6 tips for mastering PDF markup

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PDFs are a great file type for sharing (here’s why), but suggesting changes and adding comments can be a bit cumbersome. Luckily there are a few simple things you can do to make the process easier. Follow these tips and you’ll soon be a markup master!

Start with the right program

There are a number of PDF markup software options to choose from. At Tate & Clayburn we use Adobe Acrobat Reader DC: it’s available free for both PC and Mac users and therefore minimises any compatibility issues, and it also has some great tools for marking up suggested changes. If you don’t have it already, you can download it here.

Get your tools out

Although you can access some of Acrobat’s editing tools as soon as you open it, to get the full suite at your fingertips, you should enable the Comment mode by selecting ‘Comment’ from the side pane. This gives you access to the full Comment toolset. A Comment list also appears on the side of the screen, which records all your changes, making it a doddle to navigate the document and review your work.

Use the Comments list to master PDF markup
Acrobat with the Comment toolset open above the page and the Comment list on the right

Don’t spend all your time clicking buttons

Three of the key tools in the Adobe toolset are strikethrough text, replace text and insert text at the cursor. They’re really useful because they allow you to get to grips with the words in your document! However, it can be tedious returning to the toolbar every time you want to switch between them. Handily, there is an alternative way to use them. Instead of clicking on the toolset, try this:

  • To strikethrough text, select the text you want to strikethrough and press the backspace key.
  • To insert text, place the cursor and type your new text.
  • To replace text, select the text you want to replace and type the replacement text.

Make friends with the highlighter

Although there are a wealth of ways to add comments to a PDF in Acrobat (sticky notes, text comments on the page, handwritten comments using the drawing tool…), my personal favourite is the highlighter tool. It’s neat, easy to use and precise. However, lots of people don’t realise that you can add comments using it, so if you are reviewing a PDF that someone else has edited, make sure you hover over the highlights to see whether there’s a message there for you!

Use the highlighter tool to master PDF markup
The handy highlighter tool

Find what you’re looking for

One of the advantages that Acrobat has over Word is that you can search the comments and changes without searching the rest of the document: great if you are midway through a complicated edit and want to find something you’ve done already. Just click the magnifying glass at the top of the Comments list.

It’s easy to search the document itself too, of course. Clicking on CTRL+F (or Command+F on a Mac) will make the Find box pop up. However, to take real control of the document, it’s better to use Full Acrobat Search (click on the cog on the Find box). It presents you with all the matches for your search in a list, making it easy to move between them.

Use Full Acrobat Search to master PDF markup
How to find the Full Acrobat Search

When you’re working through a mountain of feedback

Receiving lots of feedback can be overwhelming, so it helps to work through it systematically. In Acrobat it’s possible to add a checkbox to each of the comment notes in the Comment list (by going to Preferences, then Commenting). This option is very useful when you’re reviewing an edited document, so you can keep track of which changes you have made already. You can even filter the comment notes so that all the ones you’ve dealt with will disappear – very satisfying!

We hope these tips will help you when you’re marking up your texts. If you ever need a fresh set of eyes on your text, don’t hesitate to contact Tate & Clayburn about copyediting or proofreading your PDF.

Adobe product screenshot(s) reprinted with permission from Adobe. Adobe, Acrobat, and Reader are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe in the United States and/or other countries.


4 Responses

  1. This is excellent advice. Fran introduced me to this method of editing PDF files some months ago. It has proved very useful. In my context the highlighter tip was just what I needed. Saved hours of time!

    1. So glad to hear that you’ve saved so much time! The highlighter tool is definitely my favourite.

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