Some editors would like to know how to effectively edit a document from a PDF file using Adobe® Acrobat® (or some other PDF markup software). First, it is important to know that you do not actually change the text in the PDF document. The problems are that a.) the writer will have a very difficult time figuring out what you changed; and b.) the text came from some source file, such as Word, and changes will not get transferred back to the original file.
Acrobat has a great toolkit for marking up and commenting on documents. Before I get to the tips, I should say that some people consider that editing a PDF file has one major drawback: the writer must then go back to the original file and type all the changes. In some cases, I’m certain this is a legitimate concern as it consumes time.
On the other hand, despite the extra time involved, some people say that having the author type the changes has definite advantages:
- The writer can choose which markups to implement. (Arguably, this is not always a good thing.)
- The writer can choose to modify wording of a suggested change.
- The writer learns more than if the editor makes revisions directly in the document.
- The writer can query the editor if a change isn’t understood or if they need to negotiate a change.
- If quality control is an issue (as may happen in a technical writing environment, for instance), the writer can check off each addressed comment in the Comments panel or reply to a comment; for example, to give a reason for not implementing the change.
Based on my experiences, here are a few tips for effectively editing a PDF file. Understand, again, that these tools never actually change the PDF text. You simply insert graphical symbols and type in pop-up or text boxes. If you need to print a document, you can print it with or without the markups.
1. Learn about the commenting tools. For example, I recommend that you get to know, at least, how following tools work:
- The Replace Text tool draws a line through the text and inserts a small caret after the selected text. You can then insert your suggested replacement text in the pop-up box.
- The Cross Out Text tool draws a line through the text. You can double-click the line and, in the pop-up box, type a reason why you suggest deleting the text.
- With the Insert Text tool, click where you want to insert text; a pop-up box appears and you type the new text for the writer to consider.
- The Drawing tools such as the Oval Tool you can use to circle punctuation to indicate a correction or to indicate where to supply missing punctuation.
- The Text Box tool you can use to write a note, similar to a sticky note, on a page; for example, you could write a global note about a recurring issue so that you need not mark every instance. Consider reserving global notes for things the writer can easily search for in the source document.
- The Note Tool is also useful for jotting notes to the writer.
- The Line Tool, you might use to strike out one or more unnecessary characters, such as an unwanted hyphen at the end of a line.
- The Highlight Tool is useful to highlight a word or passage if you need to query the writer, or to make a general suggestion or comment.
- The Pencil Tool is useful for a freehand markup such as an instruction to the writer to transpose words.
- The Arrow Tool is a good way to signal a markup that might be missed by the writer; for example, a single Insert Text markup in the middle of a paragraph.
2. Devise a standard method for marking up documents. Consider the markups you use now and devise a method using these tools to accomplish the same thing. Educate your writer about your method; for example, consider a quick-reference sheet. A standard method is particularly useful if you edit multiple documents for a writer. It is also useful if you work with a team of editors so that authors consistently see the same markups from all editors.
3. Be consistent. Try to always use the same tool and tool colors for markup symbols. For example, always use the Text Box tool to write global comments and always make them yellow.
4. Use your name. Especially if you have more than one person reviewing a document, configure Acrobat so your name appears at the top of comment boxes. Doing so, makes it easy for your writer to contact the correct person about a markup.
5. Do not use the Touch Up Tool to change the actual text in the PDF. The change will probably get lost because the PDF was generated from some other source file.
6. The split screen is an invaluable tool. You can work in one half and search through the other half. For example, you come across an acronym on page 100, but you can’t remember if it was spelled out earlier. Switch to split screen mode and leave page 100 showing in the bottom half. Search backward in the top half for the acronym.
7. Sort comments in various ways, such as by Page, Author, or Type. Sorting can be helpful to find a comment. It can be helpful if the writer decides to deal with one markup type at a time.
8. Search the document by pressing Ctrl+F, which displays the Find toolbar. You can choose how to perform the search (for example, case-sensitive or whole word only).
9. Quickly jump to a specific page by typing the page number in text box of the navigation area at the bottom of the main window.
10. Configure your commenting preferences. In the Commenting section of the Preferences dialog box, you might, for example, choose to have selected text automatically appear in pop-up boxes. You can then edit the text without retyping the word or passage.
This should be enough to get you started. If you have questions, feel free to ask. Editing in PDF is really quite easy and effective once you get the hang of it.