Learn how to handle PDF files in a better way

It’s crazy that everything available on the internet is in the form of PDF files. But these documents created with Adobe Acrobat software are not frozen. Throughout these pages, we’ll teach you how to handle PDF files in a multiple way.

Will the PDF ever enters the dictionary? This file format is used universally and so it has become a common name. It is send and received most easily in the world eclipsing the Adobe Acrobat with which it was created. And yet it is installed on many workstations in enterprises and is often exploited in the most basic function of converting a document into PDF.

But Acrobat is loaded with features extremely practical and powerful, unsuspected by many users. It is possible to protect a document effectively, to create and edit collaboratively (and even in real time), adding forms and cut into several portions or, conversely, to assemble multiple PDF into one file.

While there are many software, often free, capable of opening and viewing PDF files, e.g. Adobe Reader or Foxit Reader very light; only Acrobat allows to exploit all the files of this format. It is true that they are innumerable. Indeed, a PDF can embed not only fonts but also comments, signatures, protections, scripts and other elements. This wealth is not without pitfalls: for example, two PDF files at first sight looking similar created by firing a single source can be completely different.

Allow changes

Take the example of a file obtained, first, from a scanned page with a scanner and, secondly, directly from a software like a word processor. Once the file is converted to PDF the possibility of changes will be radically different. In the first case, it will be impossible to edit the text or to conduct a search and the file size will be much higher. It is therefore preferred whenever possible to perform such actions from digital sources or, alternatively, use optical character recognition software (such a tool is included in Acrobat, accessible via the Document menu).

All the manipulations presented in this guide are achievable with all versions of Acrobat 9 (Standard, Pro or Pro Extended), except in some cases we will identify. But the free Adobe Reader does not with rare exceptions.

What is PDF

The Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format created by Adobe in 1993. Initially proprietary format, PDF is now an international standard regulated by Iso. It is no longer necessary to use Adobe software to create PDF files. During its existence, this format has undergone several changes. The current version, i.e. 1.7, is fully compatible with Acrobat 9 or Reader 9. It is possible to create files compatible with earlier versions by failing to use specific functions, such as encryption of data at 256 bits.

The PDF is derived from PostScript, the language used by printers to describe the page content. Thus, in a simplified manner, a PDF is divided into pages containing three types of objects: text, images and graphics. The position and dimensions of each object is referenced. This patchwork allows reconstructing the visual appearance of a page, while ensuring an identical appearance to the original document, regardless of the platform.

Step 1 – Create a form

PDF forms can replace their paper equivalent effectively. It involves just a few clicks to complete and send the information to their designer.

Create a form

1 – Generate a template in Word or Excel

Acrobat lets you create a form from scratch. But it is generally easier to start from an existing file. Upon import, it is analyzed by Acrobat that seeks to identify input fields, check boxes, etc. In Excel or Word, prepare the form by entering the fixed elements (header field names). It is, however, necessary to draw frames around the form fields or create buttons: these elements will be added in Acrobat. Save the file and quit Excel or Word.

In Acrobat, pull down “Forms” menu, launch the Form wizard. Select the existing electronic document and click “Next”. Select “Upload a file from a file system”. Click “Browse” and select the document previously created with Word or Excel. Validate it by clicking on “Open”. This option will import the document previously created and transforms it into PDF. Validate by clicking on “OK”. On the page displayed to the left of the form fields screen that Acrobat has found.

2 – Add the text fields

We begin by typing on the “Text” fields (Name, Address …) because it is simpler: no input control is performed on them. To work more easily, increase the size of the display by turning the mouse wheel while pressing Ctrl key. Click “Add field” and choose “Text field”. With the help of the reticles, draw a rectangle to cover the expected size reserved for the text box. In the input box, type the field name, eg Entry Name. Do the same to add the field “First name”.

3 – Put in place a control input

For the “Age” field, you will set two conditions: the attachment can only be numeric. Moreover, the value entered must be between 10 and 100. Click on “Add field” and always choose “Text field”. Name this field “Age” and click on the link “Show all properties”. The window that appears allows you to set the attributes of this field. Select the “Format” tab and “Format Category”, choose “Number” and specify “0” decimal. Finally, select the “Validation” tab, check “Range of values” for this field and set the minimum value (10) and Max (100) for this field. Finally, click “Close”.

