How to become an Adobe Acrobat Ninja!

Adobe Acrobat Ninja - Book review

Adobe Acrobat Ninja is a handbook for all things pdf. 13 chapters and 328 pages will take you through a systematic and well organized tour into the land of the Acrobats.

PDF has since its inception grown into a sprawling and ubiquitous file format which helps users store, print and send files to each other across platforms. Devised as a kind of closed and final file format based on postscript, pdf has also acquired a creative dimension. You can change and edit most things in pdf files! It is all of this and much more which Urszula Witherell has put into writing in her new book, Adob Acrobat Ninja.

The book starts with a good introduction to the different versions of Adobe Acrobat.

The second chapter gives us a look into the workings of OCR and editing scanned images.

Chapter 3 is about Microsoft Office and PDFMaker. This is a very good chapter which dives into working with structural depth in PDF. PDF files may be used for many very different purposes, and understanding how one, for instance, adds bookmarks and security, is vital. This chapter also comes with a nice short decription of the difference between using PDFmaker and Print to PDF using Distiller.

Chapter 4 is about modifying and editing pdf files and there is - at least for me - lots of really good info about working with links. This chapter also introduces, what is more elaborated in chapter 5 - accessibility. Creating pdf documents which are accesssible for people who are dependent on some kind of reader devices is - at least in a european context - a big thing. Compliancy with Section 508 / Directive 2019/882 is super important in all state driven communication portals as well as in all document sent to citizens.  So the good explanations about how to work with accessibility given in this book are really great.

Chapter 6 is about Document Review. The author makes a good effort to describe the process in overview and details. I have little experience using document review, and have always found it a confusing experience riddled with uncertainty about where the documents actually resided during review. These explanations help. They are not specific to authoring tools however.

One the many really excellent diagrams from the book

If your job involves creating forms, chapter 7 is for you. Forms in Acrobat is a two step process. Graphic design and layout is made in dedicated application like InDesign or FrameMaker. Actual interactive form field creation and mechanics is made in Acrobat. This is a good chapter and I have been informed that there actually is an entire organization dedicated to creation and management of forms, called BFMA - Business Forms Management Associatioin! That said, forms creation is an area where many graphic designers find themselves stumped, because there actually is a bit of hard tech learning to do, in order to get them right. Urzula Witherell takes you through an example with detailed instructions. Very good!

Digital signatures are covered in chapter 8. Digital signatures can come in multiple levels and understanding the legal framework around them is way beyond me. The description about how to work with them in Acrobat is good, though and I think the author has taken a well balanced approach to the subject.

Chapter 9. Multimedi presentation is covered in chapter 9. I know that a lot of graphic designers like to create their portfolios in Acrobat/Illustrator. I believe this probably has more to do with culture than functionality, but the features for creating "PowerPoint like" shows are there, and they are covered very fine.

Once there were many good layout programs. Today Adobes InDesign has mostly taken over the entire segment. Well deserved, because it has an insane amount of features. Chapter 10 dives into the collaboration with Acrobat. While you may think - why look at InDesign, when the book is about Acrobat, there are good reasons, because then underlying formatting code made in InDesign, before exporting to Acrobat has big consequences.

Professional publishing in the sense that we are working with color separation, print, print validation etc, is covered in chapter 11. While it IS a good chapter, it is also a short chapter. And probably with good reason. Soft proofing and validating your work before print can be a really exhaustive process, with lots and lots of options for things going awry. So if you come looking for troubleshooting, this chapter is not for you. It does, howevers show you the workings of softproofing.

Chapter 12 details how one can work with redacting the privacy of a pdf file. Sometimes you need to publish a document, but parts of the document may need to be hidden. Sensitive content my, for instance be person names, social ids, specific values like stock value estimates etc. Hiding that kind of information so that it can not be extracted using specialized tools can be difficult, as has been seen in numerous court room scandals over the years. Chapter 12 is a thorough introduction how to this process effectively with Acrobat.

The final chapter, Chapter 13, is bit of it all, so to speak. Shortcut tables, lists of laws, lists of tags etc.

Adobe Acrobat Ninja is an excellent book, and I really like, that for techbook, it also comes with a lot of good  humour. It is a good reference book and is absolutely worth the money!

Adobe Acrobat Ninja

Urszula Witherell

Published by Packt Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-80324-817-2