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Issue 14, 2 July 1999

ISSN 1442-8652
Editor: Jean Hollis Weber

In this issue...

Feature article: Editing using Adobe Acrobat
Resource of the week: Editing for international markets
Tip of the week: The CDnow Story
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Feature article: Editing using Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Acrobat is a collection of programs for creating and modifying electronic documents in Portable Document Format (PDF). PDF files have become popular as a distribution method for both review copies and final copies of documents.

Acrobat Reader is a free program for reading PDF documents online. It does not provide tools for editing or annotating those files. You need to have a copy of Acrobat Exchange to be able to modify, as well as view, PDF documents. Acrobat Exchange is part of the full Adobe Acrobat suite of products, which also includes PDF Writer, Acrobat Distiller, and varous plug-ins.

If you don't have the software (for example, PageMaker or FrameMaker) being used to develop a document, or if the development process is such that you're not allowed to touch the files (all editing has in the past been done on paper), you can electronically mark up a PDF file. How much electronic editing you can do depends on which version of Adobe Acrobat you and the writer have.

If the final copy of the document is to be distributed to customers in PDF format, part of your job as the production editor should be to check the file just as you would check the final layout of any other document, but you will also need to check some online-specific features (such as hypertext links) in addition to the things you would normally check.

Adobe Acrobat 3.0x has limited capabilities for editing a PDF document. You can attach comments (in the form of "sticky notes") and do some minor line-by-line editing, but you can't rearrange paragraph order, change paragraphs into lists, amend page layout, adjust the width of table columns, edit graphics, or do any of a wide range of other electronic-editing tasks. You're limited to the sort of things you would be able to mark on paper, but you can't do any of them as easily when marking up a PDF electronically.

Because of this limited editing capability, I strongly recommend that you find some other way to edit at any stage prior to production editing. At the production editing stage, you shouldn't be making any major changes anyway, but you should be looking for things like bad page breaks, fuzzy graphics, hyperlinks that don't work correctly, and so on.

Adobe Acrobat 4 has more capabilities for editing files, most of which are relevant only if you are performing the final stop before publication of a document.

To work with comment notes in a PDF file

Using comment notes, multiple reviewers can comment on the same copy of a document; notes can be color-coded for easy identification of the person commenting. Notes from other versions of the document can also be collected and incorporated into the review document.

Acrobat provides two convenient ways for storing and distributing comments, useful for archiving and for sharing among members of a team, without needing to distribute multiple copies of a large original document.

You can export all the notes from a document and place them in a new PDF file. The new (comments) file will contain the exported notes in their original placements on the page, but it will not contain the contents of the original file. (This can be useful when sending comment files over the Internet; the file size is significantly smaller than the original file. If recipients have the original file, they can import your notes file into the original document file and see the notes in relation to the document text.)

You can also summarize and compile just the text of the notes into a new PDF document. A new PDF file is created; this file lists the notes that appear on each page of the original document, including the note labels (usually the reviewers' names), the dates they were added to the file, and the full text of the notes. You can also add the summarized notes to the original document.

To edit a PDF file directly

You can use the touch-up tool to change text formatting -- font size, color and alignment -- or to change the text itself. You can select existing text (one line at a time) and then enter new text and make it fit into the space that the selected text occupied.

For most editing purposes, you probably won't be touching up the final copy; instead, you'll be indicating your editorial changes and comments to the writer, who will incorporate the changes into the source file and regenerate a new PDF document. You might want to change the color of a word or a phrase which you discuss in a comment note, so the writer can easily see what you're referring to.

Note: There are some restrictions on which fonts you can edit and what you can do if you don't have the same font installed on your system.

If you are doing the final production touch-up work on a PDF document, you might also need to:

For more information

In addition to the online guides provided on the Adobe Acrobat CD-ROM, you might find these sources useful:

Adobe Acrobat 3.0 Classroom in a book, Adobe Systems Inc., 1997, ISBN 1568303653


Resource of the week: Editing for international markets

Technical Communication Vol. 46, No. 2 (May 1999), the journal of the Society for Technical Communication, is a special issue on "Global Issues, Local Concerns." It includes several very useful and interesting articles on cultural differences in learning behavior, including the use of illustrations and the rhetorical devices used in writing, and (of immediate interest to editors) "Improving translatability and readability with syntactic cues."

You can purchase isses of Technical Communication, and other publications by the STC, through their Web page:

Tip of the week: The CDnow Story

In issue 9, I said:
If you have a Web site, or are thinking of setting up a Web site, I strongly recommend you get two books:

Poor Richard's Web Site by Peter Kent, 1998. My review of this book is at

Poor Richard's Internet Marketing and Promotions by Peter Kent and Tara Calishain, 1999. My review is at

Now I'm going to suggest another book from Top Floor (and no, I don't get have any association with them, though if you choose to buy one of their books through my Web site, I'll get the usual commission from

This book is The CDnow Story: Rags to Riches on the Internet by Jason Olim, with Matthew Olim and Peter Kent. The Olim brothers' story is interesting enough in itself, but of more importance are the points they make about e-commerce. Even if you aren't personally running an internet business, your employer or some of your clients might be -- and they're probably making it up as they go along and, consequently, making some big mistakes.

Full review at

© Copyright 1999, Jean Hollis Weber. All rights reserved.

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