Most of us have viewed PDF (Portable Document Format) files online at some point, but there are many reasons you might want to create PDFs for yourself. Here are some of the advantages of the PDF file format:
- PDFs can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection. Unlike Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect, Adobe Reader is a free download. Once Reader is installed, PDFs will open on PCs or Macs, in Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox, or Safari.
- PDFs look the same on every computer. Saving a document as a PDF freezes the format exactly as it appears on your screen. Fonts, spacing, colors, etc. will be retained regardless of the computer being used to view the document.
- PDFs print as they appear on the screen. Unlike web pages and some other file formats, PDFs will print without any extraneous text or changes in formatting.
- PDFs can be password-protected.PDFs offer several security features that prevent others from viewing, searching, and copying the contents of the file if they do not have the proper password.
- PDFs support limited editable regions. Authors can create forms that allow users to fill in blanks and print the resulting documents.
- PDFs take up less space than some alternative formats. Depending on your settings for such options as resolution and color, PDFs can take up a fraction of the storage space of a scanned image or postscript document.
The benefits and versatility of PDFs make them appropriate for a number of applications, such as: posting course readings to Electronic Reserves, D2L, or course websites; posting important documents that rely on consistent formatting (CVs, reports, etc.) online in a format that will be viewable and printable from a distance; posting material online in a format that cannot be simply copy-and-pasted; password-protecting and distributing sensitive information.
This workshop will show you how to save an existing document as a PDF, set access restrictions, and edit PDF documents (including creating fillable forms).
Converting Existing Documents to PDF
If your document already exists in electronic format—as a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, or web page, for example—conversion is simple:
- Open the document in its default application (Word, Internet Explorer, etc.) on a computer with Adobe Acrobat Pro (not simply Adobe Reader) installed.
- Select File, Print from the top menu. Do not click the print toolbar icon.
- Select Adobe PDF as your printer.
- Click OK. You will then be prompted to choose a filename and folder to store your new file in. Acrobat will do the conversion for you. *note: several windows may open and close on your desktop while the conversion is taking place. This is normal.
If you print to the Adobe PDF printer from a word processing, spreadsheet, or internet browsing program, the resulting PDF will be searchable and allow a user to copy and paste text from the file.
Scanning a Document into PDF Format
If you have a hard copy of the document you wish to save as a PDF, you can scan it in with a flatbed scanner or document feeder. COHIC and the UA Library offer both in their labs. To scan a document using Adobe Acrobat Pro:
- Select File, Create PDF, From Scanner from the top menu in Acrobat.
- Select your scanner from the list of available hardware.
- Follow the instructions for your particular scanner.
By default, most scanners import documents as images rather than text. This detail doesn’t necessarily affect your viewing or print quality, but it will prevent you from being able to search your PDFs or copy text from them. If you want your PDF to be searchable or copyable, you must use Adobe’s Optical Character Recognition subprogram. From the Document menu, select Paper Capture (Recognize Text Using OCR in Acrobat 7.0), then Start Capture...
You can select the range of pages to search for renderable text, then Acrobat will convert the image to searchable text. *note: Not all scanned text will be recognized by the OCR reader. Text clarity and orientation will affect OCR’s ability to recognize and convert text.
Creating Fillable Forms
There are at least two ways of creating forms that users can fill in and print (or submit online if you use the proper server technology). *note: Users with Adobe Reader and not Acrobat will not be able to save these changes.
- Open your document in Adobe Acrobat Pro. From the top menu, select Tools, Advanced Editing, Text Field.
- Using the crosshair cursor, outline the area of your document that you would like to be fillable. You will be prompted to choose a border style and color, font, and other options for your text field. Choose those that best suit your purpose, or simply leave the defaults as they are.
- You can also create check boxes, radio buttons, dropdown lists, and other interactive fields for your form from the Advanced Editing menu.
- Save your document when you have created all of the text fields, buttons, etc.
Subsequent users who open your document will then be able to enter text into the appropriate fields by selecting them with the Select Tool. Text boxes will only be visible if you have set them as such, however.
Be sure to save your document when you’re done!
A cleaner, and in the long run more versatile, option for creating fillable forms is available in newer versions of Acrobat (7.0 and up). Select Advanced, Forms, Make Form Fillable in Adobe Designer. This will open Adobe Designer, a separate application specifically for creating and editing forms. This tool will give you greater control over the location and types of fillable regions, as well as enabling you to place Print and Submit Via Email buttons on your form.
Document Security (Password Protection)
Adobe Acrobat Pro includes a security feature that allows you to prevent users from opening, searching, and copying text from your documents. To enable this feature, select Document, Security, Restrict Opening and Editing (2 Restrict Opening and Editing Using Passwords… in version 7.0) from the top menu.
Depending on the version of Acrobat you’re using, you will have a range of options to choose from. You can require a password to open or copy text from a document. You can also disallow printing and commenting on your files. With later versions of Acrobat (7.0 and up), you can also protect your document from being searched and indexed by a search engine.