4 – Add a combo box

Whenever possible, avoid open-ended responses (those for which entry is free) and replace them with closed answers, the user must choose from a list of answers. This avoids too many input errors. This is the case here, the field “Favorite vacation spot”. Click “Add field” and choose “Combo”. Name the field “Vacation Spots” and click “View all properties”. In the window that appears, select the “Options” tab. In the field “Element”, type the first possible answers (eg Mountain) and click “Add”.

Repeat the operation for each of the answers allowed. If necessary, use the buttons “Up” and “Down” to change the order of elements. The currently selected element will be displayed by default. Finally, click “Close”. Note that there are many other types of fields you can add to your form: checkboxes, radio buttons and even a field to sign the form electronically.

5 – Test your form

You can always check the operation of your form, even if not completed. To do this, click the “Overview” button. Then enter the content in the text boxes and check that the dropdown lists contains all the elements listed. To return to the form design, click “Change the layout”.

6 – Change the tab order

To move from one field to the next, you will be using either the mouse or by pressing “Tab”. You can change the order in which fields must succeed. This is particularly useful in a form with only two or three non-contiguous fields are required, such as the name and the city because that way you save the user from many mouse clicks.

In the “Form Fields” to the left, select “Sort by” options, “Tab Order” then “Tab Order”, “Manual” and “Tab order”, “Show numbers tab”. In the left pane, drag the field to obtain the desired order. This order is of course independent of the fields that you added in your form. A dark figure, in each field, you remember the tab order. Save the file again. Your form is ready to be released.

Send the form and collect responses by email

1 – Choose the proper method of response

There are two main ways to run your forms and collecting information: you use the mail – in this case, you will receive information by mail – or you use the site www.acrobat.com and you can consult directly the full results. It is preferable to the method by mail if you do get a few responses a week. Each response will come directly into your email inbox. However, it is better to opt for Acrobat site if you are planning an extensive survey. It is also possible to record data in a file on an FTP site or use a website. However, these last two methods are more complex to implement and presents only a limited interest.

2 – Post Form

Click on “Spread the form” button. If the file has not yet been registered or has been changed since the last save, Acrobat offers to save. You will now choose the method by mail to show your forms. In the list above, select “Manually collect responses in my inbox” then click “Next”. Check “Send automatically using Acrobat” and confirm with “Next”. Enter your email address and your name if this information has never been defined in the preferences of Acrobat identity. You are then prompted to enter the list of email addresses of your recipients (they must be separated by a semicolon). Use the button “A…” to operate your address book. Change, if necessary, the default message and click “Send”. Your mail is sent via email.

3 – Fill the form

Your recipients receive the form by mail and open the attachment it contains using Adobe Reader (9) or Acrobat. They simply fill the form fields. Once this step is complete, they simply click on the “Submit form” button located in the toolbar. The recipient shows his email address and their name and confirms it by clicking on “Send”. An email is then generated containing attached form data.

4 – Collect the answers

You just received a reply message in your inbox. Simply click on the PDF file to view results. Acrobat then offers either to add the data to an existing file (with the original file name followed by _answers) or to create a new file. Select the first option and confirm with “OK”. You do the same for the other answers you receive.

5 – Display results

The reply window appears automatically. You can always return by clicking on the “Form” menu, “Monitoring Forms” : the list of forms is managed by Acrobat. You’ll find complete information on the questionnaires that you broadcast. Click on one of them: in the right pane, you can read the names of persons to whom it was sent and the list of those who responded.

You can easily carry out reminders to those who have not completed the form. To access the answers, click on the link. The display presents the results, by default, the list of responses in the form of a table. Use the first three icons at the top to switch to “List” mode (answers are presented line by line) or “Overview” mode (you view one by one the answer files, viewing all PDF). You can also filter the answers according to criteria related to the results of a field.

6 – Export data

The interface of Acrobat is very useful for presenting data, but this is not necessarily enough. Fortunately, it is possible to export the data to be treated in other software such as Excel. To do this in the left box, click the “Export” menu and choose “Export All”. Acrobat lets you choose between “CSV” or “XML” format. Choose “CSV” format and confirm with “Save” in order to immediately open it in Excel.

