During the design process, a designer will often send PDFs to a client to review. A client can provide feedback to the designer in a number of ways—list changes in an email, edit the original Word document, or even print the PDF and mark it up by hand. All are acceptable.


But marking up a PDF using Adobe Reader is the most fool-proof way of handing edits.

Three reasons:

  1. You can point out exactly what needs to be edited, rather than just referring to a certain paragraph or sentence.
  2. You can provide your designer with exact replacement copy, so he can copy and paste it into the design file.
  3. You can circle, cross out, highlight, and do anything else you might want to do by hand.


(download Adobe Reader, for free, here.)


Let’s go through the following PDF I’ve used with a client. If you look closely on the main body of the window, where the PDF is visible, you’ll see lots of marks and symbols over the text and images. Those are all the edits I've added.


In the upper right corner of the screen, you'll see three options: Tools, Fill & Sign, and Comment. Select Comment, and three sets of options tools show up. Annotations and Drawing Markups are what I used to mark up the PDF, and the Comments List box shows all of the edits I made.



Know your tools

The images below point out some of the annotate and markup tools you can use. I've pointed out sticky notes, replacing text and drawing a rectangle. Hover over the rest of those options to see all you can do—there's a lot more. Once you make an edit, it'll automatically appear in the Comments List.



Replace and add text

To replace text, select the button with the T and a blue line through it in the Annotations box. Then, select the text you'd like to replace, and type in the replacement copy in the box that appears. In the first image below, you can see that I'd like to replace "The Democratic Republic of the Congo" with "DRC." The original text is crossed out, and the new text appears in the note. The designer sees exactly what should be deleted, and he can copy+paste the correct text back into his design file.


To add text without deleting anything, select the T with the purple carat (^) next to it in the Annotations box. Then put the cursor where you'd like to add text, and type in the text in the box that appears. The designer will see the carat symbol on the PDF and know that new text should be added. I've shown this in the second image below, where I'd like to add the sentence "Sponsored by Mercy Corps Action Center." to the end of the paragraph.


Write a note

You might also want to add a note or ask a question on the PDF, without indicating new copy. To add a free-floating sticky note, like I did in the first image below, select the yellow speech bubble in the Annotations Box, and click the spot on the document where you'd like to add a note.


To add a note to a specific part of the copy, select the button with the T and yellow speech bubble in front of it in the Annotations box, highlight the text you'd like to point out, and add your note in the box that appears. In the second image below, I've asked the designer to verify the price of the event.


If you're passing the PDF to multiple people on a team, they can answer questions in that same note box.



Reader even lets you mark up a PDF like you might do by hand. There are lots of options in the Drawing Markups box. Below, I've shown you how to use the rectangle to indicate a tighter crop on a photo, and lines to cross something out. Both drawings have notes attached to them so I can be specific about what I'd like to be done.


How this helps your designer

Since the Comments List shows all the edits you've made, your designer can see them all at once. There's a little check box in the top right corner of each item in the list, too, which your designer can check off as he goes, so he can scan the full list of comments to see if he missed anything. You can see how to check something off in the first image below.


If you're passing a PDF around to multiple people on a team, you can set the specific status of each item in the Comments List, rather than simply checking the box. There are four status options: Accepted, Cancelled, Completed, and Rejected. So maybe your copywriter can accept or reject copy changes, then forward the PDF to the designer, who then marks the accepted changes as Complete. You can even filter edits by status in the Comments List.


Set the status either in the Comments List, or when viewing the expanded mark-up on the PDF image, itself, as I've shown in the second and third images below (click that tiny down arrow next to the note writer's name to get that menu to pop up).



BONUS ROUND: Save Word files as PDFs

This is sort of a side-note, but I'm amazed at how often I receive Word docs (or any other sort of text file) that are uber-important, yet completely editable! People send resumes, contracts, invoices, all sorts of things in Word all of the time, leaving themselves vulnerable to someone editing the document.


Do not be victim to this. You're better than that.


To save a Word doc as a PDF, which someone cannot edit, do this:

Click File // Save As from the Word menu bar.

Select PDF from the Format drop-down menu. Works the same on a MAC and PC.

Boom. You're done.


If you have an older version of Word, and you don't see the PDF option in Save As, do this:

Click File // Print from the menu bar.

On a MAC, in the bottom left corner of the print window, you'll see a button that says PDF. Click that, then Save as PDF.

On a PC, in the Print Dialogue box, select Classic PDF Editor from the Printer Name box.

Boom. You're done.


Do Way More with Adobe Reader

I initially thought I'd try to summarize all you can do with Reader, but there's just way too much. Click the links below to learn how to do other common tasks.

• More Comment options

• Copy content

• Fill in forms

• Add your signature

• Convert to Word or Excel


It's Simple, Really

If you've never used Adobe Reader to mark-up PDFs, start with a small project to learn your way around the Comment capabilities. It's simple to learn, just takes a little time. Your designer will thank you, and you'll see a more seamless review process in your upcoming design projects.


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