Edit PDF in Acrobat Pro?

Subject: Edit PDF in Acrobat Pro?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, salt -dot- morton -at- gmail -dot- com
Date: Wed, 01 Jul 2009 15:33:46 -0400

Chris Morton noted: <<I've inherited a legacy manual in PDF format. No
one seems to know anything about native .DOC files.>>

That's surprisingly common. I'm never sure whether the creators don't
understand what they're doing, or whether they're actually being
malicious towards their employers. Could go either way, depending on
how cynical I'm feeling on a given day...

Nonetheless, the first thing you should do is talk to the managers to
find out who created these files; these people may still be reachable
(even if they've moved to another employer) and may have the original
files squirreled away somewhere. If not, the company's computer people
may have them somewhere in old backups. It's worth investing this
time, because an hour or so of work now might spare you many hours of
pain working with the PDFs later. Whatever happens, you need to
convince these people that hanging onto the original files should be a
priority starting right now. Find a way to make that part of your
standard operating procedure.

<<I have to confess taht I'm not that up-to-speed with the
capabilities of Acrobat Pro 7.0. Although the Edit toolbar is visible,
none of its commands are active. I cannot edit the PDF in questyion as
a result.>>

If the PDF files were created with a password or other mechanism such
that they cannot be edited, you're probably hosed. <g> Well, unless
you're willing to go hunting for password crackers; there are a ton of
these out there in Webworld, but I personally wouldn't trust any of
them that haven't been reviewed by a reputable source such as PC
Magazine or its kin. Ask yourself who would create such things, and
exercise appropriate skepticism.

If you can crack the password, you can try exporting the files as Word
documents. In my experience (as of Acrobat Pro 8), you'll recover all
or most of the text, depending on how badly the source file was
designed, but then you'll potentially waste hours (for a long
document) fixing all the problems created by the export process. I've
often found that manual copy/paste works better, or at least creates
fewer problems. Sadly, most PDF files are really designed for one-way
export. Recent versions of Acrobat provide a Word plug-in that allows
round-tripping between PDF and back into Word, using Word's revision
tracking to show any edits that were made in Acrobat, but I haven't
tried this to see how well it works, and I'm not confident it will
work with older PDFs or PDF files created in any other way.

Under no circumstances should you bother trying to edit the files in
Acrobat. Acrobat doesn't reflow text, so all you're doing is
postponing the inevitable moment when you'll have to extract the text
into Word or some other program and redo the layout. Acrobat-based
editing is fine for light edits, but as you've discovered with these
missing legacy files, someone will eventually have to transfer all the
edits manually back into the source files. If you're working in Word,
it's better to start with the files in Word and use revision tracking
from this point onwards.

Geoff Hart (www.geoff-hart.com)
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
Effective Onscreen Editing:


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Edit PDF in Acrobat Pro?: From: Chris Morton

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