Collect responses via acrobat.com

1 – Post Form

If you are expecting a significant number of responses, we recommend you rather use the online space made available by Adobe. Click on “Spread the form” button. If the file has not yet been registered or has been changed since the last save, Acrobat offers to save. In the first wizard screen, choose “Download and automatically organize responses via Acrobat.com” and click “Next”. You must enter your Adobe ID and your password if it has not already been done. You are then prompted to enter the list of email addresses of your recipients. Change the message if necessary by default. Note that the file is not included in the message; a link to get it is shown. Click “Send”. A message is sent directly to your recipients Acrobat.com.

2 – Use Form

We address for this point 02 to one of your recipients. You just received an email. Click on the link provided to access the shared space on Acrobat.com: click “Download” to display the form in Adobe Reader (9) or Acrobat. Enter the requested data and confirm by clicking “Submit form”. The data are transmitted directly to the Acrobat.com website (not by mail).

3 – Display the results

Unlike shipments by mail, you are not automatically informed when a new reply arrives on the Acrobat website: you must run the software and pull down the “Form” menu, “Monitoring Forms” to see the updates (unless you enable the notification icon on the status bar of Windows). Click the form name and then click “Show Replies”. Finally, if you no longer want this form to be used, simply click on the option “Stop data collection” : The form will be disabled in Acrobat.com.

Step 2 – Protect a document

Here’s how to prohibit the reading or editing of an important file.

1 – Put a paper free from leaks

You want to send a document via email while ensuring that only the recipient can read it. The idea is to encrypt the document using a password that will be transmitted independently. The PDF will be sent by mail, without the concerned of a third party. To do this, click on the “Protection” icon, “Protection by password” and confirm with “Yes”. Select “Acrobat 9.0 or higher”. Indeed, only this version brings a truly reliable encryption, 256 bit. However, if your correspondent does not have the latest version of Reader, select “Acrobat 7.0 (and 128-bit encryption)”.

You must now choose a strong password. Enable “Encrypt the entire contents of the document” option. Check “Require a password to open the document”. Enter the password (minimum 8 characters) and confirm with “OK”. Repeat the same and then save the document.

2 – Lock the PDF against editing and printing…

Initially, we suggest you create a document accessible to all but unprintable. Start by making a copy of the original document (“File” menu, “Save”) to keep a version without restriction. Open the copy, click on the “Protection” icon and choose “Protection by password”. Also select “Acrobat 9.0 or higher”. Otherwise, the protection implementation can be easily circumvented by using third party software, such as A-PDF Restrictions Remover (free trial for two weeks) that removes the limitations of the files encrypted in 128-bit.

To lock a document, check “Restrict editing and printing the document”. Enter a password long – more than 20 characters – to provide a good level of security. In the “Print” list choose “No” (or possibly “Low resolution”). In the “Edition” list choose “None” or possibly a small editing mode that will allow you to insert comments, fill out the forms. To protect your document, uncheck the boxes “Enable copying of text, images and other content” and “Enable text access for screen readers for visually impaired” (otherwise, the text can easily be copied). Confirm finally with “OK” and then save the document.

3 – Sign the document

By signing a document, you can ensure your recipients that you are indeed the author. For this you need a trusted certificate. If you do not, you can create one easily. Click on the “Signer” icon and choose “Sign the document”. Create, using the mouse, a rectangle hosting the signing. Select “New digital ID” to create now. Validate it by “Next”. Check “New Digital ID file PKCS #12” and confirm by clicking “Next”. Enter all required data; make sure that the options “RSA 1024 bits” and “Digital signature and data encryption” are well selected. Validate by “Next”. Enter twice password and click “Finish”.

Your certificate is automatically selected. Enter a password. You can replace the text with a picture of your signature or your photo by changing the “Appearance”. Finally, check “Lock the document after signing” if you want to prevent any subsequent modification of the content. Click “Signer” then enter the name of the new document. Then press “Save” button. The signature appears in the document in a specialized area, and will not be editable by others.

Step 3 – Create a single document written by several people

Many files are written in collaboration. To make the task easier, Acrobat provides several tools, such as review, approval or work online.

