Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sort Comments by Color, in Acrobat DC! FINALLY!

My workflow is heavily dependent upon color-coded comments in PDFs. For seven years now, I have used Acrobat 9 on a daily basis, because none of the newer versions of Acrobat offered any kind of way to sort comments by color.  In fact, neither Acrobat X, XI, or DC supported sorting comments by color, and I complained about it for years. I even made a YouTube video bemoaning this fact.

A few months ago, I wrote an article explaining a workaround that I had come up with to deal with the fact that Acrobat DC didn't support sorting comments by color. Basically, involved sacrificing your author name for the name of the color, and then sorting comments by author name.

I complained about this to everyone who would listen: I've blogged about it, mentioned it at conference and user group meetings (with a microphone); I've talked on the phone and emailed anyone at Adobe who would listen to me. For years!  Apparently, it finally sunk in. I don't know how many other voices in the Acrobat community were complaining about this feature that has been missing for the last seven years, but regardless, the feature has finally made it's way back into the toolset of the latest release of Acrobat. Hopefully now when Adobe decides (again) to completely redesign Acrobat, they won't fail to leave out this feature.

So let's see see how to works!

For reference: here is a color-coded document viewed in Acrobat 9, with its comments sorted by color.
Sort Comments by Color: Acrobat 9

Now here is the newly added Sort Comments by Color in Acrobat DC 2016 May and January release.
Sort Comments By Color: Collapsed
You can also expand each individual color to interact with just those comments, while still keeping the rest collapsed.

Sort Comments By Color: Expanded

Besides the ability to Sort Comments by Color, they also added a handy twirl-down to collapse the main colors. But this twirl-down doesn't just exist for colors, it works for all the sorting methods.  To Expand or Collapse all the comments, click on the Options button (little series of dots). Then choose Collapse All.

This is HUGE for me! There are still a few features I wish they would improve, or add, such as :
Comments Options: Acrobat XI
Acrobat 9: Commenting Toolbar: Narrow
Acrobat 9: Commenting Toolbar: Wide
Comments Selected in Various Versions of Acrobat
But finally, I can actually use Acrobat DC or my color-coded commenting needs.

Additional Thoughts

After some experimentation, I also found that Adobe added something new: called the "Color Picker." Its's very easy to use, and offers 18 different colors, which is plenty! Honestly, most people only have a few colors of highlighters on the cup in their desk, so I applaud the simplification of color choices.

But interestingly, they also still have the Properties Toolbar (Cmd/Ctrl + E). The Properties Toolbar has 40 different colors, which in my opinion, was too many. The icons were too small, and it was easy to choose the wrong color. But if you like the old Properties Toolbar, it is still there. Also note that the Properties toolbar is the easiest way to change the icon of your sticky notes. Somehow, the icon choice didn't make it into the newly revamped Commenting Tools (Color Picker and Line Weights).

Old Properties Toolbar (Cmd/Ctrl + E)

But the Properties Toolbar is getting buggy, and I suspect that Adobe will eventually phase it out, as it now longer works with text comments. Now, you need to use the Text Formatting Tools (which are available as an option to customize your commenting tools so you don't have to visually sort through 20 different tools to find the one or two that you use regularly). To view the entire list of new features added, visit the Adobe website to see what's new in Acrobat DC.

For months now, I've been feeling frustrated with Adobe, and that the decision-makers aren't concerned with the needs of their users (unless of course, those users needed mobile link or the ability to sign contracts on a tablet or other fancy-new-whiz-bang features).

It sure is nice to know that there are actually people at Adobe who are listening, and are willing (and allowed) to design and implement features that only a small percentage of users need. I extend my heartfelt thanks to the Acrobat team for finally implementing these much-needed features.

Edit 5-16-16: After working with the improved commenting in Acrobat DC, I still have a few things on my wish-list, listed in order of importance: