Friday, August 31, 2018

Introducing my Favorite Features of Bluebeam Revu PDF Editing and Markup Software

After using the same PDF editing software for many years, I recently discovered a new one, tailored specifically to meet the needs of people in the AEC fields (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction). I downloaded a 30 day free trial and purchased it right after my trial ended. 

This new software is called Bluebeam Revu. It is cross platform, although the PC version is a bit more full-featured than the mac version, from what I have been told. But the mac version is still mind blowing. I can't even imagine what more can be added! The PC version is $349 and the Mac version is $199, and it is worth every penny! Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks this software is amazing. According to Bluebeam, they have over one million users worldwide.

The work I do on my engineering-related PDFs involves mostly commenting and markup. With that in mind, I wanted to share with other folks some of my favorite markup features of Revu. Buckle your seatbelt! This is fantastic!

Note: These are screenshots from Revu Mac version 1. A week after I wrote this article, version 2 was released! Soon I will update this article with a link to my experience using version.

  • There are only one set of colors to choose from, and they closely resemble those in Acrobat 9.
Color Options
  • No Fill Option for drawing markups. Can I get an AMEN on that one?!

  • Toolchest lets you save regularly used tools so you don't have to recreate the settings every time. You can also export your Tools to share with others. This is also a great way to store drawing markups and text boxes or things that you regularly need to use. It's like a spin on the Acrobat stamps pane or the Illustrator symbols panel. 
ToolChest has a bunch of shapes already made and waiting for you!
  • Streamlined comment pop-up. Just a place to type your comment. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Drawing mode has a highlighter option. The beauty of this is that users can simply draw shapes around whatever they want to highlight! This affects the blending mode of the shapes and makes the shape tools act just like a highlighter. No more scribbling over large areas to attempt to highlight them.

  • The highlighter tool is smart enough to be able to highlight vector objects that are not fonts, without me having to rasterize the document. 
  • Module based UI whereby I can put whichever modules wherever I choose in the left, right, and bottom panes. The UI is truly customizable!
Module based UI

  • The comment/markup pane harkens back to Acrobat 9, where it was docked at the bottom and had no wasted space. This is a great use of space!

  • Handy Dandy Markup Toolbar

  • The Markups pane is also fully customizable, so I can choose which columns I want displayed, as well as in what order they display.
Customizable Markup Pane

  • Stacking order options for comments!

  • The opacity of Drawing markup Fills and borders can be adjusted independently

  • Collapsible Categories in the Panes. Hide what you don't need!
  • XY coordinates for all comments, right in the Properties Pane
Collapsible categories! XY Coordinates! Oh my!
I'm sure once I get more familiar with this software, my list of favorite features will grow. Give it a try and see how you like it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Caution, Warning, and Danger Styles

In my work as a technical publisher, my documents use quite a few "Cautions." I see requests on the Adobe forums about this from time to time, so I thought I would share my method for formatting these styles.

There are a number of ways to set these up, including tables, but I have found that tables can prove a bit cumbersome. I've decided to incorporate the use of InDesign Paragraph Shading and Paragraph border settings. Disclaimer: These features were introduced in InDesign CC 2018. If you open this file in an earlier version of InDesign, it will not behave as expected.

Because I like my manuals to have plenty of white space, with nice wide margins, these styles are set up to have a large left indent. Here are some of the features of these styles:

  • Both Warning and Danger styles are set up based on Caution, so if you need to make any adjustments for the spacing or font, you just have to do it in one place.
  • The CAUTION, WARNING, and DANGER text auto-populates (they utilize the bullet feature to accomplish this).
  • The little triangle dings are vector anchored objects, so they are easily editable. 
  • The dings each have their own object style, so they sit in the correct spot based on which paragraph style uses them. "WARNING" is  longer than "DANGER", so the triangle ding sits a little farther to the left.
  • The CAUTION TEXT is set up as a "Next style".
  • Caution Text displays borders even when over over threaded frames.
  • All styles auto fit the width of the frame.

Download the IDML file here.

