Monday, March 25, 2019

After More Than a Decade, a New Comment Icon in Acrobat!

Many Acrobat users don't know that there is more than one type of sticky note icon in Acrobat. I wrote about those here: The Case for Still Using the Deprecated Features in Acrobat, Part 1: The Properties Toolbar
Acrobat list of Icon types

It seems to be that the icons are at least somewhat standardized across PDF viewers. Bluebeam Revu has the same icons (minus "Insert Text").

Bluebeam Revu list of Icon types

I noticed that Acrobat recently added a new icon! The reason for it has to do with the latest (and hugely unpopular) changes to the Acrobat commenting tools. But at least now one of the issues is sort of addresses. It's been very difficult to see which comments are selected in the desktop version of the program, as I demonstrated in this feature request: Comments and Annotations need marching ants

Adobe has heard our requests, and although they didn't implement the solution as I would have, they at least made it easier to see the various comments now. When you mouse over one of them, it gets enlarged. Sadly, it only works with the speech bubble type comment. So if you use any of the other 16 icons, this feature doesn't work. At least it works, with different colors so we're not limited to yellow.

This new icon is called "Selected Comment." It should really be named "Hovered Over", since it works when a comment is hover over, not when it's selected.

Hover over the speech bubble icon and it will enlarge
New Acrobat list of Icon Types

Icon Confusion

Adobe seems to really be steering its user towards the "speech bubble" icon and away from all other comment icons. They failed to incorporate the different icons into the tools panel at all. One has to know about the deprecated "Properties Toolbar" to utilize the different icons. But the new releases of Acrobat ignore the various icons.

Here are the commenting tool options in Acrobat DC web.

Only a Few commenting tools were included in the web version of Acrobat DC

To make things more confusing, while the "comment" icon at the top is a rectangular speech bubble, all the comments within the body of the document are displayed as round speech bubbles.

All the icons are displayed as speech bubbles
Unless of course, you view it in Acrobat desktop version. Then the icon types get changed to the Reviewer's Adobe avatar (which is ridiculously hard to change, by the way). And I have no idea why the comment icon is red.

Look, my Document Geek logo has replaced the icon type! WTH?
Also, when I click on the comment, there are no no properties associated with it. At. All. ???

Look ma! No properties!

If a reviewer hasn't given themselves an Adobe avatar, they get a generic one. So that means that instead of useful icons, all of my documents will now have the same generic gray avatar in every single comment.

Generic Head Avatar

Commenting Tool Differences

The list of commenting tools available is robust in the desktop version. The way it should be!

Acrobat DC Desktop Version commenting tools
The toolset is very limited in the web version. And the icons are different

Acrobat DC for web commenting tools
If you open a document review from the web, into Acrobat, the toolset is now limited to those tools available in the web version of Acrobat. But the icons are slightly different.

Acrobat DC tools: desktop version, but Document opened from a shared review

Stick with one type of Review

In my opinion, it's best to stick with one type of review method. If you use the desktop version and some sort of cloud sharing method (like dropbox), stick with it. You'll have the full range of tools available to you. But if all you want to do is add a few sticky notes (as was done in the Adobe demo files for the Acrobat DC for web videos), then by all means, use the Shared Review and comment in your documents in your web browser of choice.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Commenting Panes: a Comparison Between Acrobat DC and Bluebeam Revu

I've been an Acrobat user for nearly 20 years. I also daily monitor the Adobe Acrobat forums and answer questions from other Acrobat users. I've even recorded a LinkedInLearning course on Acrobat. I've pushed Acrobat as far as I can take it for my PDF commenting needs. I still use Acrobat daily for other functions, but for nearly all my PDF commenting, I now use Bluebeam Revu.

Bluebeam Revu was designed by engineers, for reviewing engineering drawings. And since much of my work involves doing just that, I've found that Bluebeam Revu meets my needs like no other PDF editing software. Today, I'd like to show in detail one of the reasons I like it so much.

I have an 11x17 mechanical arrangement which I've color coded by system. At first, the two programs don't look that much different.

Comments Sorted By Color: Acrobat DC

Comments Sorted By Color: Bluebeam Revu

While both sets of comments are listed in collapsable groups, the comments in Revu also display important categories in columns, much like a spreadsheet.

Here they are expanded. Notice how the color and a checkbox are both displayed in each and every comment. Because the comments pane is totally customizable, I've chosen to hide the irrelevant information, such as author name and date.

Expanded Comments: Bluebeam Revu
Now take a look at the same set of comments in Acrobat DC. Notice how prominent the author name and date are in the Acrobat comments pane. The icons are also huge, and gray (and unpopular). And the checkboxes are not there. (If you want to mark something as checked, you first have to click on the comment to have the checkbox display, then you have to click on the checkbox. Each. And. Every. Time.

