Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to edit text in a PDF with unembedded fonts

Last year I inherited a publishing company, which used a FrameMaker workflow. I have strong opinions on such thing as FrameMaker versus InDesign, WMF versus AI, low res versus high res, and default PDF distiller settings versus custom distiller settings. So when I took over the workflow, I changed pretty much everything about it. My workflow is much more efficient now, but due to the fact that I'm using Creative Suite on a mac, working from legacy windows Framemaker files, I have glitches from time to time, and I have to find unusual workarounds.

Previously, all PDFs in this workflow were made using "Standard" distiller settings. If you've ever attempted to create a high quality PDF using Distiller, you understand that you have to tweak the default settings to get it to do such things as embed the fonts.

In addition in inheriting a publishing company, I inherited thousands of PDFs without embedded fonts. And I have to find a way to use these PDFs from time to time, because my InDesign workflow does not allow me to open up the native FM files.

So, today's task: edit the footer of a PDF without embedded fonts.
  • Problem is, the footer was created in Framemaker, so I can't just go in Acrobat to Document > Header and Footer > Update. Updating footers in Acrobat only works if the footer was created in Acrobat.
  • So next, I tried editing the text using the Text Touch-up tool. Again, I can't because the fonts weren't embedded. (See Author note at the bottom of this article)
  • So next I thought about putting white boxes over all the footers, and the using the typewriter or text box tools to put the correct text back in.
  • But wait, what I really needed to do was to hide the text and then put new text in it's place. And then I remembered Redaction.
Redaction is Acrobat's version of a Digital Big Black Marker, to be used when you want to eliminate sensitive information. The cool thing about Redaction is that it's not just black. You can make it whatever color you want. And you can use it to cross out text, photos, whatever. You can even put in replacement text at the very same time you're crossing out the text you don't want. And the coolest thing about redaction? It works on documents with un-embedded fonts!

So go here in Acrobat: Advanced > Redaction > Show Redaction Toolbar. Use the Reaction Properties button to set your properties. I chose a white background and cyan text.

You can set your properties differently for each line you want to redact. So on the header pages, I used a different font and all caps.

Today's mission: Accomplished!

Author note: Leonard Rosenthol posted a correction to part of my article (actually, the title, upon which the entire article was based), so I have added some additional information here.

The purpose of this workaround to editing the text was that I needed a quick and dirty solution to change some text. I think before this experience, the only PDFs in which I've ever had to edit the text, were PDFs that I personally had made. So prior to this experience, I would've had all the fonts necessary already installed on my system.

So I guess a better title for this article would have been: "A Quick and Dirty Workaround to Editing Text in a PDF When You Don't (and Won't Ever) Have the PDF's Fonts Installed on Your System."