Caution Styles

Caution: Paragraph Shading

Caution: Paragraph Borders

Caution Text: Paragraph Borders
Caution Text works over threaded frames and auto resizes to frame width

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Compare and Contrast: Page Thumbnails vs. Organize Pages Tool

With the release of Acrobat DC, a number of the longstanding functions of Acrobat were duplicated into new tools. What’s not readily apparent is that the a number of the old methods were left in place. I wrote about one of those (the Properties Bar) here. In today's article, I’ll be discussing another one of the deprecated tools: Page Thumbnails.

The Page Thumbnails are located in the left-hand pane of Acrobat DC. If your left-hand pane isn't open, simply click on the triangle in the left-hand side of the UI, and the pane will pop open. To view the various buttons, right click anywhere in the pane.

Navigation Page Buttons

Once the Page Thumbnails are open, click on the Options button to reveal various functions.

Page Thumbnails Options

Most of the functions that exist in the Page Thumbnails were duplicated in Acrobat DC's "Organize Pages" tool.

"Organize Page" Tool
The Organize Pages tool has the options listed across the top, in a graphical format, rather than in a singular dropdown list. Some of the functions have additional options, which are listed in either dropdowns or secondary dialog boxes. 

Split Files: Output Options

Split Files: Split By options

Compare and Contrast: Page Thumbnails vs. Organize Pages Tool

Acrobat Function
Page Thumbnails
Organize Pages Tool
Drag and Drop page insertion
Delete pages
Insert pages from blank file
Non sequential page extraction
(Only through drag and drop to the desktop, not through the menus)
Split Pages
Bates Numbering
Set Page Boxes
(Labeled in the menu as “Crop Pages”
Page Labels (formerly "Page Numbering")
Page Transitions
Page Templates
Set Page Properties
Rotate Pages
View thumbnails while concurrently viewing full size document

So why do I prefer using Page Thumbnails?

Since most of the functions are duplicated in both tools, which tool I use depends upon which functions I use the most. For my work, much of what I do in Acrobat involves printing double sided documents. Page Thumbnails allow me to view thumbnails while concurrently viewing the full size document. That feature helps me to spot errors when printing. The one and only function that is missing from the Organize Pages Tool is the very reason that I prefer the Page Thumbnails tool.

Page Thumbnails

My work does not require the use of:
  • Split Pages
  • Bates Numbering
  • Page Templates
Those are the three functions that are in the Organize Pages tool but not in the Page Thumbnails tool.

Which method do you prefer when viewing thumbnails?

Edit: 9-14-18
I learned to day that the Organize Pages tool has another unique capability that does not exist in the Page Thumbnails tooL; You can drag in images and drop them into the Organize Pages pane and it will automatically convert the images to pages, and add them into the PDF. It do so in one batch, alphabetically.

Friday, June 29, 2018

How to Create a "Custom Tool" in Acrobat DC

I spend a fair amount of time on the Acrobat User Voice pages, and wanted to deal with a hot-button issue for people. Many users would like to be able to customize their toolbars, and it is not readily apparent how to do so. They are much more customizable than it first appears.

I think the main reason for this is the nomenclature used. This video helps to explain the various types of tools within Acrobat, and compare them to the UI elements that are consistent among other Adobe applications (but totally inconsistent with Acrobat).

This is really part 2 of a topic I began in previous video about how to customize toolbars in Acrobat DC.

If you enjoyed this video, please visit my Lynda course:
Adobe Acrobat DC: PDF Commenting for AEC by Kelly Vaughn

Click here for a 30-day free trial to

Edit: 9-13-918
If you'd like an easier way to customize the UI of your PDF editing software check out my article on Bluebeam Revu. It's an amazing program designed specifically to meet the needs of users in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

How to Make a PDF Drawing markup with "No Fill"

Somewhat regularly on the Acrobat forums, I see people asking for help making a shape with "No Fill" option when drawing shapes. Like this post for example.

In Acrobat DC, the old properties toolbar (which I discuss here, here, and here) was deprecated in favor of a new way of doing things.

