Improving Acrobat’s Document Compare Function

Adobe Acrobat has a really powerful document compare feature. This is a great feature in that there are times that you just can’t get  a copy of the original word processing document to run a comparison with it. One of the drawbacks of the feature, however, is that sometimes the amount of information that you get can be overwhelming.

In this case, getting too much information can be almost as bad as not getting enough information. Fortunately, Adobe has come up with a way to modify the types of information that you see when you compare documents.

The information can be found here at The PDF Developer Junkie Blog. The author has written a JavaScript that will add a menu item that allows you additional control over what you see in the document compare screens.

The great thing is that you really don’t have to understand what he is talking about in order to use the script. Simply follow his step by step instructions to download the script and add another feature to your Acrobat menu.

Adding Exhibit Stamps in Acrobat

Rick Borstein comes through with another great way to use PDFs in your legal practice: Adding dynamic exhibit stamps.

Rick explains:

Since PDF is the defacto (or often mandated) eFiling standard, it didn’t come as a surprise that I’ve received a few emails on this exhibit stamping PDFs over the last couple of years.

I’ve written previously about creating custom stamps, but an Exhibit Stamp has both a static graphic element and a changing numeric or alphabetic element. I have proposed a workaround using watermarks and the typewriter tool to some firms, but that still was a lot of work.

Only recently have I come across an elegant solution that can accomplish both steps with a click! When you stamp the document, Acrobat will ask you for the exhibit number, then stamp it on the document.

This is a great solution and anyone who uses PDFs in their practice should check it out.

Go here to get directions on how to install this stamp.

Also, once you have applied your stamps, don’t forget to flatten your page. Rick has instructions in his post on how to do that. You can find an alternative method of flattening here.

Adobe Acrobat 9 Error

Is anyone else having this problem? I am using Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended. Starting last week, Acrobat keeps crashing on me. It almost always crashed if I OCR a document and then try to save it. Also, it will crash sometimes if I open a scanned document and then try to save it.

The error message I receive is:

Adobe Acrobat 9.1 was encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience.

When I click to get more information, I discover the following Error signature:

AppName: acrobat.exe


ModName: ntdll.dll

ModVer: 5.1.2600.2180

Offset: 00018fea

My computer is running fine, otherwise. I have tried repairing my installation of Acrobat and that was of no assistance.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Redaction Done Wrong. Again!

At times I am amazed at the technical incompetency of some people. Recently the AP was able to discover the confidential details of  the settlement between Facebook and ConnectU because whoever “redacted” the confidential information did not actually redact the information. Instead of properly redacting information from the document, the person simply put white boxes over the “redacted” information. Because of this, “The Associated Press was able to read the blacked-out portions by copying from an electronic version of the document and pasting the results into another document.”

Additionally, there are multiple other ways in which the information can be read in Adobe Acrobat. In fact, if you choose Document > Examine Document, in Adobe Acrobat, Acrobat will create a report that lists all of the “redacted” information.

To view the document yourself, click here.

The reality is that it is not too much to ask for basic technical competence from people who are publishing allegedly redacted documents. It’s one thing to not have a full understanding of all of your computer’s programs. However, if someone is going to release allegedly redacted documents on the internet, it is not unreasonable to have that person actually ensure that the documents are redacted properly. The thing that makes this worse is that the document could have been redacted in Acrobat easily and, if done with the redaction tool, none of the confidential information would remain in the document.

In a great coincidence I attended an Adobe webinar on redaction just days after the AP story broke. If you would like to learn more about redaction, you can check out information from that webinar here.

Hat tip to PDF for Lawyers for first linking to this story.

PDF Tips and Tricks

Recently PDF for Lawyers pointed to a great article on How to Do Everything with PDF Files. I don’t know that the list actually covers how to do everything. However, it is a pretty comprehensive list with several different tips, including several for creating PDFs without using Adobe Acrobat. The first few tips include:

Q: First things first – How do I create PDF documents on my computer without Adobe Acrobat?

A: Get a copy of DoPDF – it installs as a virtual printer driver on your desktop just like Acrobat and lets you print PDF files from any Windows application including images, documents, emails, websites, etc.

Q: I don’t want to install software just for converting a bunch of documents to PDF. Do you know of any alternative?

A: Upload your documents to Google Docs via the browser and then export them as PDF files. Simple.

Q: A client just sent me a PowerPoint presentation by email. Since I am travelling without the laptop and my mobile phone cannot read PPT files, what should I do?

A: Forward that email message (with the PPT attachment) to – they’ll convert the presentation to PDF and email it back to you immediately. Most mobile phones can read PDF files.

Check out the article for the entire list. The list contains some excellent tips for manipulating PDF files if you do not have Adobe Acrobat.

Now I, like Ross Kodner, believe that the best PDF solution available is Adobe Acrobat. Further, as Ross explains, multiple ways exist to get a full version without paying list price. Additionally, when compared to other similarly powered software solutions, the street price of Acrobat is not out of line.

Despite my believe that everyone should have a full version of Acrobat. I recognize that the solutions in this list are useful for two groups of people. First, there is the large number of people who can’t or won’t purchase a full version of Acrobat. Second, are those who have a full version of Actobat but who are stuck working on a different computer because of travel, etc. In either situation, the tips here give you a great option to create or manipulate PDF files.

Note: I recently installed and begin using Nitro PDF and am in the process of evaluating it. I will be providing a full review on it in the near future. In the meantime, I would note that it has many features not found in other PDF programs and I am enjoying trying it out.

