Thursday, September 26, 2019

Making Sense of the Color Panels in Adobe Acrobat

Since the introduction of Acrobat DC, users have been lamenting the fact that there is seemingly no way to have a shape with "No Fill." I wrote about that extensively here: How to Make a PDF Drawing markup with "No Fill"

The issue stems from Acrobat DC's redesign of the way that users choose colors. This redesign didn't make it's way into the other two places where users can choose colors but was an introduction of the Color Picker tool with a paint bucket icon. At some point is was changed to a large colored dot renamed "Change Color"). No matter what the icon, and what it was named, this tool seemed to oblivious the other two methods of choosing colors.

Color Picker tool: paint bucket icon

 In responding to a post on the Acrobat forums, I did a little digging to the color pane that Acrobat uses to choose colors. By clicking on the sprocket Options icon of the Choose Colors tool, the Properties dialog box opens. In 2018, it looked like this. By click on one of the swatches (either Color or Fill Color), a second dialog box would open. This used to be an Acrobat-specific swatch panel, but at some point was changed to use the OS-specific color picker. This is what it looks like on a Mac.

Sometime between 2018 and September 2019, the Color picker changed. Now it has a "Transparent" checkbox.

I took a look at the Colors panel in a couple of other Apple programs, and that checkbox is not there.

I don't know if Apple gives developers the ability to customize the built-in color panel of the Apple OS. So I don't know who is responsible for adding it. Regardless, this checkbox solves a problem that has been plaguing its users since Acrobat DC was introduced.

It actually allows users to make a drawing markup with no fill. One might think that "No Fill" would be a better term to use here. Or even better, the swatch with a red line through it, as Acrobat used to have, and as still exists in the deprecated Properties panel.

The issue with the word "Transparent"

The issue with the word "Transparent" is that has varying degrees implied to it. Like a slider. The transparent object can be partially transparent, or fully transparent, and anywhere in between. Plus, one can see through transparent objects, but the word implies that a viewer can also see the object itself, in addition to seeing the object behind the transparent object; Like what happens when you look through a window or a water glass.

Not so with the "Transparent" checkbox shown above. It's an all or nothing. This confusion is compounded but the fact that Acrobat annotations also have an opacity setting, which is a slider (as it should be). This opacity slider has nothing to do with the "Transparent" checkbox in the Colors pane. But the average Acrobat user isn't going to know that.

Plus, the nature of transparency is that in order to see if something is transparent, you'd have to also have another object behind it. Again, that's not how it works with the checkbox in Acrobat. 

In the graphic design industry, transparency also implies that there are multiple layers or objects, all stacked on top of each other. And in printing workflows, how one handles transparency can determine the success or failure of a print job. So among designers, transparency is something to be handled delicately.

In order to have a No Fill using the Properties dialog box, Acrobat users are expected to know that:
  • Transparent means see-through, even if there is nothing behind the object. 
  • Transparency has nothing to do with Opacity.
  • They need to stop looking for the industry standard term of "No Fill".
  • They cannot click on the red diagonal line in the swatch panel.  Because unless they click the "Transparent" checkbox, that swatch UI doesn't exist.

To make matters even more confusing, Adobe decided in DC to redesign the way users can choose colors. But they only did it in one place, by introducing the Choose Picker which resides in the toolbar. For most users, this is the only place they are aware of. And guess what? There is no "Transparent" checkbox.

The new Color Picker offers additional ambiguity with it's UI in that it actually does show when an object has no fill. "How?" you ask? It's the absence of the checkmark from any of the swatches.

No Fill

If all of this wasn't confusing enough, keep in mind that the old UI of the Properties toolbar was simple and worked without confusion. But most users don't know to look there.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A Workaround For Numbering Table Columns

If you’ve ever tried to use numbering in a table, you’re likely familiar with the behavior of how InDesign determines where to place the numbers. As demonstrated in this article, you’ll see that InDesign will scan the table from left to right and then from top to bottom and apply the numbering this way.

But what if you want the numbers to be assigned from top-to-bottom and the left to right? It’s possible, but not inside of a table. With Western languages, text flows from top to bottom, and right to left. So what we need to do is construct our numbered list in a way that matches that flow. And then add the borders.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

EASY Mac Screen Sharing

Mac users: Did you now that screen sharing is built into the desktop Messages app? It is SO EASY to use! I stumbled across this by accident and I wish I known about it a lot earlier. I pay for an annual subscription to a screen sharing app, and it's kind of a pain to use. But this one is built in to the OS, and is so easy that my parents could use it. The function even has a built-in microphone, so the person on the other end can hear you.