Develop a revised document

1 – Accept the addition of comments

If you use Adobe Acrobat, unless the document is not specifically restricted, you can create comments. But in Adobe Reader, this option is disabled by default. Almost all PDF files over the Internet are secured against the comments in Reader. To activate the option, you must, with Acrobat Pro, choose “Comments”, “Activate the function of commentary and analysis in Adobe Reader”. Then save the document in a new PDF. The document will now accept annotations in Adobe Reader. However, certain actions such as modifications by third parties, filling out a form or document assembly will no longer be possible. To activate these functions, save the document under a new name, via the “File” menu, “Save a copy”.

2 – Send the document by mail

Open your document and then pull down the “Comments” menu, “Attach to a review by email”. If prompted, enter information in the dialog box “Configuring Identity” and confirm with “OK” then “Next”. Enter the email addresses of editors (addresses must be separated by a semicolon). To also receive comments directly, add your own address in the list. Once finished; click on “Next” to preview the message to be sent. Modify if necessary, and then click “Send Invitation”. A copy of the PDF document is sent to reviewers in attachment.

3 – Comment on the paper

When the attached PDF is opened by an auditor, the comments tools and instructions appear. You do not just have to create notes, revisions of text, highlight a passage, forms, a freehand drawing, or using the arrow icons on the toolbar.

4 – Sign a document for approval

Before publishing a document, you want multiple people to validate it with an electronic signature. To do this, ask your reviewers to “Stamp” the document. For this, they just use the arrow to the right of the “Buffers” icon and choose, for example, “Dynamic buffer”, “OK”.

5 – Send comments

Once annotations are completed, the reviewer must click on the “Send feedback” button to automatically send an email to all the reviewers, then validate with the “Send” button.

6 – Merge revisions

When you receive a comments file by mail, simply open it (from mail): Acrobat automatically proposes to merge with the original file. Click “Yes” to open the main version of the PDF document and incorporate all comments in this version. You can check the annotations using the comment window, which can also be displayed from the Comments toolbar and annotations via the “Display” icon, “View the list of comments”. By clicking the “+” symbol to the left of a comment, you display additional information such as name of the reviewer or time changes.

If a comment does not interest you, delete it using the “Trash” icon. The checkbox in front of each annotation lets you mark them to identify them more easily. Similarly, the statutes allow you to indicate whether a comment has been approved, completed, rejected. Finally, save your document (Ctrl + S). Repeat for all files of comments you receive.

7 – Export the comments

For each page, you can easily summarize the comments with the main document using the “Comments” menu, “Summarize comments”. Acrobat will then create a new document (not linked to previous) gathering all the information. You can if necessary save or print. You can also export the comments into a Word document using the “Comments” menu, “Export Comments to Word”. You’ll be prompted to choose the PDF export and the Word document that is the source of PDF document. Acrobat will attempt to deliver against the original text comments that were made.

Work simultaneously on the same document

1 – Log on to online collaboration

Acrobat now includes a tool to review a PDF with one or several remote users via Internet. During a collaboration session, all participants see the same document (and the same document page) at the same time. To start such a session, you must have Acrobat 9. However, Adobe Reader 9 is sufficient to participate.

2 – Inform your employees

First save the file. Then, pull down “File” menu, “Work”, “Send” and “Collaborate Live”. If the introductory page appears, click “Next”. If prompted, enter your Adobe ID and your password, or create an ID if you do not. Validate by “Next”. If you have already been identified on the Acrobat website www.acrobat.com this step does not appear. A window of writing e-mail message appears. Enter the email addresses of people to invite (place a semicolon between each address). The message will be sent to your correspondents appear below. Choose to send the file by mail (this is the easiest) and confirm by clicking “Send”.

3 – Join a Session

You just received a message inviting you to attend a session of live collaboration. Click on the link to view the Acrobat.com site. A message tells you that this file is shared. Click “Download” to start Acrobat (or Reader) and automatically detect that it is a request for cooperation. You are then invited to log in either as guest (then simply enter your name) or by using your Adobe ID (and password). Using the Adobe ID is unnecessary in this situation, since the Guest mode offers the same options.

