Index multiple PDFs and do full text advanced searches using Acrobat Professional

I face scenarios when I have to search for content across multiple documents. I talked about them in detail here. In this post, I share my favorite method to achieve this. As I said before, it gives a better user experience, is quite intuitive for anyone to follow, and fits well in the wider work flow.

  • Place all PDF documents in a single folder. If you have non-PDF docs, create PDF output of those.
  • Index the PDF files using Acrobat.
  • You can search in the index using Boolean queries of ALL your search strings.
  • Optionally (and this is best part!), you can export and save the search results as CSV or PDF. This enables further actions on search results.
    • I typically save the results as PDFs when I want to send them for a shared review with ability to comment on individual result.
    • I typically save the results as CSV when I want to create an Excel file with more columns for tracking or effort estimates for each result.

The following video is a quick demonstration of the above steps.

Tip: If you do not see ‘Document Processing’ option in the Tools pane, follow the three steps indicated in the following screenshot.

Document Processing Option in Acrobat

Note: Indexing multiple files is possible in Acrobat Professional only and not in Acrobat Standard. If you don’t find these options on the UI, re-check your Acrobat product.

Further references:

To just know about indexing PDF files, see this section in the article.
For a broader discussion about cataloging and indexing, see this article.
For advanced options for searching, see this article.


Analyze disk space usage and delete files to increase free space using WinDirStat

What would I ever do with this space?
I am not going to rip all my music CDs and keep them on the hard disk!
Low disk space error message on Windows

Low disk space error message on Windows

And then we get that dreaded pop-up balloon from the tray saying low disk space. Well, shit happens!

And while purchasing it, you wondered why would you ever need a 500 GB hard disk. Turns out, over a long time, your operating system or your software may end up doing what you resolved not to do–that is, fill up your disk space.

Many tools are available for analysis of disk usage. However, after trying a good number of those, I have settled for WinDirStat (WDS for short) for years now.

From its Wikipedia entry:

WinDirStat is a graphical disk usage analyzer for Microsoft Windows, notable for presenting a sub-tree view with disk use percentage alongside a usage-sorted list of file extensions that is interactively integrated with a colorful graphical display (a treemap).

Let me just share some salient points of WDS below:

  • WinDirStat allows you to not just identify the large files, but also delete them using something called ‘built-in cleanup actions’.
  • And all this while remaining extremely user-friendly. The generated views are sorted by file size, so that one can focus on the biggest offenders 🙂
  • Statistics about the file types help in quickly identifying the offending file types, as well.
  • It is completely free and available as a portable app too.

As an example, check below, an analysis my Windows 7 64-bit installation, which is ~1 year old now. 22.5 GB in just the Windows folder? Holy shit MicroSoft!

Space taken by Windows folder on Win7

Space taken by Windows folder on Win7

Format the date pattern in PDF forms using LiveCycle Designer

We have our own preferable ways to write the date format. Most of the great software honor this and allow users to configure the pattern of a date.

If you are creating a PDF form using Adobe LiveCycle Designer ES3, having a date format of your choice is a walk in the park. LC Designer offers many pre-defined formats for the purpose, and also lets you define your own custom formats using the building blocks, such as MM for month, YY for 2-digit year, and YYYY for 4-digit value of the year. Watch the video to see how do so.

For more information see the following links:
A complete list of Adobe LiveCycle Designer ES3 documentation.

Detailed information about date patterns in Designer Help.

Check out the Designer FAQ for more Q&A.

Adobe LiveCycle Designer: Create drop-down list of PDF forms with data in Excel

You can create versatile PDF forms using Adobe LiveCycle Designer. If your forms contain drop-down lists, you can either type all the values, or bring a large chunk of values from MS Excel or plain text formats. Watch the video to see how.

This is especially helpful for large dataset, where it is practically impossible to type them. Although this video uses Designer 10 as part of Adobe LiveCycle ES3, this works in some other versions of Designer too.

For more information see the following links:
A complete list of Adobe LiveCycle Designer ES3 documentation.

More information about the Drop-down lists in Designer Help.

Check out the Designer FAQ for more Q&A.

Find all FrameMaker files that use a particular image

We know how to find all the graphics used in a FM file. What if you want to find all the FM files using a particular image, screenshot, graphic, or artwork?

Say, an element of your UI has changed and you have to publish only those documents which use that screenshot.

Say, you want to change description of an artwork that is used in a few documents.

On a local copy of your files you can quickly search for such documents using the illustrated method. Besides native FrameMaker files, this method works on XML and other text files too.

You can download Ultra File Search from its homepage.

Expand or collapse PDF bookmarks and retain that state

So you like PDF bookmarks?

And you like to expand and collapse them to your liking?

And you’d also like the PDF file to save and retain this state of bookmarks?!

Hmm… you sound pretty finicky about your settings, just like I am 😀

Every time you open a PDF file, the bookmarks as displayed as set by the author/generating-application. The changes you make, while reading it, do not show up the next time! This is what I do to make the PDF file retain my changes to the bookmarks.

  1. In Acrobat Professional expand and collapse the bookmarks as you want. This is a change in the PDF, but not yet recorded thus by Acrobat. Hence Acrobat will not prompt you to save it.
  2. Click File > Save As, and save the PDF as a PDF again. The changes to bookmarks are saved!
  3. (Optional) Thank the community, for sharing such great tips with us all.

Tip: Keyboard shortcut to quickly collapse all your bookmarks to top-level bookmarks: Select any bookmark and press Shift + / on number pad. Use the forward slash on the number pad.

Update: Embedding my video on the same topic in the post.

Create custom menus to personlize FrameMaker

I blogged on my team blog here about how to create menus in FrameMaker.

FrameMaker lets you do the following with no coding involved!

  • Create new menus.
  • Add tags as menus.
  • Modify existing menu commands.

How does it help you?

  • Remove options to edit template components, from an author’s FrameMaker installation.
  • Personalize the existing FrameMaker menus by rearranging commands on menus or moving out a sub-menu command that you use frequently.
  • Shorten FrameMaker menus by removing distracting (for you) options.

Let me know how and why you use FrameMaker menu customization, in the comments section.