Checkboxes are back in Acrobat Comments… sort of…

Following on from my last post (or rant) about the removal of the checkbox in Adobe Acrobat’s commenting tools, I can report that the December 2018 release of Adobe Acrobat has brought back checkboxes within the commenting tools. However, it does come with some caveats:

It is an “opt-in” preference

Unfortunately, the ability to see checkboxes is off by default. If you are missing the checkboxes and want them back, you have to make sure that you have the following checkbox checked in your preferences:

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Checkboxes are only shown when comments are selected

Unlike earlier versions of Acrobat that would show all checkboxes (whether the comment was selected or not) the checkboxes will only appear once a comment is selected.

 

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I find this frustrating as I have to click on the comment to then have access to the checkbox, whereas in previous (admittedly older) versions, the checkboxes always appeared. Kelly Vaughn’s Document Geek site does a fantastic job of showing the different ways comments were handled in previous versions.

However, if all of the comments are selected, then all of the checkboxes become visible.

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Problem solved, right? Sadly, no. If any of those checkboxes are clicked, all checkboxes that appear will change state from unchecked to checked.

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So while checkboxes can appear in an unchecked state, the UI still has lots of room for improvement when compared to previous versions of Acrobat, or other paid PDF viewers such as Bluebeam Revue. For now, it’s a small win to see the checkboxes return.

The share button can be made smaller

Another UI fixup that was highly requested was the ability to remove the great big share button in the top right. Again, it’s there by default, but you can make it smaller by right clicking next to the button and selecting the Hide Share Button Label option:

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So the button won’t go away, but will at least be half the size:

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Déjà vu?

Unfortunately, this is the second time in recent years that myself and others had to twist the Acrobat team’s arm to bring back a feature that had been removed (or deprecated), such as the time that key tools from the commenting panel were removed before being reintroduced months later following user complaints.

In this instance, this isn’t the outcome that I (and many other users) were after, but at least it is a step in the right direction. Let’s hope that the next version of Acrobat introduce some of the community’s suggestions about the checkboxes, as well as other pain-points that can be found on the Acrobat Uservoice.

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Bring Back the Checkbox in Acrobat Comments

UPDATE 2019-01-10: Checkboxes were reintroduced in the December 2018 update of Adobe Acrobat. More information can be found here, but I will keep this article visible for the sake of posterity.

At the beginning of October 2018, Adobe released its updates for Acrobat DC and Acrobat Reader DC. For those users who have the “Automatically install updates” checkbox checked in the Acrobat preferences, the update was installed without prompting.

Unfortunately, as part of this update, the Acrobat team removed a checkbox that is visible in the commenting panel when a comment is selected, as shown in the following image:
bringback01.jpgBy checking the checkbox on or off, it allows the comments to be filtered as checked or unchecked – quite handy when checking mark-ups that can’t be imported directly into InDesign’s new PDF comment import feature.

Strangely, while the checkbox was removed, it is still possible to mark a comment as checked, but this is done by right-clicking on the “Add checkmark” option of the contextual menu.
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Thinking this must be a bug, I went onto the Adobe Acrobat forums to see what was going on, only to be astonished that this was not a bug, but an intentional change:
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However, I completely disagree with the terms “clean and intuitive to use” and would substitute the terms “ludicrous and mind-boggling“. The idea of a checkmark is to either check it or uncheck it. If it is not possible to check the checkmark because it is not there, to me that is not intuitive, that is frustrating.

In my mind, this user interface change is the equivalent of removing the right indicator signal on a car, and activating the right indicator required changing the radio station twice.

Once I knew the workaround of using the contextual menu to click on the checkbox, I was still frustrated as this triples the amount of work to perform the same task. Instead of a one-step procedure of clicking a check box, the procedure now involves three steps:

  1. right click,
  2. scroll down,
  3. click the Add checkmark option.

This is fine if checking one item as marked, but if checking dozens – if not hundreds of these items – one at a time, that is an inconsiderate inconvenience.

Knowing the keyboard shortcut (Shift + K) is another workaround, but again this requires clicking on the comment(s) and then putting both hands on the keyboard to activate the shortcut.

For long-time readers of the Colecandoo blog, this may come as a sense of déjà vu, and that is because two years ago, a similar problem occurred.

Unlike the previous situation, I happened to be attending Adobe MAX 2018 in Los Angeles when the change had occurred, so was able to pass this feedback directly to the Senior Product Manager of Document Cloud. I took a selfie to prove that we in fact met while at MAX:
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To be fair on the Acrobat team, they have changed their stance and now listed the Uservoice issue as a planned one:

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However, despite going straight to the top about this issue, and having over 200 complaints to the Acrobat Uservoice page at the time of writing this article, the issue is STILL here.

In short, this is an important issue that many regular Acrobat users would like to see implemented now as a patch, rather than as a roll-back of the feature for the next scheduled release of Acrobat DC. I know the Acrobat team never intends to frustrate users, but keeping users waiting for this change back to be implemented is exacerbating the issue, especially when it was made clear through the Acrobat Uservoice that the change was unpopular.

My last comment on the matter is to those who design the UI/UX for Acrobat. When considering improvements for the software, please ask the users of the software what they would like implemented, and leave features alone if they are already there!