4 – Share Live

Once the session started, you can chat live with other participants. You will use this area for conversation. You can share your reading of the document so that all participants have the same view (same page, same zoom level…). To do this, click the “Start sharing page” button. To end this feature, click the “Stop sharing page” button. Of course, you can also add comments, bubbles or any other element, as seen previously. All these annotations are immediately visible to all employees.

5 – End the session

Anyone can leave at any time or return to the collaboration session. In contrast, only the document creator can decide whether to terminate the collaboration. To do this, click on the area of collaboration, the icon representing a gearing (Options) and choose “Disable the conversation and sharing of pages in all copies”. Finally, save the final document.

Step 4 – Edit PDF files

The internal structure of a PDF can be reworked, with some restrictions, however.

Change and add text

Editing a PDF document is not as simple as it seems. Indeed, if everything is expected to annotate a document easily, the real changes are much smaller. To do this, go to “Tools” menu, “Advanced Editing” then “Show toolbar Advanced Editing”. To edit existing text, click the “Editing text” icon. You will find that you generally can only make minor corrections, in particular, do not jump the line in order not to shift the entire presentation. You can also use this tool to create a new text block: for this enable, if it is not, the “Editing text” tool. Then click by pressing Ctrl down to where you want to insert text. In the dialog box that appears, select the font and the desired profile, and then click “OK”. Enter the new text. If you want to resize the font (and its attributes: bold, italic) or color, select the text to edit, and then right click on the selection. Choose the “Properties”: Make the changes and confirm by clicking “Close”. If you need to move the entire block of text, use the tool “Editing Object”.

Add text using the typewriter tool

The Typewriter tool allows you to quickly fill a document by adding text anywhere. It is therefore highly appropriate for paper documents that have been scanned and saved as PDF, without interactive fields.

1 – Insert text

Pull down “Tools” menu, “Typewriter”, “Show Typewriter Toolbar”. Click on the “Typewriter” icon. Click where you want to insert text and enter it. To change the text properties, select it and use one of the following tools to the “Typewriter” toolbar. You can directly “Decrease text size” or “Increase text size”, “Reduce spacing” or “Increase spacing”.

2 – Move a block

To move or resize the block of text typed by typewriter, make sure the “Typewriter” mode is still active. Click outside the block of writing and then again on the block. This is selected entirely. Drag or move one of its corners. To edit the text again, double-click on the text. Note that this option is also available in Adobe Reader; however, the author of the document must explicitly enable its use. To do this, open the PDF in Acrobat, choose “Tools”, “Typewriter”, “Enable Typewriter tool in Adobe Reader” and then save the document.

Delete or add pages

1 – Split a PDF into several pieces

Open the document to divide and pull down the “Document” menu, “Extract pages”. Specify the pages to retrieve and confirm with “OK”. A new document is created using these pages. To delete one or more, use the command “Document”, “Remove Pages”.

2 – Gather several PDF into one

You can also insert the full pages of another PDF (or a Word/Excel document…) in the current document. For this, use the command “Document”, “Insert Pages”, “From a file”. Select the file and confirm by “Open”. Acrobat then offers you to insert the file “Before” or “After” the current page. Change it eventually and confirm with “OK”. Pages are inserted immediately.

Insert and edit images

1 – Add an image

You have, for example, scan your signature and want to incorporate into the document. Click in the “Advanced Editing” toolbar on the “Edit Object” icon. Click on the page with the right mouse button and choose the command “Place image”. You can import images in BMP, GIF, JPEG, PCX, PNG or TIFF. Select the image file, and then click “Open”. The image appears in the center of the page with the same resolution as the original file.

2 – Move and resize an object

Click on the object using the “Edit Object” tool. A simple drag and drop lets you change the position of the object within the page. However, to move an object from one page to another, you’ll have to cut and paste on the new page. Handles located around the object allows you to easily change the dimensions.

3 – Crop an object

The object still selected, right click it and then choose “Cutting Point”. When you hold the pointer over the selection, cutting the icon appears. Drag a selection handle located on the corner in the desired direction until the cutting rectangle displays the desired results. Finally, click inside the selection to confirm. The menu, accessible using the right button of the mouse, allows further modifications such as symmetry, rotation.

