Archive for the ‘Acrobat’ Category


Inserting a ‘This page intentionally left blank’ message

October 3, 2012

When you have odd/even pages set for a Word document, and new sections or chapters starting on an odd page, you may get a blank page for a preceding even page (see here for a full explanation as to why this is so:

Unfortunately, you can’t see the blank page in Word — you only see it when the document is printed, including ‘printed’ to PDF. In some situations (such as for legal or regulatory documents), you may want to indicate to the reader that the blank page is deliberately blank and that it’s not an omission.

There are a couple of ways you can add a ‘This page intentionally left blank’ type of message in Word, using VBA code or fields, but neither is particularly easy to implement, especially if you’ve already set up odd page section breaks:

However, if you have Adobe Acrobat (NOT Adobe Reader) there is a super easy way to insert such a message into a PDF of the Word document. And you can save the message for later use in the same document or other documents too.

The instructions below are for Acrobat Pro X — earlier versions of Acrobat also insert watermarks, but you may have to look under different options for that functionality (e.g. Acrobat 9 has it under Document > Watermark).

  1. Save the Word document as a PDF.
  2. Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat (NOT Reader).
  3. Go to View > Tools > Pages (or click the Tools text on the right of the menu bar and then expand the Pages option).
  4. Click Watermark.
  5. Select Add Watermark.
  6. On the Add Watermark window, choose your settings. In the example below, I’ve entered ‘This page intentionally left blank’ as the watermark text and set the font, font color, and font size. I only wanted to put this watermark on a single page in the document (page 2), so I clicked the Page Range Options link (top right of the window), and set the page. I left all other settings as they were, then clicked OK. I could have saved this message and all its formatting for use later in this document, or in other documents.
  7. I now had a document with a message on the blank page:

No, I won’t comment on the absurdity of the page no longer being blank as now there is some text on it! The reality is that this is a convention that has been used for several decades at least, and is a known convention in legal and regulatory circles, and possibly military and other technical documents where it is important that the reader understands that nothing has been omitted inadvertently.

[Links last checked October 2012; thanks to Matt H for alerting me to this simple solution]


Acrobat Help? Not very helpful

July 19, 2012

I needed to find something in the Acrobat Pro X online help, but instead of the Help loading and offering me a search function, I got this message:

Acrobat Help isn't very helpful if it requires internet access

I *was* connected to the internet, and I could access all sorts of sites. But no matter what I did, I kept getting this message and the Help never displayed.

Why oh why isn’t there an option to search the Help on my computer (assuming there’s a Help system for this application stored on my computer)? Why does the Help need to access the internet before it displays? Why didn’t it work even though I had access to the internet? What do people do who aren’t connected to the internet at the time they want to get Help (e.g. at a remote location, in a plane, in an area where access is unreliable, etc.)?

I’ve ranted about Adobe’s shifting of Help to ‘the cloud’ before (the horrible ‘Community Help’ used in Captivate 5:, but this situation of not even being able to choose whether to view the locally installed Help or the Help available on the internet is doing a disservice to users.

While Microsoft also has internet-based Help as the default for their Office programs, you can change the option to search the locally installed Help instead.

Did I find my answer? Sort of, via someone’s blog via an internet search external to Acrobat. But it’s not the official Help, which is what I wanted.

[Link last checked 18 July 2012]


How to find out author and date details for a PDF

July 13, 2012

Peter, a work colleague, wanted to know how to reference a PDF he’d located on a government website. There was no identifying information on the PDF — there was a date, a semblance of a title, but no authoring body, and the headers and footers offered only a variation of the title. He couldn’t guess the authoring body from the website address as this government department had changed names several times over the years since the publication date.

Here’s the top of page 1 of the PDF so you can see his dilemma:

No author information on the document

Fortunately, I was able to help him. By looking at the Document Properties for the PDF, I identified the author and the correct title for this document and Peter was able to complete his bibliography.


First, right-click anywhere in the PDF and select Document Properties.

Open the PDF's Document Properties

Then check the details on the Description tab.

The Document Properties show the authoring body and the full title

In this example, the full title was listed (1), along with the correct authoring body at the time the document was created (2), and the date it was created (3).

By the way, I’m pretty sure that this information comes from the metadata of the original software that was used to create the document (e.g. Microsoft Word), so while it’s good that it’s available in the PDF’s document properties, don’t rely on it 100%.

(based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues)


What was Adobe thinking?

January 13, 2012

What on earth was Adobe thinking when they decided to remove the search from the Adobe Reader toolbar (and Acrobat too, for that matter)?

Someone, somewhere decided that Adobe Reader X (that’s 10 for those of you counting) wouldn’t have a search box (or Find in their terminology), as previous versions of Adobe Reader did.

Here’s what you got in Adobe Reader 8:

And in Adobe Reader 9:

And here’s what you get in Adobe Reader X:

That’s right, NO search/find box or icons!! Nada. Nothing. Nil. Zip.

