Archive for September, 2010

Acrobat Shared Reviews & webdav

Acrobat makes reviewing really easy. You can let Acrobat set up and manage reviews. There are two types of reviews: e-mail and Shared.

E-mail reviews are typically off-line and manual, where you email the document to the reviewers and they can add annotations and then send them back to you. After receiving all the replies, you collate all the responses.

Shared reviews let everyone work on the file at the same time. If reviewers can connect to the review server, all comments are available real-time. (If reviewers are off-line, they can sync the comments next time they come online). The core of a shared review, is what i call — for the lack of another name — the review server. You can use Acrobat.com as a review server; it’s as easy as that. Acrobat and Acrobat.com manage everything for you. Or you could set up your own internal review server. This is what all this fuss is all about!

The internal Review Server is basically a WebDAV server. When your reviewers open the document, Acrobat/Reader try to connect to this WebDAV server and read/write comments to this server.

Install a web server

The following instructions will let you set up a WebDAV server using Apache. I’ll use a package called XAMPP, which is an integrated Apache, MySQL, & PHP bundle. {The other components might come in handy if you want to build applications for reporting, auto-reminders etc}. Ok, so let’s get our hands dirty.

  1. Download XAMPP from  Friends of Apache website.
  2. Follow the instructions and install. After the install, start Apache and verify that the server is running successfully.
  3. The default passwords are located in the file passwords.txt located at <install dir>. You’ll need these later.
  4. You should read the XAMPP documentation and and configure the server as required. But you can do this later.

Enable WebDAV

XAMPP comes with a default webdav module; it is enabled by default.

Open a browser and type http://localhost/webdav. If you don’t get any errors, skip this section. If you still want to know, how to do it, read on:

  1. Navigate to  the file <install-directory>/xampp/apache/conf/httpd.conf and open it.
  2. Ensure that the line Include “conf/extra/httpd-dav.conf” is uncommented. (does not have a # preceding it)
  3. Restart/start Apache.
  4. Verify: Open a browser and open http://localhost/webdav. A default page should open.

Checkpoint: Set up a review on WebDAV folder

By default, XAMPP/Apache do not give rights to everyone to write to the WebDAV folder. If you try set up a review, an authentication dialog box will pop up.

WebDAV authorization box when you try and set up a review

WebDAV authorization box when you try and set up a review

The same box will also pop-up everytime your reviewers try to connect to the review server. In this scenario, you’ll need to create/distribute Username and Passwords. If this is good for you, you can stop here.

Grant Universal Write Access to webdav

When most of your users are inside a firewall, and Acrobat/Reader already make it easy to identify users, this server authorization can be very cumbersome. This happens because in the default configuration, universal read access is provided, but write access is restricted to authorized users.

So lets grant write access to everyone.

  1. Open the file <install dir>\xampp\apache\conf\extra\httpd-dav.conf.
  2. Locate the following text, and comment it out. That is add the # marks before it.
    #<LimitExcept GET OPTIONS>

    #require valid-user

    #</LimitExcept>
  3. Save the file and restart Apache.

All Set

You should be all set to go now. Your internal server is setup to handle reviews. Go ahead and set up reviews on your own internal server.

 

NOTE: Windows WebDAV has been tested, and is supported by Acrobat Engineering and Acrobat Support.

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PDF Portfolios using Adobe Acrobat

Technical Documents don’t exist in isolation. As we are all aware, the norm of the industry is documentation sets. A documentation set contains multiple documents, each with different pagination, formats, page sizes, and any other complexities that you can add to the mix. The only factor that unifies these documents is that they are usually located in the same directory folder; at times the folder is zipped.

There is nothing inherently wrong in collecting all the documents and putting them in a folder named “documentation.” But it lacks the WOW factor. Seriously, how glamorous can a text or HTML file be? Even a PDF with multimedia content, cool 3D models, and what not?

Can we delight the user with engaging experiences while delivering technical documentation? Moreover, can we also deliver enhanced functionality and flexibility to the user? The answer is yes – PDF Portfolios using Adobe Acrobat.

An article that I co-wrote with Suhas, gives you a snapshot of what’s possible, and why Portfolios make sense. This article was written for, and published in  Indus, STC India Chapter’s newsletter. See http://indus.stc-india.org/2010/08/creating-portfolios-easily/.

Let me know what you think.

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