The multi-tool Properties bar was broken apart into several tools, all of which combined do not accomplish the same things as the old faithful Properties Bar. The new tool include "Color Picker" and "Line Weights", as well as the Text Properties tool. I went into those at some length here, but I realized today that I have never gone into much detail about the biggest glaring omission of the new tools. For me, the most important thing that was left out of the new DC tools is the ability to set a "no fill" option in your drawing markups. That's odd, especially considering that the default setting of the drawing markup tools is "No fill." Notice how NONE of the giant color swatches are checked? That's because you cannot accomplish "No fill" using this new tool. You must bring up the old Properties bar.

On this feature request Acrobat User Voice page, this user proved my point that once the default no-fill is filled in, there doesn't seem to be a way to un-fill it.

People can't find the no Fill option because it is hidden in the old UI!

It's quite frustrating for many users to not have the 'No Fill" option, as illustrated here.

People want to set "No Fill"

Not even clicking on the sprocket Options icon will give you anywhere to set the "No fill" option. That will, however, bring up the secondary Properties dialog box, which is useful if you need to access one of the other properties not available in the redesigned tools, namely "Line Style."

Properties Dialog Box

Line Style was also omitted from the redesigned tools in Acrobat DC

But I digress. Let's take a look back at the fill options available in this dialog box. Let's compare these options with the options available in the Properties Bar. The Properties Dialog box uses the same color options available within the Mac OS. (Yours will likely be different if you are on a PC.) It makes sense that there wouldn't be a "No fill" option for setting color in the mac OS. Why would you want "No fill" when changing the color of the type in your email program, for example? (More on the topic of color choice dialog box here.)

Fill options in the Properties Dialog Box
Compare that with the old Acrobat-specific Properties dialog box which had a thoughtfully designed set of colors, complete with a No Fill option. Of course we want the option of no fill creating PDF markups. Even more so when creating drawing markups! Thankfully, the Acrobat designers from a decade or so ago considered that and built it for us.

Properties Bar: The only place to set a No Fill option

Having a good method of highlighting and doing drawing markups has been a huge issue for me for years. And I am not unique in this. Entire industries (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) rely upon the ability to set a No Fill option on their drawing markups.

Let me be clear. I love Acrobat! I think it is the best PDF editor on the planet and I even did an entire Lynda course all about PDF commenting in Acrobat. But it is really missing the mark in some areas, and I'd like to help fix that. With a few changes and additions, Acrobat would be hands-down the best tool for doing drawing markups. But in my experience of working with engineers and builders across the country, only one person I've worked with uses Acrobat DC. Most of my clients are on old versions of Acrobat (one of them just recently got Acrobat 8 installed!), and some of them are starting to use competitor software. And that makes me sad.

Here's what I would like to see:

Will you take a few minutes to visit the UserVoice page and vote for each of these features?

Edit: 9-13-918
I recently discovered a different software called BlueBeam Revu. They have a No Fill Option! Check out my article on Bluebeam Revu. It's an amazing program designed specifically to meet the needs of users in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

How to Make Colored (and more attractive) Checkmarks for Acrobat Fill and Sign

I recently came across a forum post where someone was bemoaning the ugly and non-customizable black checkmark for Acrobat Fill and Sign.

How it used to work in Acrobat XI

It's been awhile since I've used that feature, so here is what I recall seeing the last time I used it. Here is a screenshot from Acrobat X!. The checkmark is available under Fill and Sign, much like it is in Acrobat DC.

When you select that Add checkmark tool, your cursor is loaded and you can draw out a checkmark anywhere you like, and as large as you like. It appears in the Comments pane as a stamp. It's a highly functional checkmark. Bold, easy and easy to see, and completely scalable Unfortunately, there is no way to make it a different color. At least not seemingly so.

What's interesting to note about this is that the checkmark appears as a stamp. That means that you can easily make your own custom stamp and make the checkmark in whatever color you like!

But in Acrobat DC...

The Fill and Sign tools look the same on the surface, but they've totally reworked as to how they function. These fill and sign tools are now their own "thing", and will now longer show up in the comments pane. 

