The PDF, or portable document format, represents the gold standard in document sharing. PDFs come packaged with all text, fonts, and images embedded in the file, which allows them to be displayed independently of applications, operating systems, or hardware. They’re highly compressed files, which makes emailing, downloading, and printing them quick and easy. And their open standard platform means that anyone can develop, use, sell, and distribute PDF software and implementations.
But that simplified nature doesn’t mean that working with PDFs is easy. Hundreds of different PDF readers and editors exist, all with varying degrees of usability. Adobe, which created the PDF in the 1990s and granted all royalty-free rights to the format in 2008, currently possesses some of the most widely used: Reader, which is free, Acrobat Standard, which is entry-level, and Acrobat Pro, which is its most comprehensive PDF software.
If you interact with PDFs on a regular basis—or you’ve ever been stumped at how to read, edit, create, encrypt, or export one—hopefully, this list of 10 tips, tricks, and add-ons will supercharge your use of Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader.
1) Convert any file format to PDF. Simply drag the document on top of the Adobe Acrobat application icon or right-click and choose Convert to Adobe PDF, then select from a multitude of formatting options.
2) Create PDFs from any content imaginable. In most versions of Acrobat, click File > Create and then choose from PDF from Screen, Window, or Selection Capture; PDF from Scanner or Web Page; or PDF from Clipboard.
3) Collect signatures, survey answers, and other information. Adobe FormsCentral, a paid plug-in for Acrobat, allows document authors to set up form fields within PDFs and allow text to be added by anyone. Each form can have its own specific criteria: number, date, multiple-choice answers, etc.
4) Add annotations, comments, and edits. A document author can also enable annotations or comments in Adobe Acrobat so that anyone using Adobe Reader can provide feedback and edits. Select the text you’d like to comment on, then right-click for options like Add Note to Replace Text, Strike Through Text, Add Bookmark, and Create Link.
5) Combine several files into one PDF? Need to turn multiple documents into one cohesive whole? Click File > Create > Combine Files into a Single PDF and save yourself hours of cut-and-paste work.
6) Extract individual pages into their own stand-alone files. Alternatively, Acrobat allows you to save any page from a large PDF as its own document. With a file open, click on Tools > Pages > Extract and select from a variety of parameters.
7) Perform an advanced search. Adobe’s free Reader software includes impressive search functionality: click Edit > Advanced Search > Open Full Reader Search and you can sort by specific text, subject, or interactive lists.
8) View a PDF in full-screen mode. Sometimes called Kiosk Mode, this allows PDFs to be viewed like PowerPoint presentations. Click View > Full Screen Mode and you can jump between pages using just the mouse or keyboard.
9) Edit, add, and replace images. Working with photos and graphics in Adobe Acrobat is far simpler than in other programs. With a document open, click on Tools > Content Editing > Edit Text & Images or Add Image for a host of intuitive controls.
10) Protect, encrypt, restrict, and even redact PDFs. The Tools > Protection queue includes many methods of controlling how your PDFs can be accessed, edited, viewed, and sanitized.
PDFs make up the backbone of the document-sharing world, so hopefully, these tips and tricks can deepen your knowledge of the format and strengthen your handle on Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader, the two most common PDF programs around.
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