More Thoughts on Digital Signatures

I have written multiple times about using digital signatures. As I have pointed out before, however, what I am referring to in my posts is actually just a picture of my signature added to a PDF file. A true digital signature is different and includes security and verification protocols. Recently Adobe Acrobat hosted a webinar on using and deploying digital signatures.

Unfortunately, most of the conversation was over my head. It looks like I was not the only one. Ernie the Attorney reports at PDF for Lawyers:

The other day I attended a free online webinar by some Adobe gurus who dove deep into the arcana of digital signatures.  After the dive I realized that I had a mild case of the bends.

Here’s the problem.  Like most people who don’t live in an ‘enterprise world,’ where there’s a rigorous document review cycle, I just want to sometimes slap a ‘digital signature’ on a document and not have the recipient feel like I’ve sent them some bizarre totemic glyph.
My needs are simple.  Apparently, true digital signatures are not.
Ernie correctly notes that people are not familiar with digital signatures and most do not know what to do when they see one. As Ernie explains:
A signature, digital or not, has to satisfy two elements: (1) non-repudiability, and (2) acceptance by the receiving party.  In other words, the point of signing a document is so the recipient knows it’s from you, and that you can’t deny it’s from you (i.e. you can’t repudiate authorship of the document).  Digital signatures are far superior to regular signatures in this arena.  Where they fail miserably is in the ‘acceptance’ part.
Because digital signatures are not familiar to most people they freak out if they see a bunch of numbers where they’re used to seeing indecipherable human scrawl.  So, how to remedy this problem?
The quick and dirty fix is to do what I outline in that blurb I mentioned a few sentences ago. Just create a stamp and slap that on the document you want to ‘sign.’  It won’t be secure like a real digital signature (and if you want to repudiate it you can say your secretary exceeded her authority and stamped it without your knowledge).  But, let’s say you’re a fair-minded, by-the-rules kind of guy (or gal).  Is there another option?
Turns out there is (although this wasn’t covered in the Adobe webinar; I had to find it myself using a snorkle).

Check out Ernie’s entire post to see a simple way of incorporating both a normal looking signature and a digital signature in your electronic documents.

Creating a Digital Signature

I know that I have written before about creating a digital signature. (Just to clarify, by digital signature, in this instance I am talking about a digital picture of your physical signature.)

Ernie Svenson recently announced that he was putting on a CLE seminar on digital workflow. As Ernie explained at the time:

In the past two years I’ve given several presentations on ‘Digital Workflow,’ or how to make your law practice less dependent on paper. Whenever I give this talk the room is always packed with people who want to know the step-by-step process of becoming more digital.

About six months ago Dane Ciolino and I were tapped to give this presentation together, which was great because, over the years, Dane and I have often had lunch together to talk about our ‘paperless law practices’ and share ideas on how to make things better. So presenting together was a lot of fun for us, and (from the feedback we got) entertaining and informative for the audience.

* * *

It occurred to us that there’s a big demand for this kind of information, and it’s not really being presented very often around Louisiana. So, we decided to take the bull by the horns and put on our own CLE Seminar. The idea is to create a group of basic, intermediate, and advanced sessions. And to present them on a fairly regular basis. We’re going to start with a 3 hour session on December 12th, in the morning. For more information, and to register for the seminar, click here.

Since then, they have added several useful pages to their CLE website, including a page on the IRS requirements for keeping records electronically and basics on scanning. The page that caught my eye, however, was on digital signatures.

That page has a PDF download that explains how to create a digital signature as well as how to “flatten” your PDF so that the siganture is not easily removed. The page also includes javascript code that allows yout to add the flatten command to your Acrobat menus.

This is a great resource and I urge you to check it also. Also, if you are anywhere near where Ernie is giving one of his presentations, I would suggest that you attend that as well, if at all possible.

Nitro PDF, A Viable Alternative to Adobe Acrobat?

The Greatest American Lawyer recently suggested a viable alternative to Adobe Acrobat: Nitro PDF. Most Acrobat alternatives do nothing more than simply create PDFs. In my mind, that is not the purpose of Adobe Acrobat. It has many more features that allow you to comment on or otherwise handle your PDF documents. According to GAL, Nitro PDF includes these features:

You need to do more than read PDF documents.  You need to be able to engage in mark-up, editing, commenting, and creating PDF documents.  I have been using both Nitro and Adobe products for years.  I have always been shocked at how good Nitro is at mimicking the Adobe Standard functionality.

I have not tried Nitro PDF before, but it sounds like they have the right idea here. If you are looking for a full featured PDF program and don’t want to buy Acrobat, now might be the time to check out Nitro PDF. The regular price is $99. However, Nitro PDF has a Christmas special that is valid unit December 19. The special pricing is $49.50.

As GAL noted in his post, even if you already have a full version of Acrobat, Nitro makes a good option to give your staff full PDF functionality without the cost of Acrobat.

Adobe Creates a Community for Acrobat Users

Ernest Svenson posted an announcement today at PDF for Lawyers that he and David Masters are moderating the legal group at the new Adobe Acrobat User Community. Ernie explains:

I happy to announce that Adobe has created an online forum called Adobe Acrobat User Community. It’s free to join, and there are lots of good reasons to do so. First of all, there are some great free online seminars coming up (e.g. Digital Signatures on Dec 17th, and Scanning & OCR on Jan 21st of next year).

But, if you are in the legal profession, a great reason to join is the sub-group on Legal issues. I am a co-moderator of that forum, along with David Masters, whom many of you know is the author of The Lawyers’ Guide to Adobe Acrobat. The more people who participate and share their knowledge the more beneficial the forum will be. So stop by and sign up if you can.

Did I mention it’s free?!

I have already signed up. If you use Acrobat in your practice (and you should), you should check it out as well.