Expanded Comments: Acrobat DC
Now let's take a look at how the comments display when additional information is added. I've chosen to display the author name, page, and comments. Again, all the content is displayed in a handy grid, making it very simple to scroll through the list and look for the information I need. Easy!

Expanded comment detail: Bluebeam Revu

Here is the same information displayed in Acrobat. Since the Comments pane is not customizable, it still displays information which is irrelevant to me for this document: the date and the author name. And the text in the comment pop-ups are not displayed in a grid view, but rather, tucked underneath the author name, making it harder to find them. And since the icons are gray (And not the comment color), it's easy to scroll down an no longer be able to see which color the comment actually is.

Expanded comment detail: Acrobat DC
According to Adobe, you can resize the Comments pane, but it's basically useless, since the information isn't listed in a grid view. So much wasted space!

Acrobat DC Comments Pane Resized

 Here is the comment pane in Revu, resized, with lots if useful information displayed. Great stuff! You can customize not only which columns to display, but their order and width.

Customized Comment Pane: Revu
Here are the same comments viewed in Acrobat. Making the panel wider serves no benefit. The panel cannot be customized, and important information is left out. It does not display the subject, the status names, or who set the status.

Comments Pane: Acrobat DC
One must hover over each status icon (which is the green thumbs up, green checkmark, red X, and yellow thumbs down. Only when you hover over each status icon does it say what the status is and who set the status.
Comments Pane: Acrobat DC, hovering over a Status icon

If that wasn't confusing enough, the "Completed By" status icon is a green checkmark, not to be confused with the regular checkmark (the blue one on the right).

Acrobat DC: Two checkmarks are confusing

Another noteworthy difference between the comments panes of Revu and Acrobat is how easier it is to see the selected comment in a list. In Acrobat, when you click on a comment, it expands, and takes up even more space, assuming that you want to type something in the comment box. The third comment down is selected, and the fourth one down is simply hovered over.

Acrobat DC: One selected comment, one hovered over
In Revu, it's WAY easier to see which comment is selected (because it's blue, the way it used to be in earlier versions of Acrobat). There is no change in comment appearance when it's hovered over.

Bluebeam Revu: One selected comment

It's worthwhile to note that Acrobat 9 has a very similar layout to Bluebeam Revu. Each comment icon is colored, and the information is somewhat listed in a grid.

  • The status is written out, as opposed to being an icon
  • The Subject is listed (in this case, "Electrical").
  • Each comment has a checkbox.
  • The author name and date are still displayed, and that can't be changed.
  • The selected comment has a thick black border, making it easy to see which comment is selected.
  • Acrobat 9 also has a handy commenting pane which displays all kinds of useful functions. 
While I prefer the layout of Acrobat 9 Comments pane when compared to later versions of Acrobat, it's still not as useful or user friendly as that of Revu.

Acrobat 9 Comments Pane with Handy Commenting Toolbar

PDF comments in Revu can be exported as three different formats:

Export Comments As: Revu

PDF Comments in Acrobat can be exported as FDF or XFDF files, but not as CSV, or PDF Files.

Export Comments As: Acrobat

It's clear that the difference between Bluebeam Revu and Acrobat is HUGE! Plus, Revu has the added benefit of sold as box software, meaning that there are no monthly subscriptions fees to pay. Pay once, use forever.

If you like'd to learn more about Bluebeam Revu check out these articles:

Monday, February 11, 2019

Dropbox now Integrates with Online PDF Editing Software

Awhile back, I posted my thoughts about Dropbox commenting in a lengthy 2-part series.
 Part 1: Beware of Dropbox Commenting
Part 2: More Reasons to Hate Dropbox Commenting

I stated:

"I think that in addition to the big blue Share and Download buttons in the top right, Dropbox should have a button labeled 'Open in Acrobat." 

Well, I still don't use Dropbox commenting features, but it appears that Dropbox is raising their game! Here's what I came across today: a big "Open with" button.

It appears that Dropbox is working with PDF editors to allow for online editing of PDFs stored in Dropbox. But guess who's missing from this list? That's right! Acrobat!

That's not surprising, seeing how Adobe Document Cloud is a direct competitor with Dropbox for online storage, editing, and commenting of PDF files. It's interesting to note that Adobe Sign is in the list, however. Stay tuned to see what develops next!

If Dropbox users didn't know about Acrobat's competitors, they sure will now, since they are in a beautiful dropdown list right inside what's probably the world's most popular file sharing service.

Will Dropbox allow for their comments to be embedded? Will Adobe allow for their technology to be integrated into the Dropbox ecosystem? Who knows...?