Friday, August 9, 2013

PDF Proof Without (Much) Pain

Paper proofs are becoming less common, and many authors can expect to see all their proofs in PDF. This is a good thing for a whole host of reasons, but PDFs remain a somewhat mysterious thing for many outside of the graphic design and layout fields.  I’m going to to try to demystify a few PDF features in hopes of making proof changes easier for all concerned.

First things first, let’s use Acrobat Reader so we’re all on the same page. If you’re using a PDF markup application like PDF Pen or you’re rocking proper Acrobat, then this post isn’t for you. You’re already ahead of the curve. However, if you’re on a Mac and you’re relying on Preview, the following will be more helpful if you install Reader too. (It’s free.) If you’re on a PC, you’re probably using Reader, but if you’re defaulting to some other third-party free PDF software, you might want to switch to Reader for purposes of this demo.

A couple things to note: Reader is not a great tool. Marking PDFs with Reader is not nearly as easy as, say, making changes in a Word doc. Selection always feels a little imprecise and adding things like paragraph breaks and style changes require precise comments—you can’t just insert them. But if you use all the tool’s capabilities, you can make life easier.

Second, all of this assumes the person who prepared the PDF has enabled all the comment and annotation features. We say “comment-enabled PDF” around here, and that’s basically the default setting for PDFs we create. But other houses may do things differently. If you don’t have the full palette of annotation tools when you hit Comment in Reader, you might want to ask your editor or the designer to make you a comment-enabled PDF.

Ok, on with the show.

(Note, I did this on a PC with Windows 7, but it’s not too different on a Mac.)