You first just need to start a message thread with someone. Then go to Buddies > Ask to Share Screen.

This is the You can choose to either view or control. If you want to control someone's screen, you have to be the one to initiate the process. Then the person on the other end will get this dialog box.

I had my husband ask to share my screen, and he happened to be connected to our Apple TV via AirPlay. And I heard my own voice come through the speakers on the TV!

Here is a more full-fledged article o the topic:

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Cotton Shimmer Shawl (Knitting Pattern)

Using affordable and widely available yarns, this shawl uses three simple design elements to create a stunning shawl. You’ll be using: two different types of yarn, two different needle sizes, and beaded knitting. The mercized cotton thread, worked in beaded stockinette stitch, offers a visually interesting contrast to the chunky garter bands. Since both yarns are cotton, this wrap makes the perfect accessory to take the chill off on a crisp spring day.


  • Lion Brand Comfy Cotton, Approx 125 g.
  • Red Heart Classic Crochet Thread: “Natural” (approx 175 yards)
  • Package of #10 glass E beads (40 g/1.41 oz)
  • Size 10 US (6 mm), 24” circular needles
  • Size 4 US (3.5 mm) 24” circular needles

Monday, June 3, 2019

How to Install a Script to Acrobat's Menu

This post goes along with an Acrobat script: An Easier Way to Mark Comments as Checked in Acrobat DC.

If you would like to purchase this script, visit the Try67 website.
Scripts I've added to the Acrobat Menu Bar

  1. Check the following settings in Acrobat - Edit menu (or under the Acrobat menu on a Mac computer)- Preferences, JavaScript:
  • Enable Acrobat JavaScript - should be checked
  • Enable menu items JavaScript execution privileges - should be checked
  • Enable interactive console - should be checked
  • Show console on errors and messages - should be checked

How to install the script:
  1. Close Acrobat.
  2. Copy your javascript to the following folder:
  • Windows (32 bit): C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat <VERSION NUMBER>\Acrobat\JavaScripts
  • Windows (64 bit):  C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Acrobat <VERSION NUMBER>\Acrobat\JavaScripts
  • Mac:  /Users/<USERNAME>/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Acrobat/<VERSION>/JavaScripts
  • or /Applications/Adobe Acrobat <VERSION>/Adobe Acrobat
(To find it go to Applications > Adobe > Adobe Acrobat <VERSION> Pro > then right-click the Adobe Acrobat application itself and select "show package contents", then go to Contents > Resources > JavaScripts
If you find the Resources folder but there's no JavaScripts folder within it, then create it yourself and the place the script there.)

  1. Open Acrobat.
  2. Open a PDF.
There should be new item/s under the "Tools" menu (under "Add-on Tools"). They will be the names of your scripts. If you have Acrobat DC you might need to search for it in the Tools panel.

Why Won't InDesign Sample Scripts work in InDesign 2019?

I encountered a strange issue recently. I was creating a business card imposition in InDesign. I opened the Scripts panel, and then ran CropMarks.applescript. Nothing happened.

My compute seemingly locked up for a moment, but no crop marks appeared. After a  minute or so of investigation, I realized that InDesign 2018 had launched. But I was using InDesign 2019...

I went back to InDesign 2018, and it displayed the following dialog box:

It turns out that when InDesign 2019 was shipped, no one at Adobe had changed the hard-coded application version in the sample Applescripts. 

The workaround is that you simply need to change them to be "2019" instead of "2018." Alternatively, you can use the corresponding sample javascripts in the Samples folder for the job.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Dropbox Commenting is No longer in a Silo!

Previously, I had written a couple of lengthy and frustrated posts about Dropbox commenting, and how it should be avoided at all costs. Because (at the time, it existed in a silo, and once you removed your documents from Dropbox, all your comments would be gone.

Beware of Dropbox Commenting
More Reasons to Hate Dropbox Commenting

Well no more, my friends! We are one step closer to a solution to group collaboration. A client of mine made comments in the dropbox web app, and I was notified. When I took a look at the comments, I was shocked to see that they also appear now in Acrobat!

Dropbox Comment Notification
Acrobat Comments Pane
File Names are automatically appended with "See Comments"

  • I tried adding a comment in Acrobat to see if the comment would then show up in the web interface of Dropbox. Sadly, it doesn't. 

  • I also don't view a web interface as an acceptable solution for commenting on long documents, since there is so much scrolling involved. And the tools are limited to boxes and sticky notes (no text annotation).
But at least now I don't have to warn my clients to NEVER use dropbox commenting. 

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: