social security numbers, etc. inside of PDF files. Both of these protection features offer Acrobat users the ability to protect entire documents or to remove sensitive information within their PDF files.

Combining Files and PDF Portfolios

Many times in the legal or public relations departments of government agencies it is necessary to combine multiple types of documents into one cohesive piece. PDF portfolios enable the public relations group to provide electronic media kits for the press. Legal departments need to supply all information related to a case in one combined PDF file many times.

Screen shot of combining files in Acrobat XI


Collaboration can take on many forms, but Acrobat users may choose to get feedback on their PDF files via email, shared folders, Share Point repositories or through All of these enable users to replace costly paper based review processes with more efficient electronic reviews that document all the participants and their respective comments.

Screen shot of Acrobat file with comments

Forms and Digital Signatures

Many times the Human Relations department will use Acrobat forms to start converting paper forms to electronic forms in an agency. I do find that many departments typically have uses for creating forms and it’s not limited to the “all agency” forms. Some of the new tools inside of Acrobat XI with Forms Central can make this process more streamlined and easier to implement on departmental levels. The use of Adobe EchoSign, integrated with Acrobat can aid in forms processes as well as any documents which require digital signatures.

Standards and Accessibility

For many agencies it is necessary to archive your PDF files to PDF/A standard so you can ensure these will be able to be opened years from now. Many of you have initiatives to replace paper based filing cabinets with electronic versions of the files so they are easily retrieved within the organization and by the public through your offices. Acrobat’s support of PDF/A for archival, PDF/E for engineering, PDF/X for commercial printing, PDF VT for variable or transactional data and PDF UA for universal accessibility, ensures you create standards compliant PDF, validate and even fix errant PDF files.

Even more significant in many agencies is ensuring that your documents are accessible to all regardless of physical impairments, such as blindness, visual impairment, and hearing, among other things. Acrobat has tools to help you determine if your document is meeting the standards for accessibility and can help you fix some items which may keep your PDF file from being accessible.

Now by no means was my list the only things Acrobat can do but hopefully you have discovered a few more blades than you knew Acrobat previously had. If some of these are new, explore the links to find out more information so you can get all the value from Acrobat.


Creativity in Government, Digital Government, Government Case Studies, Policy