Two Time-Saving Features in Acrobat

Adobe Acrobat (the full-featured version, not Acrobat Reader) is a powerful tool for graphic designers.

It’s the best way for a client to see your designs, review them, and indicate changes he wants to make. By using Acrobat, you’re making his life easier. And, on his end, instead of having to buy a $600 graphic design program he might have no real use for, he only has to pay around $300 for a piece of software he’ll use many times.

But Acrobat has many features that will make your life easier as well.

Today, we’re going to talk about two of them – two tools that, once you know about them, you will use often.

The following menu directions are for a Mac, using Acrobat 7 Pro. Some of them may differ slightly from the Windows version, but they should be close enough that a little investigation will get you where you want to be.

Let’s say a copywriter or client has asked you to produce a two-page spread of 50 testimonials to present a visual image of how popular and effective the product is.

He emails you the file and there are 50 testimonials … in a PDF file. You can import the PDF as a picture in your design software, but you don’t like the existing design. It doesn’t fit what you’re doing and … it’s fuzzy.

You could retype all the testimonials. (Yuck!) Or you can use Acrobat’s built-in capabilities to save them as a Microsoft Word file.

It works like this. If the PDF was made directly from a document with typed text – like from Word, AppleWorks, Lotus Notes, or a similar application – Acrobat lets you save it as a Word or RTF file.

Do this easy test to see if you’ll be able to save the PDF as a Word or RTF file. Open the PDF in Acrobat. Click the “Select” tool on the left-hand side of the tool bar. (It looks like the I-beam cursor and says “Select” next to it.)

If the cursor is an I-beam when you hover over the text, it means that you’ll be able to do it. Once you’ve saved the file as a Word or RTF document, you’ll be able to edit the copy with your word processor.

Go to the menu bar > File > Save As. A dialog box opens, giving you the option to choose Format. Choose Microsoft Word Document (or RTF if you don’t use Word).

The resulting Word or RTF document will need some formatting help from you, but you can now work with the text in the copy as easily as you would any other text.

However, this only works if the Select tool is an I-beam cursor. If it is a crosshair cursor (+) and you save as a Word or RTF document, everything will be saved as a picture inside the Word document. If that’s the case, you wouldn’t have gained anything, but there’s a great alternative …

Acrobat has built-in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) capabilities that recognize text and bring it into Word (or another word processor).

Open the PDF in Acrobat. Do the “cursor test” described above. If the crosshair cursor appears (+), go to the menu bar > Document > Recognize Text Using OCR > Start.

A dialog box opens, asking which pages you want to read with OCR. Insert those page numbers and click “Okay.” It takes a while, but Acrobat will eventually recognize all the text on the specified pages.

When you’re finished, you will not see anything different … until you use the Select tool and hover over the text again. This time, you’ll get the I-beam cursor. The text is now selectable, and you can either copy/paste it into your word processor or save as a Word file.

Advisory: As with any OCR software, Acrobat makes mistakes. But if you’re recognizing a large block of text, you will save 90% or more of your time by letting Acrobat do most of the work.

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Published: May 7, 2007

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