While you can get these search icons back on to the toolbar (see below for how), Adobe Reader is a ubiquitous program used by millions of people worldwide. Therefore, the user base is extremely varied and CANNOT be assumed to know how to put an icon back on a toolbar or to know about Ctrl+F! Geeks, nerds, techies, those angry/frustrated enough to search the internet will either figure it out or find it out. But what do the ordinary people do — those who aren’t big computer users or who aren’t very computer savvy beyond what they do on the computer regularly? People like my husband (who alerted me to the issue as he had downloaded Adobe Reader X, while I still had the older versions), my parents, my quilting friends?

PDFs aren’t the easiest things in the world to navigate and having a search facility on the toolbar is essential, in my opinion.

Well, the good news is that the search functionality hasn’t gone — it’s only the Find box that’s gone from the toolbar. You can get search icons back on the toolbar… (keep reading for how) and you can get the Find box back (Ctrl+F, or Edit > Find)  but you can’t put the Find box back on the toolbar. Instead, it hovers at the top of the viewport, just below the toolbar.

And it’s a pathetic excuse for a search box too. Why?

  • You can only move it sideways at the top of the viewport, but you can’t drag it onto the toolbar. You can’t move it up or down or dock it anywhere.
  • The area you type in is very narrow. Yes, it will take a long string of text, but you won’t be able to see it all. Ever.
  • The Previous and Next buttons are miniscule! I get heartily sick of programs that are designed for 20-year-old eyes. No-one is getting any younger and these tiny buttons are very hard to see and even harder to click correctly.
  • It’s in a pale, transparent blue so it could easily be missed by someone who doesn’t have 20/20 ‘normal’ vision.

Getting the search icons on to the toolbar

To add the basic search (Find) icon to the toolbar:

  1. Right-click in any blank area on the Adobe Reader toolbar.
  2. Select Edit > Find.

The Find icon is added to the toolbar. And no, you can’t shift it elsewhere on the toolbar — where it goes is where it stays.

To add the Advanced Search icon to the toolbar:

  1. Right-click in any blank area on the Adobe Reader toolbar.
  2. Select Edit > Advanced Search.

The Advanced Search icon is added to the toolbar. And like the Find icon, you can’t shift it elsewhere on the toolbar — where it goes is where it stays.

And while I’m having this little rant about Adobe, what’s with the inconsistent terminology? A basic search is called a ‘Find’ and an advanced search is called… an ‘Advanced Search’. Why not use ‘Search’ instead of ‘Find’? Two of the biggest search engines both use ‘Search’ and ‘Advanced Search’, so it’s not like it’s a hard term to understand or misinterpret. It’s harder to deal with inconsistent terms like ‘Find’ and ‘Search’ in the one menu list, in my opinion.

See also:

[Links last checked January 2012]


Acrobat: Strange Word document header behaviour

August 18, 2011

Here’s a strange one that my client had today. Kate (not her real name) was trying to PDF a Word 2007 document, something she’s done hundreds, if not thousands, of times before. The Word document was based on our project’s template — again, something we’ve used thousands of times. So there was no reason why something would go wrong between saving the Word document and generating the PDF. But it did.

Here’s what Kate got on every odd page — the header was spread vertically much wider than it should have been ([1] in the screenshot below):

A further — unrelated — complication was that all the ‘Arial Bold’ fonts were rendered as some sort of serif font in the resulting PDF ([2] in the screen shot). I’ve dealt with that issue in this blog post: so I won’t discuss that further here.

I had no idea what was causing the headers to be messed up on all odd pages in all sections (and there were quite a few landscape/portrait sections in this 120p document) of the generated PDF. I had a quick glance at the Word document but as Kate had mentioned in her email, the document and its Print Preview view looked fine. It was only when she created the PDF that it got all messed up.

Without doing anything, I tried creating a PDF from the document too — I had full Acrobat installed on my computer, whereas Kate was using the Save As PDF option in Word. That made no difference.

Next, I selected the entire borderless table in one of the odd page headers. I noticed that the font size in a single cell was set to 7 pt Arial (as expected), but when I selected the entire table, the font size was blank, which told me that various font sizes (and perhaps styles) were applied to the different cells and end of row markers.

Once I selected the entire table, I manually changed the font to 7 pt for all elements of the table, then generated the PDF to see if that made any difference. I had no expectation that it would — but it did! Suddenly, the header displayed as it should in the PDF. That was a surprise.

So I went to the next section’s odd page header and reapplied 7 pt font size to its table and created the PDF again. Voila! It displayed correctly too, so then it was a case of going into every odd page header, selecting the header’s table and reapplying the 7 pt font size to the entire table. Finally, I created the PDF again, and it was all correct.

I sent back the revised Word document to Kate — along with the nice clean PDF — and she was very happy. She was on a deadline to get this PDF to the State and Commonwealth government regulators by tomorrow, so I saved her skin.

However, I really don’t know what caused the problem in the first place, and why reapplying a font size (NOT a style) fixed it. It was also one of those things where I really had no clue what had caused it or how to fix it — it was just a serendipitous fluke that I tried the font size. And that it worked.


