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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Data Merge from InDesign to unique filenames script to remain FREE

Several months ago, I announced the beta version of a script that had been in development for some time – the ability to prepare uniquely named PDF or InDesign files from a Data Merge.

The Beta release of the script is now complete and the final version is now available from the downloads page. More importantly, it will remain as a FREE script for the InDesign community to enjoy.

If you have downloaded a copy PRIOR to 28 November 2015, it may have a time-limit that is drawing closer, so if you wish to continue to use the script, make sure to download the latest version from the downloads page mentioned earlier.

To see the script in action, I have also produced a series of Youtube videos on the Colecandoo channel.

I am working on a Pro version of the script that will contain enhanced file naming features and expanded export abilities such as export to png, interactive PDF etc. More information about this script will be made available closer to its release date.

I have also made custom versions of this script for specific requests, so if that is something that interests you, contact me via the requests page.

Script: export an InDesign file to split PDF ranges

For the last month, I’ve been feverishly working away on some Data Merge javascripts that will ultimately answer the question that is commonly asked on the Adobe Forums – is there any way to Data Merge to uniquely named PDFs directly from InDesign? I can tell you now that the answer is yes… but developing a one-size fits all solution that will keep everybody happy is another matter!

Even though these scripts aren’t being released just yet, the research did yield some information that could be applied in another script that is as equally sought-after – the ability to export an InDesign file directly to split PDFs. There are many that can export directly to single pages, but not many (if any at all) that can export a PDF from InDesign directly to PDFs that allow the user to choose how many pages long each PDF should be. Well now there is!

exportscreengrabIt’s simple to use. Open the InDesign file, run the script and the following dialog will appear. Just choose where you want the PDFs, what preset to use and how many pages each PDF should be, and click OK!

Better still, it’s FREE!

Download the script from this link.

Any feedback concering this script is greatly appreciated. If you would like to more information about the Data Merge scripts that are in development, contact me on twitter: #colecandoo.

Now you see it, now you don’t… why?

Several posts ago I wrote a piece concerning Acrobat XI and its ability to undock the comments panel so that it could be moved away from the right hand side of the screen. This had advantages when scrolling the list of comments, as to get to the comments further down the list you have to use the slider (that can sometimes miss comments if scrolled too far) or single-click the arrow at the bottom of the scrollbar, and this can inadvertently:

  • Invoke my Dock to pop up on my mac;
  • Invoke a “hot corner” action on my mac that is set to the bottom right of the screen;
  • Inadvertently open an email alert that pops up via Microsoft Outlook (alerts pop up on the bottom right of the screen).

Read the full article here.

The solution was to click on a button within the commenting panel that would allow the list to be undocked. Here is how it used to look in Acrobat XI:

trackalts2However, in Acrobat DC, the “Undock Comment List” is no more!

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There is no ability to change this in the Commenting Preferences either.

This might seem like a rather obscure feature, but when working with marked-up PDFs as a workflow it is a handy feature to have that will save lots of time.

Fortunately, the ability to view comments that were unchecked does remain… for now!

However, I am less than impressed so far with Acrobat DC, and this is largely due to the way it was released. When the product was made live via Creative Cloud, Acrobat DC appeared as an upgrade, but what wasn’t apparent is that uninstalled the existing version of Acrobat! Luckily there were other users that experienced this before me and had tweeted about it:

taketh3For most users, this may not have been a problem, but my version of Acrobat was also running a paid plug-in and had several scripts that had modified the user interface menus, such as the ability to reverse the page order or collate another PDF into the currently opened PDF. So installing Acrobat DC would have completely deleted these enhancements, and meant putting them back on… and in the case of the plug-in, would have meant purchasing the new version (there was no free update to work with Acrobat DC), and waiting until it was available!

To be fair to Adobe, they have now amended the installation process and introduced a checkbox that is ticked on by default that says “Remove old versions”. I’m glad we’re now given a warning and an option, however I think the default of that option should be ticked OFF.

That said, Adobe have received the message loud and clear not to do it again. I say that as an attendee of the PEPCON 2015 Conference in Philadelphia, where attendees met the Adobe InDesign engineers on day three for a general questions and answers session, where this (and many other suggestions) were passed directly onto the team.

Unfortunately, it came a little too late for the find font panel in CC2015. Mike Rankin at indesignsecrets.com posted this piece on the sudden disappearance of icons in the find font menu of Adobe InDesign that many in prepress find invaluable.

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