Video demos of the top 5 ways to fix accessibility issues in existing PDF documents

Adobe Acrobat Professional comes in handy if you want to modify/update your existing PDF documents without re-generating it from the source files. While PDF documents are for consumption and are a final output without much scope for large-scale editing, Adobe Acrobat does allow you to do different types of edits, including but not limited to, editing text, editing images, manipulating backgrounds, manipulating watermarks, adding or modifying numbering, and so on. Another set of under-the-hood manipulations allow you to make your PDF documents accessible and help differently abled people consume the content. This also makes your PDF files more search engine friendly.

In the blog post on my team’s blog, I posted my favorite top 5 fixes for PDF documents to boost their accessibility. Click on the image below to access the blog post.

Top 5 accessibility fixes for PDFsIn this blog post I am compiling a few handpicked videos, shared by the fantastic Adobe Acrobat community, to showcase these top 5 enhancements.

Run OCR on a scanned document

The following video is a very quick but silent one. Watch it if you only need to quickly find how to do OCR in Acrobat.

The following video is one of the more detailed one out there, with a nice voice over.

The below video, recorded a few years ago by Tim Plumer Jr., has fantastic lucid narration (hence slightly longer) that showcases OCR using an older version of Acrobat. Watch this video if you are new to the OCR concept. While the UI has changed, the concepts remain exactly the same.

Add Document Properties and metadata

The following videos by Sally Cox, is a hidden gem. It describes in great detail where to find which properties and how to update open settings, metadata, and other Initial View. She also illustrates the change by showing before-after scenario. The 10 minutes are well spent, but view it with a mental state to learn.

For a very quick look at how to update just the metadata of a PDF document, watch the following video.

Set alternative text

Watch the following video to get a very quick look at just how to add alt text to an image.

Tag a PDF document or define flow

The following video talks about enhancing the flow of content in a PDF file. The video describes the issue of lack of flow in detail–very lucid.

The following videos shows tags in a PDF file and how to work with them.

Act on the detailed accessibility report

You can check the accessibility by running a full blown accessibility check on a PDF document. Two videos I think are useful to know how to run the report and act on it are below:

 

Image source is Wikimedia Commons public domain image.

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Top 5 tweaks you must do to your PDF documents before publishing them

Between the time it takes to create a PDF file and publish it, you may end up earning yourself a bad name. One that lives on forever—in the form of a lame PDF document! While a bit more goes into creating a lean and mean PDF files, by following this blog post you can save yourselves some embarrassing content authoring, document production, and SEO mistakes.

Create a PDF document using PDFMaker

Many applications are supported by PDFMaker. Use the plugin to create a PDF document from a source file. As opposed to say, printing the source document to the PDF print driver or taking a screenshot and creating a PDF from clipboard.

Using PDFMaker ensures that the metadata, the quality settings, and the privacy settings, as set by the document author, are respected and incorporated into the output. Some functionality is only available via this route, like creation of PDF bookmarks.

Acrobat ribbon in MS Word

Acrobat ribbon in MS Word

Set the various options in document properties dialog

Once you PDF document is created, press Ctrl+D (alternatively, click File > Properties) to access the Document Properties dialog.

In the Description tab, mention the Title, Author, Subject, and Keywords. Many of these values are best set as the metadata in the source file. This helps ensure the PDF document contains these options every time a new PDF is generated.

Using the settings in the Initial View tab, you may want to display the document title, instead of the PDF file name, in the title bar of the PDF. You may want to also display the bookmarks or other available options when the PDF opens. From the Initial View tab, you can control the magnification, first page to open, placement on the screen, etc. when the PDF is opened. You can also hide one or more of the menu bar, the tool bar, and the windows controls.

Initial view in Acrobat Document Properties

Initial view in Acrobat Document Properties

Less common options you can set are add more meta information in the Custom tab and set printing mode (DuplexMode field) to ‘Duplex Flip Long Edge’ to save paper when your document is printed.

In the Fonts tab, ensure the uncommon fonts used in the document are embedded. Avoid print and display errors during PDF consumption in different environments. than the one it was created in. Do check the end user license agreement of the font for any possible restrictions on embedding them in a PDF.

Detailed official help is here.

Get your bookmarks in order

First, get bookmarks. Use the optimum styles in your source document and use the settings in the Acrobat plugin to generate PDF bookmarks.

