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Acrobat: Copy comments from one PDF to another

August 14, 2020

Warning! I haven’t done this, so I can’t verify that it works exactly as described, but because I know quite a number of my readers use Acrobat and its commenting and markup features, I thought I’d share this tip from the Accidental Medical Writer. I use Acrobat XI Professional, so the process for earlier or later versions may not work exactly as described in those other versions. I doubt It looks like you can do this in Adobe Reader too (see the comment below from titch990, dated August 2020). Also, I’m not sure if this process ONLY imports comments, or imports all other markups as well—the people who wrote the original tip seemed to use ‘comments’ and ‘markups’ interchangeably. I’m also not sure if you can do this multiple times for copies from different reviewers—if anyone has tried this, comment below to add to the information about this tip.

Scenario: You’ve sent out a copy of your original PDF for review. Meantime, you’ve made other changes to the Word document and have regenerated a clean PDF. Now the reviewers send back their copy of the earlier PDF marked up with their comments. You want to incorporate those comments into the clean copy of the PDF that you have. (The original article from the Accidental medical Writer explains their particular scenario.)

  1. In Acrobat, open the clean copy of the PDF into which you want to import the comments.
  2. Click Comment to open the Comments panel.
  3. Locate the search box below Comments List in this panel.
  4. At the far right of the search box area, click the drop-down arrow next to the Options icon.
  5. Select Import Data File.
  6. Select the PDF file containing the reviewer’s comments you want to import.
  7. Click Open and the comments will be imported into the new PDF.
  8. Because your copy of the PDF incorporated other changes, some of the imported comments may be out of position and you’ll need to drag and drop them to the correct place. This is still much quicker than retyping them!

[Link last checked August 2020]

8 comments

  1. I have used this successfully in my workflow so that multiple individuals can review a proof simultaneously. We exported comments to FDF files and then imported them all to one master.


  2. Great use case! Excellent idea.

    –Rhonda


  3. Hey! Thank you. This looks really useful. In my present job, I occasionally find myself in this situation, and it’s always a nightmare.

    I can confirm this feature is available in Acrobat Reader! Yay! On the Mac, Options is the ellipsis symbol at the top right of the comments pane.

    At work, I only have Acrobat Reader. I only have one, occasionally-released, PDF document, and I’m trying to make that not a PDF. So I rarely need to use Acrobat Pro, and don’t feel justified in asking for it. I use my personal copy on my personal laptop if/when I need the Pro features.

    The scenario when I’ve needed to move review comments to a new PDF is when my master is in Word, and not all the reviewers have Word, so I’ve make a PDF for reviewing. Then, I want to make a new PDF that addresses some review comments, but leaves others pending while the SMEs take a look at the updated content. At this point, I want reviewers to be able to see all the old and resolved comments too, but against the new content.

    After a particularly nightmare-ish review sequence, I changed my approach and started giving reviewers a copy of the Word document, and telling them to review in GoogleDocs (which everyone has).

    Reviewing in GoogleDocs can do odd things to Word documents, which is why I don’t let them loose in my master (come to that, reviewers in Word can do odd things to Word documents!) , but at least I can open the reviewed version in Word, make any changes to address comments, and manually update my private master Word copy using cut-and-paste from the reviewer copy. Then I can use the reviewer copy for another review cycle if required.

    That’s far easier than trying to copy outstanding comments into a newer PDF, prefixed with “Alice says . . . “, “Bob says . . . ” etc. And it also leaves the comment history for anyone who wants to see how I responded. But it still involves me in some grief (the things we tech writers do to keep the pain from the SMEs!).

    This tip will certainly. make my life easier the next time I release this document!


  4. Thanks for that great description of your workflow, and for confirming that it also works with Reader. I’ll update the post to reflect that.

    –Rhonda


  5. Just want to say thank you, as this was exactly the type of information I was looking for. Here I was thinking I’d have to import all comments one by one, but the method you outline does them all at once. Cheers!


  6. THANK YOU!!! This has made my pathetic life much easier!


  7. Thank you very much! Super helpful.

    -Landon


  8. In Acrobat, “Import data” is now found using Comments > Meatball menu in the upper right



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