When you add a checkmark, Acrobat now treats it as character (as opposed to a stamp), and as such, the size of it is changed by increasing the point size (which is accomplished by pressing the big A). There is no option to change the color. And when this thin checkmark is placed a on a form (which has typically been typeset in black), it can quickly become difficult to see).

But let's look at a few other places in Acrobat where there are checkmarks or varying sorts. The first one that comes to mind is the green checkmark stamp under the "Sign Here"
 category of standard stamps. It comes in a nice green color, and is scalable in size. But what if you need to fill out your form in blue?

To make checkmarks in other colors, you could create a custom stamp, import is it into Acrobat, create a new category for it... But there's a much faster solution. It's hiding under the Sticky note tool! Most people are only familiar with using the sticky note tool to make sticky notes. But did you know that it has many more appearance options than the standard yellow comment bubble?

First, open up the Properties Bar. Wait, you've never heard of the Properties Bar? Well, you are in good company, my friend! The Properties bar hasn't been updated in about a decade, and it was left out of the dockable tools in Acrobat DC. Most people don't even know that it exists. It has some really cool functionality: such as giving you the ability to edit font properties of sticky note text, as well as more easily edit the fill and stroke colors of drawing markup comments and adjust the opacity of comments.

Most of the functions of the Properties Bar were built into the Acrobat DC toolbar, with one glaring exception: The Sticky Note Icon. If your toolbar looks different than the screenshot below, that's because I customized my Quick Tools

So if you need to change your sticky note icon, you will have to bring up the Properties Bar, which is available by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + E. Alternatively, you can bring up the Sticky Note Properties dialog box by clicking on the settings icon (the little round sprocket in the top corner of the paint bucket icon (also known as Color Picker). I like to use the Properties Bar because I find the Sticky Note Properties dialog box to be very slow to open.

It's important to note that sticky note icons are not least not using the standard tools built into Acrobat. If you need to increase the size of your sticky note icons, you can do do using a script.

Now if you take a look at the comments pane, you'll the the blue checkmark there, listed as a comment. That means that (unless your PDF has security added to it), basically anyone can come along and remove the checkmark. If that bothers you, all you have to do it run the Flattenizer Script and your comments will be essentially burned into the document, and not easily deletable.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Making Hidden Characters More Subtle

As InDesign users, it’s very important to have total control of our typography. In order to do this, we need to pay just as much attention to the invisible characters as we do the visible characters.
Each hidden character has the potential to add increase spacing in potentially every direction. For paragraphs: this could be Space Before, Space After, Leading, etc. And certain characters offer all sorts of options: em spaces, en spaces, figure spaces, regular tabs, right-indent tabs, etc.

Things may look fine on the surface, but look what is hiding underneath!

If you feel that hidden characters are too distracting and interfere with your designing, follow the link below to learn how you can make them more subtle.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets: Making Hidden Characters More Subtle

Sunday, February 11, 2018

How to Customize Toolbars in Acrobat DC

This video will demonstrate how to customize your toolbar and Quick Tools in Acrobat DC. End the frustration and work more efficiently!

If you enjoyed this video, please visit my Lynda course:
Adobe Acrobat DC: PDF Commenting for AEC by Kelly Vaughn

Click here for a 30-day free trial to

Edit: 9-13-918
If you'd like an easier way to customize the UI of your PDF editing software, check out my article on Bluebeam Revu. It's an amazing program designed specifically to meet the needs of users in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Quick and Dirty Page Imposition Using Only Acrobat

Today I was working on a 1-up half page flyer of which I need to print multiple copies. Normally, I would go into InDesign and manually impose the document 2-up and then export a new PDF. But I wanted to see if I could get an acceptable result right within Acrobat. The following screenshots are of the Thumbnails panel, but you can achieve the same thing using the Organize Pages tool.

Thumbnails Panel: 1 page

Much like in the other Adobe programs, if you hold down and Option and drag, you will duplicate the object. In this case, I held down Option while dragging the thumbnail. Now I've duplicated page 1. Read more about that technique here.