Do not stop at this, else you may end up shipping a PDF document with bookmarks out of order. Decide whether you want only the Level 1 bookmarks to be expanded or even Level 2 (or Level 3) bookmarks expanded. The software supported by PDFMaker, contain some settings to create bookmarks.

Create PDF bookmarks in Adobe FrameMaker

Create PDF bookmarks in Adobe FrameMaker

Create PDF bookmarks in MS Word

Create PDF bookmarks in MS Word

Check my previous blog post, to collapse the PDF bookmarks and retain that state in the PDF.

Accessibility

Accessibility options in Acrobat

Accessibility options in Acrobat tools pane

Accessibility Checker in Acrobat

Accessibility Checker report in Acrobat

Run the accessibility check on your PDF and check for, at least, the obvious things that you can fix. For example, mention the alt text of the images, create a tagged PDF, OCR the scanned content, and so on.
You can quickly do an accessibility audit of your PDF document using the Full Check option from the above screenshot. Accessibility Checker runs a customizable check for up to 32 parameters.

Optimize the PDF for the required use case

You may want to optimize your PDF depending on the use case and target audience. Some common optimizations are to reduce the file size to conserve bandwidth, to flatten the form fields, to remove common fonts to reduce file size, to add uncommon fonts for a smooth experience, enable Fast Web View for byte-serving of large documents, and so on.

Acrobat option to save as an Optimized PDF

Acrobat option to save as an Optimized PDF

Learn all about optimizing PDF files here and in the video below.

Launch multiple instances of Acrobat Professional

You are running some complex work flow or Action on a large PDF document in Adobe Acrobat Professional and it hangs preventing you from working on another PDF document, in parallel.

Your Acrobat process crashes (feel lucky for being an audience to a rare phenomena 🙂 ), taking down unsaved work and you wish you could ‘sandbox’ the critical work from the regular work.

Because of a troublesome PDF document, you have to end the Acrobat.exe process using the Windows Task Manager. You wish other open PDF documents remain open and unaffected.

You are commenting in and annotating one PDF, while referring to another and do not want your comment to auto-close.

If  you relate to such instances, launch multiple instances of Acrobat, as different processes using acrobat /n command.

Command to launch multiple instances of AcrobatAnd if you are wondering if these really are different instances/processes and not just different windows, see the following screenshots.

Acrobat multiple windows

Acrobat multiple windows

Multiple Acrobat processes in Task Manager

Multiple Acrobat processes in Task Manager

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.

Checking specific content across multiple guides in a documentation suite

If you have multiple documents in a doc suite and wish to check one or more content strings across them, read on to find out how you can do it using Adobe Acrobat.

Possible scenarios when you may need to do this are locating mentions of:

  • Product terminology for editorial or legal review.
  • Companies’ trademarks and third-party terms to check if proper symbols are applied or not. Or to apply them in the first place.
  • Product name/version in all docs, to update branding/versioning.
  • A feature or a keyword to do bug fixes across documents.
  • Keywords and related words for SEO purposes.
Use cases for searching content across docs napkin

Use cases for searching content across docs

Following are the various methods I use to achieve the search, indexing, and exporting search results for further action.

Method1

The simplest possible method is to dump all the files in a parent folder and run full text search from Windows explorer on the parent folder. Things to remember:

  • Entire content of plain text content like TXT, XML, and HTML files can be searched directly.
  • To enable indexing of various other file formats, install the corresponding iFilters. Get the download links from this Wikipedia entry.
  • On Windows 7, full text search is the default behavior. For Windows XP, to install Windows search 4.0, see this article. Some tips for advanced search are here.

Method2

If for some reason you cannot install/use indexing services on the OS, use a specific tool for searching. Like UltraFileSearch or WinGrep.

Method3

You need Adobe Acrobat and PDF documents to achieve this. This is my personal favorite as it gives a better user experience, is quite intuitive for anyone to follow, and fits well in the wider work flow. More details and video demonstration are in this post.

Method4

This is a subset of Method3 above. With free Adobe Reader you can run advanced search a folder full of PDF files. However, as the free Reader does not index PDF files, the search is slower.

See what works for you and let me know. Share you methods below.

Illustrating a way to save the state of PDF bookmarks in Adobe Acrobat

I described how you can save a state of PDF bookmarks in a previous post. It is useful when you want to change the default expanded or collapsed state of the bookmarks. Below is a quick illustration of the trick, using Acrobat X.

Or watch it on YouTube here.

Read more about PDF bookmarks in Acrobat documentation here.

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.