Editing a PDF

Copying the contents of a PDF to the clipboard and pasting to another program allows you to capture the content of a PDF but unless you have all of the same fonts as were used in the PDF and copy the content into exactly the same program as the file was originally created in, there are sure to be differences between your version of the file and the PDF. That's before you start to make your changes. Even then, recreating the PDF version of the file after you have made the changes requires that you have either the full version of Acrobat or some other program that allows you to create PDFs. Wouldn't it be better to be able to edit the PDF directly?

In fact there are three programs from Adobe that allow you to do just that. These programs are InDesign, Illustrator, and Acrobat. The first two of these programs can import a PDF and convert it to the program's native format allowing you to edit the file before saving again as a PDF. I don't actually have either of these programs so I am not sure how good they are at maintaining the PDF font and layout information during the edit process.

The third program is Acrobat which of course has PDF as its native format. This means that editing the PDF using Acrobat (full version that is not the reader) does not require any file conversions at all. So how can we edit a PDF file using Acrobat?

The primary tool within Acrobat for editing files is the Touchup tools. The first of these it the Touchup Text Tool and you'll recognise the button for this on your Acrobat toolbar by the outline T on the button. The other (which only exists in Acrobat 4 and later) is the Touchup Object Tool which can be recognised by the black arrow pointing toward the top left corner of the button. In fact you'll only see one of these buttons on your toolbar, to access the other you need to click on the small right arrow in the bottom right hand corner of the button.

You use the touchup text tool to actually change text within the Acrobat document. With this tool selected you just highlight the section of text that you want to change (one line at a time) and then type in the corrected text. You can also use this button to adjust the horizontal position of the line of text. When you first click within the line, a box will appear around the text (provided that you have Show Line Markers selected). You can click on either of the two selection tabs that are usually found on the corners at the left end of the line (unless the text is not left aligned in which case they'll appear in the middle or at the right) and drag the line to the left or right. Also, if you right click on the selected text and select Attributes from the menu, you can change the font, font size, character spacing, and alignment of the text.

The touchup object tool will select an image or a complete block of text when you click within the area occupied by that object. The object selected will be surrounded by a box and with text the entire block of text and not just a single line will be selected by this tool. You can then drag from anywhere within the selected block to move the block in any direction.

The touchup tools (as their name suggests) are not really suitable for making major changes to a document, they just allow you to make minor alterations to the appearance of the text and its position on the page, for example you might want to correct spelling mistakes or an employment agency might remove contact detail from someone's resume. I wouldn't expect anyone to need to make major changes to a document that they didn't create themselves (in which case they can edit the original and then recreate the PDF) so the fact that you can't make major changes easily with Acrobat should not be a problem.

There is one other form of "editing" that you can do in Acrobat. You can add, delete, move, rotate or crop entire pages. You'll find the menu options to perform these functions in the Document menu.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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