Friday, May 20, 2011

How to Edit a PDF

Sharing Useful Content

Last month we shared with you a number of blogs which focused on local targeted search campaigns. This month is all about sharing useful content. To kick off our useful content blogs, a common question asked by our clients is "How do I edit a PDF". They may wish to update contact details, or add more prominent 'calls to action' on product PDFs. Sharing with you our advice.

Warning, as this isn't an exciting subject such as apps, gaming, social media, technical innovations, then you may get slightly bored. Alas, if you are looking for advice on "How to Edit a PDF" then we believe you will happy with he content, which contains a mix of images and video to keep you interested and engaged (hopefully).

What is a PDF?

PDF stands for Portable Document Format. It’s a compact file type created by Adobe Systems and first launched in 1993, allowing users a way of creating, viewing and sharing documents electronically in a format that can be used by any computer, on any platform, with the use of a free cross-platform PDF Viewer, such as Adobe Reader. A quick look search though Google gives a fantastic example of the popularity of this file format; some 260 million PDF documents versus 45 million .doc files; a format that’s almost 10 years older (at least at the time of putting this together!)

Why use PDFs?

There are several advantages to using PDFs over simpler formats, such as word documents. The majority of us know that creating a PDF is very quick, it only takes a few clicks to create electronic versions of your files, so long as you have the appropriate software. Furthermore, PDF is very capable at compressing and compacting large files to more manageable sizes, as well as multiplatform, making files easy to send between computers and systems, with very little in the way of communication issues. Plus PDFs come up in the organic search results ie: they get cached and visited by search engine spiders.

Perhaps most importantly, a PDF is a very secure format; the ability to add watermarks, encrypt data and add passwords is only the start and the actual contents of a PDF cannot be easily modified.

On the downside, PDFs are notoriously hard to edit without specialist software. Even though at first glance it may look similar to a word document, in fact, what you’re seeing is more similar to an image of a document, like a screenshot you can interact with, making it much harder to edit and change via conventional means. However, this can be worked around.

How can I edit PDFs?

Note: this section is quite long, feel free to scan through and move to the video.

There’s a wide range of software available for editing PDFs.

Using Adobe Acrobat (or alternatively, Adobe Illustrator) to edit PDFs is a fairly simple affair, however it will only work if you have either the original authoring password, or alternatively, the PDF is not password protected. One possible problem with editing PDFs is the font, in order to edit the PDF text you must have the font used by the author installed on your computer; something easily overcome if you are the original author, but possibly something of an issue if the PDF uses an obscure font style.

If you don’t have a copy of Acrobat to hand, one of the best methods for editing PDFs involves converting them into an easier to edit format, such as a word document, or excel spreadsheet. A 'PDF to Word Converter Programme' works by interpreting a snapshot of the PDF file and converting it into a Word friendly text format. Though these programmes are getting increasingly accurate, errors can still occur and proof reading a large document could take some time. A quick search on Google turns up a variety of PDF to Word Converters, some free, others not.

PDF to Word and its respective partner website Word to PDF offer free browser based file conversion. Nitro Reader offers a fairly comprehensive package for free, although it is still in beta. Bear in mind though, that you do get what you pay for, so look around and do some research, before spending time working with a programme that might not necessarily meet your needs.

The ability to edit PDFs is also included in a few other packages online, such as Inkscape, a free vector drawing tool similar to Adobe Illustrator, which allows you to select images or chunks of text and move them around the document. Using the PDFImport Extension for OpenOffice Draw also provides a fairly comprehensive PDF editing platform, with the added bonus of supporting 'inline editing', meaning you can fix spelling mistakes and change text formatting, as well as image editing.

Good Practice when creating PDFs

Whilst we’re on the topic of PDF documents, it’s a good idea to bear the following points in mind, when you’re putting together your document for distribution online;

  • Always use 'alternative text descriptions' for all images within the PDF.
  • Avoid using exotic font styles for important bodies of text.
  • Use 'absolute URLs' for hyperlinks to avoid 'broken links in the document.
  • Use Headings and Styles to appropriately format text within your document.
  • Make sure that your PDF includes 'accessibility features' so they can be ‘tagged’; a feature that makes them readable by screen readers and keeps page content in a logical reading order.
  • PDFs should be made to be compatible with earlier versions of Adobe Reader.
  • Where useful, it may be a good idea to include a 'document source information page' informing the reader of at least the author and the date of publication.
After following the above links, if you have a requirement to edit a PDF, but you don't feel confident editing, and that the above blows your mind, please get in touch with Rocktime Sales to see how we can help.

Author: Alice Cheetham


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