Preflight video and “Enforcer” Scripts

Adobe InDesign has a magnificient feature that displays a list of prepress issues that may be present in artwork, and updates this in real-time. It is the live preflight feature, and it’s certainly not a new feature in Adobe InDesign. That said, considering some of the files that I receive that are considered to be “finished art”, I wonder how many people know that this feature exists; or uses the feature before handing off their finished artwork to their printer or supplier.

To be fair, the live preflight feature is rather passive in Adobe InDesign. If the preflight panel isn’t loaded into your set of panels in your workspace, it is only visible at the bottom of the screen, and is less than 50 pixels in height. The default preflight that is performed on artwork only alerts on a handful of items, some of which have dedicated alerts to their absence anyway (such as overset text, missing fonts and missing links).

In this Colecandoo video, I demonstrate that the preflights can be much more powerful, the basic preflight can be replaced with far more powerful preflights, and I demonstrate some traps to look out for that are not detected with any preflight. The video also demonstrates two scripts that are designed to prevent users from printing or exporting their artwork until it passes the live preflight check. If you’re interested in obtaining a copy of this on-request script, head to the contact page and ask for the “preflight enforcer scripts”.

In a future video, I’ll elaborate on the demonstration file used in the video, as it contains dozens of prepress errors.

How NOT to make annotations in a PDF

In early July, I prepared a video for my employer that demonstrated how to mark up a PDF correctly, primarily how to use the commenting tools. This came about as a direct result of the Adobe Acrobat team removing certain icons from the comment panel, meaning that many of my customers had to be re-trained on how to mark-up PDF proofs that they were sent. Since July 12, the Acrobat team has decided to return one of the icons it had removed from the comment panel, but still pushes for the use of the blue arrow tool to make additions, deletions or replacements of text. I’m happy that the icon has returned, but frustrated that it was removed in the first place.

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This is important because PDF mark-ups can use the annotations workflow that works like this – simple comments are taken into Acrobat using the comments tool and then imported directly into InDesign using plug-in software available from DTPtools. Here is a link to a video of the workflow in action – it effectively takes the mark-ups that were made in the Acrobat file into the ID file, and these mark-ups can be accepted or rejected in a similar fashion to revisions made in Microsoft Word.

There will be occasions that alterations outside of the scope of the annotations workflow will have to be made, but I would encourage anyone who has been asked to mark-up a PDF for their printer to please read these suggestions:

Use the Adobe Acrobat Reader

Yes it is possible to mark-up a PDF in other software such as Preview (Mac) or in some browser plug-ins, but for the mark-ups to save and be interpreted correctly by the DTPtools annotations plug-in, please use the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Mark-ups only please

That being said, please do not:

  • attempt to make the changes live in the PDF, but instead use the commenting tools only. This means staying clear of the typewriter tool and only using commenting tools, namely the blue arrow tool to make deletions, additions or replacements (or use the classic icons); highlight or sticky note.
  • open the file in Microsoft Word and save it back as a PDF. This can make it impossible to tell the distinction between the two files and will result in the artwork being set up again from scratch.
  • print the PDF and then mark it up in pen, scan it to a new PDF – this will quite clearly not work with the annotations workflow.
  • add or delete pages from the PDF. If pages need to be deleted, use the mark-ups to indicate this. Likewise, if pages need to be inserted, use the sticky-note tool to inform the operator that pages need to be inserted.

Good instructions

  • Delays and misunderstandings because of unclear instructions = $. This will result in a new proof that will no doubt contain misunderstood edits will need to be corrected, resulting in further proofs, chargeable time, delays and frustration.
  • Make sure your instructions are so clear that edits are easily understandable by anybody. Even if you have had a conversation with someone about the alterations to be made, never assume that the person making the alterations will be the person you had a conversation with.

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When working in groups

  • Make a distinction between comments intended for collaborators and authors; and comments intended for a printer. Collaborators generally know what is being referred to, but prepress staff are making changes only, so make sure that the instructions for the printers are easily understandable. Any notes, such as opinions (e.g. I don’t like that font), or topic specific queries (e.g. need to fact-check this statement) really should be between collaborators and authors.
  • “Duelling banjos”. If collaborators can’t agree on specific alterations, don’t take it out on the prepress operator – they are doing what they are told to do in the PDF. If there is a dispute between authors about what does/does not need to appear in the publication, resolve that prior to submitting the PDF to the prepress operator for changes.
  • When collaborating, make sure each collaborator is either looking at the SAME PDF, or the same COPY of the PDF, and that changes are submitted at the same time rather than staggered. There is a great video that specifically deals with collaborating groups here.

Think about the practical application of the mark-ups

  • Have realistic expectations of the edits. For example, supplying a 5 page word file with the instructions “fit on 1 page” is unrealistic.
  • Understand the implications of changes. For example, pages that are designed to work as readers’ spreads will be jeopardised if an instruction to shuffle pages forces the spread to break… a segue to this issue…
  • Shuffling pages… Again this can be quite confusing, especially if LOTS of pages are being shuffled around. Remember that shuffling pages can also break pages that are meant to appear together, such as pages set up as readers spreads. Make sure that the new order of the pages is clear to avoid any confusion.

Ultimately, a well marked-up PDF proof can result in more reliable changes being made faster and on-time.

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