Blog Post

How to Use Adobe Acrobat for Online Document Reviews

AdobeAcro_logoOnline document reviews have become a part of life for web workers creating technical documentation because they because are more economical and faster than having to fax, scan, or ship review documents around by FedEx. PDFs offer a bandwidth-friendly format for sending large documents back and forth amongst a geographically dispersed project team.

Adobe Acrobat (s adbe) includes a number of electronic review tools. In this post, I’m going to show how you can use them to make online editorial comments.  While this post was based on Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended, many of these review tools can also be found in Adobe Acrobat going back a couple of versions. Note that these tools are only available in the full version of Adobe Acrobat, not Acrobat Reader.

Comment & Markup Tools

Acrobat’s Comment & Markup tools offer a number of powerful tools for marking up PDF documents. Adobe has done a good job on the usability of these tools by including using many analogues of traditional paper-based review tools.

Comment & Markup Toolbar. You can think of the tools present on this toolbar as a substitute for a pencil, sticky notes and a highlighter. Launch the Comment & Markup toolbar by choosing it from the “Comments” menu. This toolbar includes Sticky Notes, the Text Editing tool (new in Acrobat 9), the Stamp menu (analogous to print stamps of old), the Text Highlighter, a Callout tool for drawing attention to graphics and text, and there also a number of shape tools for drawing arrows and other shapes.


Comment Menu. The Comment menu includes options for comment display. You can also choose “Attach for Email Review” to send the PDF out to other team members via email, or “Send for Shared Review,” which uses or a corporate server for hosting shared document reviews.


Text Edits and Acrobat PDFs. The PDF format had gained a reputation for document security because users could not modify text — especially useful for important documents like contracts and invoices — but with Acrobat 9, you can make text edits to PDFs, including inserting, deleting and replacing text. However, the text editing tools in Adobe Acrobat aren’t as robust as those in, say, Microsoft Word, and are only really useful for making very minor edits.

Review Approvals. Depending on the formality of your project team, there should be some sort of review signoff. While you can take the easy road with a simple email signoff, recent versions of Adobe Acrobat include an electronic signature feature that you can use for this purpose. In Acrobat 9, choose “Sign,” and then “Sign Document.” A dialog box appears. Click “Sign” and follow the prompts that appear.


Manage the Document Review

Before embarking on your first Adobe Acrobat-based document review with your team, I recommend the following:

  • Ensure that all team members have a full license for Adobe Acrobat. The review tools in this post are only available in the full version of Acrobat, not in Acrobat Reader.
  • Discuss the need for standardization of how all the team members will use the review and comment tools (if you already use a standardized markup, it should be fairly easy to transfer this to a PDF review system).
  • Document any standard document review procedures as an aid for reviewers, especially those who aren’t frequent Adobe Acrobat users. The procedure should have a provision for final document approval by the reviewer, whether by electronic signature or by email approval.
  • Make the review process accessible to the team for future reference.

Do you use Acrobat for document reviews? Share your tips in the comments.

4 Responses to “How to Use Adobe Acrobat for Online Document Reviews”

  1. Will,

    Great article – thanks for posting this.

    One minor correct – if the user has Acrobat Pro or Pro Extended, he has the capability to enable anyone with the free Reader to make comments and see every other reviewer’s comment as well. See more details here:

    as well as here:

    Dave Stromfeld, Acrobat Team