Thumbnails Panel: 2 pages

Next, go to the Print dialog box and choose the "Multiple" tab. This will only work if you have more than one page. That's why I had to duplicate page 1, so that Acrobat would actually have multiple pages to put together on the same page.

Print Dialog Box: Multiple Tab

You can also make a four up imposition using the same method. Duplicate pages 1 and 2 again, to get four of the same pages. Then choose 4 up per page.

Print Dialog Box: Print four up!
Now, remember that the borders won't be exact all the way around, so this imposition method won't be suitable for all applications. But if you just need to take a flyer and quickly print out multiple on a page, this can be a great tool. Also note that this trick won't work in Adobe Reader, because it requires page editing.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

An Easier Way to Mark Comments as Checked in Acrobat DC

In years gone, Acrobat had a much better way of dealing with the comment checkbox. There used to be a "Mark with CheckMark" option in the right-click contextual menu. But stating with Acrobat X, this was removed (not developed).

Acrobat 9
Acrobat XI

Acrobat DC

Instead, Acrobat has moved the only option for commenting over to the comments pane. So in order to mark a comment as checked, you always have to have the comments pane open. But if you need to use other tools in Acrobat during the course if commenting, you'll have to keep switching back and forth to get to the Comments PAIN.

To make matters worse, the checkbox is only visible if you have the comment selected. So if I need to check off a bunch of comments at once, I have to select a comment, then check it off, then select the next comment, then check it off.

No checkmark!

The checkmark is only visible if you click on the comment.

But the contrast is so low between the selected comment and the unselected comments that it's often hard to find the right one in the comments pane. Plus, the colors in the comments pane have absolutely nothing to do with the colors of the comments themselves. InAcrobat DC, each author gets a different comment color. The comments pane totally disregards the color of the comment itself.

Acrobat DC Comments PAIN

Compare that with how easy it is to locate a comment in the comments pane of Acrobat 9. The selected comment has a thick black border around it.

Acrobat 9 Comments Pane
Anyhow, now that I've vented a bit I'll get back to my solution for an easier method of making a checkmark in Acrobat DC. I purchased a script from Try 67: Mark Selected Comments as Checked. I dropped the script into the appropriate folder and now it appears in my menu bar. Sweet! I'd actually be able to activate the menu item from there if I was on a PC, but I'm on a mac, so I had to keep searching for an alternative way to activate the script.

Mark Selected Comment

This feature would be more useful if Acrobat allowed us to customize keyboard shortcuts, which it does not (and apparently, the Acrobat team has no intention of ever adding that feature because they deemed it as "Not very critical".

Once again, the Acrobat team dismisses the requests of users
I finally found a workaround! Because of the location that I saved my new javascript, it got added into something called "Add-Tools".

Add On Tools

Did you know that all the functions of the various tools can be added to your toolbar at the top? Right-click on the tool bar and choose "Customize Quick Tools. Then you can dig through this dialog box and add them. Be patient, as this dialog box doesn't have the nice filtering functionality that the main Tools Tab does (you know, the one displaying the entire list of tools and which has the Microsoft-esque clip art that we all complain about?) This Customize Quick Tools dialog box could really use a lot of help, bu if you can overlook it's user-exerpeience, it actually does a nice job of adding tools to your toolbar.

Customize Quick Tools

So now I have my "Mark as Checked" button to my toolbar and it is awesome! I can mark a comment as checked whenever I want, without having to dig around for it in the comments pane. If you would like to purchase this script, visit the Try67 website.

Edit 2-23-18
Adobe recently added a keyboard shortcut for "Mark Selected Comment as Checked". It is Shift + K. Now if only they would put that information in a tooltip somewhere, instead of just letting us know through a forum reply!

Edit: 9-13-918
If you need an easier way to create mark objects as checked, check out my article on Bluebeam Revu. It's an amazing program designed specifically to meet the needs of users in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction. The checkmark option appears in both the Markup panel as well as in the contextual menu.