4 – Rework image

You can directly edit an image inserted in a document by launching the editor of your choice. By default, the “Edit Object” tool launches Adobe Photoshop (if it is installed) to help you work images and objects. To use another program, mention it in the “Edit” dropdown menu, “Preferences” and clicking on the “Alterations” list on the left. Click “Select an image editor” (for bitmaps) or “Select a page editor/objects” (for vector), then locate the desired software on the hard disk. Validate by “OK”. Select the image again using the tool “Edit Object” and click the right button on it: select the command “Modify an object”. Make the necessary changes. Still in the editing application, using the “File” menu, “Save Image” then exit. The image is automatically updated and displayed in the PDF.

Reduce the weight of a PDF

1 – Check the file size

A PDF containing many images often particularly has a large size. Indeed, by default, Acrobat retains all the images in their maximum resolution. Depending on your use of the PDF, it is possible to reduce this size. Thus, a file for posting on the Web can be greatly reduced, while another will be printed to preserve high image quality. The earnings of the most important space are obtained by compressing images, removing embedded fonts and deleting the obsolete elements of the file. Thus, to each backup file, Acrobat adds the changes to the end of the file, which unnecessarily increases the size (a backup using the command “Save” therefore reduces the size of a file without causing any loss of quality). But these improvements are only superficial. To make profit there is still room; pull down “Advanced” menu, “PDF Optimizer”. Before you optimize a file, it is recommended that this file is on your hard drive to control the space. Click “Controlling the use of space”. You get a report indicating the percentages of different types of data (images, RSS content, fonts, load the document …): this will give you ways to optimize the file. Validate then by “OK”.

2 – Reduce compatibility

In the list “Make it compatible with”, choose “Retain existing” to maintain the current PDF version or choose a version of Acrobat. Contrary to what seems logical, more the recent version is used more the file size is reduced. Adjust your course choices based on the version of Reader available to your users.

3 – Compress images

Check the “Images” box in the left list. If your document does not require a large print quality, you can compress color images into black and white. Choose a bicubic downsampling to 150 dpi, for images above 225 dpi using JPEG 2000 compression of average quality (or weak) and using a square of 256 pixels. For monochrome images, a sub-sample bicubic to 200 dpi for images above 300 dpi with a JBIG2 compression with data loss is recommended. Finally, leave the box checked “Optimize images reduced in size only”. If the PDF includes illustrations with transparent areas, check in the left list box “Transparency” and choose the preset “High resolution”.

4 – Make it to ignore the fonts

If it is not imperative that your PDF is perfectly identical to the source document, check “Fonts” and choose not to embed fonts. To do this, select one or more fonts in the “Embedded Fonts” list and then click “Disembedded”. The option “Creating subsets of all fonts embedded” reduces the size of embedded fonts by keeping only the characters used. While reading, Acrobat (or Reader) will attempt to replace missing fonts those who resemble them most.

5 – Clean the file

In panel “Ignore user data”, check “Ignore the contents of hidden layer and flatten the visible layers”. Then, in “Cleaning”, check all the boxes and choose “Compress the whole file”. Finally, confirm with “OK”.

6 – Save a copy of the document

The reduction in weight of a PDF is not a voidable transaction. Acrobat allows you to choose a new filename for this optimization. It is advisable to never delete the original PDF file in order to make such further optimizations or make changes to the document. Enter the new name and confirm with “Save”.

Turn a PDF into a Word document or Excel

You want to completely rework a file? The editing tools in these conditions are totally inadequate. Acrobat proposes to export a PDF to Word. But this is far from functioning properly with all sources. To use, pull down “Export” menu, “Word Document”. Enter the Doc file name and click on “Settings”. You must now choose one of two options. Whether you want “Keep the text redistributable”, this means that the entire text of the document is in the same framework to be able to repaginate in your way.

Or you want “Keep page layout”. In this case, Acrobat will create several blocks of text per page to precisely calibrate each block to its original position. Validate by “OK” and then “Save”. Using Word, check the result. You will find that with complex documents containing, for example, frames or tables, export is not always correct. Knowing that there are several programs available online for this operation; the easiest to use (and free) is available online on the page www.pdftoword.com.

To convert a PDF representing a table, use the site www.pdftoexcelonline.com to convert to Excel. Simply, in both cases, select the PDF file on your disk and enter your email address: You will receive directly in your email the results a few minutes later.

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