Tips for Eliminating Tedious, Mundane Tasks in Adobe Acrobat

As a marketing communications professional, you need to focus on being strategic and creative, not waste half your day on mindless tasks that don’t advance your organization’s position in the marketplace. But these days, most of us don’t have access to administrative support to help us with mundane yet necessary tasks, so what’s a marketer to do?

 In my years as a marketing copywriter, I’ve received client-supplied copy to edit for use in a catalog, brochure, or website in many varied and interesting formats. The most memorable was a combination of cut-out, unidentified chunks of some old catalog taped onto pieces of paper and surrounded by pencil sketches and handwritten notes in Sharpie® marker. It looked like a letter from a serial killer.

That unique example aside, I’ve learned a few shortcuts using Adobe® Acrobat® software to deal with the more common types of input and avoid retyping text and other productivity-sucking manual work. If you’re a marcom professional, you’ve probably had to deal with some of these yourself.

The Dreaded Scan

You know the drill. Somebody sends you a PDF, and you think, “Oh, good, I can just copy and paste the text from this,” but when you open the PDF, it’s a scan of a page. The text isn’t really text. It’s an image of text that isn’t selectable or editable. Rather than retyping the document, enlist the help of Acrobat and its Text Recognition feature. (In Acrobat XI, you’ll find this under the Tools menu.) It typically only takes a few seconds and gives you a document with fully selectable, editable, copy-and-pasteable text — even if the original was scanned crooked.

Scanned PDFs

275 Unwanted Paragraph Returns

The PDF file that product manager sent you actually is a real PDF with selectable text, not a scan — oh, happy day. But when you copy and paste the text out of the PDF and into an Adobe InDesign® file or some other application, you end up with a hard return at the end of every single line of text. You could use the find-and-replace feature to remove them, but when you do that, you also lose the real paragraph breaks you wanted to keep and have to manually reinsert all of those.

Adobe Acrobat to the rescue again. Instead of selecting the text in the PDF and hitting Ctrl+C to copy, select the text and right click your mouse. Choose the option Copy with Formatting, and then paste the text into your other document as you normally would. This eliminates the hard-return line break at the end of each line of text, but maintains the true breaks at the ends of the paragraphs.

Copied text from PDF

Mystery Revisions

This is a relatively new development for us. You send someone a PDF proof to review. When they send it back to you with their revisions, you discover they didn’t use the handy-dandy Acrobat or Adobe Reader® Commenting and Mark-Up Tools to indicate their revisions, so that you can easily see what their revisions are and make them in your Adobe InDesign® or other type of source file. Instead, they used Acrobat’s PDF Editing Tools and actually made text changes in the PDF that aren’t highlighted, flagged, or otherwise called out. They think they’re helping you by doing that. In reality, they’ve left you with the choice between: 1) reimporting all the text from the revised PDF from scratch; or 2) comparing the two PDF documents visually, word by word, hoping you don’t miss anything.

You can blame Acrobat for these mystery revisions, but fortunately, Acrobat also gives you a third and better option for dealing with them. You’ll want to make sure the two PDFs don’t have the same file name before you do this, so rename one of them if the reviewer didn’t do that already. Then launch Acrobat, and under the View menu, choose Compare Documents. It will prompt you to select the older document (the original PDF you sent to the reviewer) and the newer document (the revised PDF they sent back to you) to compare. Once you do that, Acrobat will quickly generate a nice report that highlights each difference between the two documents, making it much faster and easier for you to update your source file.

Compare documents

As I’ve written previously, the latest version of Acrobat also offers the ability to convert a PDF file to a fully editable Microsoft® Word, Excel®, or PowerPoint® file, which can be a huge time saver, enabling you to reuse existing content without extra work.

Every time I discover a new way to be more productive using software I already have, I realize it’s probably a wise investment of time to explore that software further to see what other time-saving features it might offer. I don’t think I’ve done more than scratch the surface of Acrobat yet.

If you have any productivity-boosting tips, tricks, or shortcuts, we’d love to hear about them!

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