Word: Insert a multi page PDF

August 8, 2011

Word is kludgy (that’s a technical term!) when it comes to inserting objects from other applications — including from other Office apps. When you insert a file as an object, only ONE page of the file is displayed in Word. Too bad if your file has multiple pages… as most do.

Carol’s problem was with a multi page PDF she had created from Excel (the original was a large text table — nothing fancy). The spreadsheet was fairly wide, and she had created the PDF using an A3 paper size. The resulting document was seven pages long. She wanted to insert it in her Word document as an Appendix but to date it had beaten her. So she asked me for help.

And that’s when I discovered that Word’s ‘Insert Object from file’ function only inserts the first page of the file. Which is just stupid. And is just useless for most people in the business world where multiple page documents are the norm. (The links below this post  confirm that only one page is inserted — most of the information in these links is from Microsoft Word MVPs, people who have much more knowledge about this stuff than I do.)

I tested several options — I was able to get the PDF into the Word document, but not without a fair bit of trial and error. In essence, you’ll save the PDF pages as images, then insert those images into Word. I told you it was kludgy!

I’ve documented some methods below — the method YOU use will depend on the software you have. If you have full Acrobat (NOT Adobe Reader), then you have a better chance of getting a decent result, than if you don’t (use Method 1). If you don’t have full Acrobat, but have graphics software that will take screen captures, then use Method 2. And if you have neither full Acrobat nor a screen capture program, then you’ll have difficulty achieving your goal of inserting a PDF file into Word (see Other Options).

Method 1: Using full Acrobat

  1. Open the PDF in Acrobat (NOT Adobe Reader).
  2. Select File > Save As from the menu (I’m using Acrobat Professional 9, but later versions should work similarly).
  3. Click the drop-down arrow next to Save as type to see the available file types.
  4. Select one of these: JPG, PNG, or TIF.
    In my testing, the results from each file type were similar — TIF had a *slightly* crisper text quality and added about 700 KB to the Word document for EACH page saved from the PDF; JPG and PNG were similar in text quality (and only marginally fuzzier than TIF in the printed output) — they added about 900 KB and 150 KB respectively per page to the Word document’s size. I suggest you do your own testing of the on screen and printed resolutions of the various file formats to find the best for you.
  5. Click Save. Acrobat will create a separate image for each page in the PDF in the folder specified on the Save As dialog; e.g. <name of document>_Page_1.png etc.
  6. Open the Word document and insert the images into the document as you normally would. If the images are large (as Carol’s were), add an A3 landscape section for the images.

Method 2: Using a screen capture program

If you have a screen capture program such as SnagIt, you can ‘print’ to it from the PDF to create the individual images. If you know the output file type you want and if want SnagIt to sequentially number the files create, set up your printer output parameters in SnagIt beforehand (this is not essential).

  1. Open the PDF. You don’t need full Acrobat for this — Adobe Reader is fine.
  2. Select File > Print from the menu.
  3. Select the SnagIt printer drive from the list of printers on the Print dialog.
  4. Select the page range (it’s All by default).
  5. Click OK.
  6. An image of each page is captured according to your SnagIt printer defaults (if you set them), and the images are sent to SnagIt Editor, where you can modify them or save them as something else.
  7. Open the Word document and insert the images into the document as you normally would. If the images are large (as Carol’s were), add an A3 landscape section for the images.

Other options

Some other options for getting a PDF into Word include:

  • Wait until your Word document is PDF’ed, then add the pages of the existing PDF into it using Document > Insert Pages from the Acrobat menu.
  • Copy and paste the Excel table directly into Word — see
  • Select the text in the PDF, then copy/paste it into Word, OR save the PDF as a *.txt or *.rtf or *.doc file. Note: With any of these methods, you’ll lose some or all formatting, so only do this if the PDF is small and uncomplicated.
  • Insert the PDF as an object (linked or not) with an icon. However, it won’t print out the text when you print the Word document — you have to double-click the PDF icon first to open the PDF, print it out separately, then print the Word document.

See also:


[Links last checked August 2011]


Acrobat: Reduce the file size of a scanned PDF

February 22, 2011

My friend and ex-roomie, Kristin, emailed me with a problem. She had a couple of large PDF documents and she wanted to know if I could reduce them in size without them ‘going fuzzy’.

The documents were a 2-page statement of academic and extra-curricula record from her son’s school, and his end of Year 12 school reference (1 page). Both had been scanned as images from the originals, and both were well over 4 MB in size, even though they were small in their number of pages.

I tried several methods using screen capture tools without much success, then remembered reading about something in Acrobat that compresses or reduces a file’s size. A quick hunt in the menus and I found it (in Acrobat 9 Professional, it’s PDF Optimizer under the Advanced menu).

I ran PDF Optimizer, leaving all the default settings as they were, and it reduced the file size for both documents to just over 200 KB each.

I was happy, Kristin was happy, her son was happy, and I didn’t even have to fiddle with any settings!