Annotating PDF Proofs: The Quick Guide

When someone hands you a printed document to edit, you don’t need to think twice about grabbing a red pen. The ability to draw and write directly on the paper makes communicating your ideas quick and simple. But what about a digital document? You can always print it out, but by the time you’ve written on it, scanned it in, and sent the resulting images over to your designer, many of your notes could be illegible.

Wouldn’t it be easier to handling your, proofing, commenting on, and editing right inside the digital file?  Yes it would! And… your revisions would be much cleaner and clearer for your designer to translate (reducing the billable time needed to handle your revision).

Editing and Proofing PDFs

First things first: how are you opening PDFs? Although there are third-party programs out there, chances are you’ll be using the free program, Adobe Reader, or the professional version, Adobe Acrobat Pro. Many computers come with Adobe Reader pre-installed, which means you don’t even need to worry about finding and downloading it. (If you already have the free version on your computer, make sure you are running the latest version, or you may not have access to all the commenting tools.)

Acrobat comes with tools specifically geared towards commenting. A highlighter, sticky notes, strikethrough and in-text notes, and drawing markups. Let’s quickly walk you through each one (with Acrobat Pro) so you can comment like a pro!

Finding the Tools:

In Acrobat, open the right panel pane and click on Comment. This will open a new toolbar with the various commenting tool.


Highlighting Text

The simplest annotation feature is the highlighter, which works exactly like you think it should. Just click the highlighter button—select your text, and you’re ready to go!

Once you’ve highlighted an area, add a note to it by right-clicking and selecting “Open pop-up note.”

Sticky Notes

Sticky Notes are great for general comments to various areas without highlighting. Just select the sticky note tool, and click where you want to place the note. Now you’ll see a little window pop up, where you can type your comments. When you’re done, the note will close; just click on the speech bubble to bring it up again.

Note: while it may be tempting to fill your page with sticky notes, don’t. Sticky notes are great for general comments but can become confusing for the designer if you use too many of them. Instead, use the strikethrough, insert text, replace text, and drawing tools as outlined below.

Strikethrough and Text Comments

If your edits are more about the content than the images, Acrobats text editing tools may be just what you need. There are three main tools to look at: strikethrough, text replacement, and text insert.

Important Note: in the professional version of the software, you can technically edit text, replace images, and make other large changes. However, as tempting as these features are, let your designer make those changes in the original page layout program (like InDesign). That way, you can avoid going to press with a low-resolution image or even the entirely wrong content.

The strikethrough tool allows you to easily indicate text to remove. With the tool selected, highlight a portion of the text to cross it out. The text will still be visible, but it will be obvious that you want to remove it. If you want to include a comment about the strikethrough, just right click and “Open Popup Notes” to add any comments you want about the revision.

The text replacement tool allows you to indicate text to remove AND indicate new replacement text in a comment area. With the tool selected, highlight any text to replace and enter in your new text in the blue comment window that appears.

The text insert tool places a comment directly in the middle of two words. This allows you to note where to add additional copy, without disrupting the rest of the content. To use, just click where you would like to insert text and enter your new text in the blue comment window that appears.

Drawing Markups

The Draw Free Form tool allows you to circle, draw arrows, etc. just like a red pen. Simply select the tool and draw away. Once you are done circling an element, right click on the shape you created and “Open Popup Note” to provide specific details for your designer.

The Designer’s Side of the Process

Now that you know how to add comments, let’s talk about what happens once you send your newly-commented-on document off to your designer for revisions.

Every time you add a comment, use one of the drawing tools, or highlight text, a note appears in the comments list. This box can be found on the right side of your screen, underneath the various markup tools. Each comment has a checkbox, allowing it to be marked as complete or incomplete. This makes an easy to-do list for your designer and keeps them from missing any small comments. If they have concerns, they can add comments of their own, and send the document back for further review.

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