MANY CONTRACTORS use the Adobe Acrobat Reader software, a free download offered from the Adobe Web site (www.adobe.com) that enables users to open and read PDF files sent by e-mail, downloaded from the Web or delivered on disk. The free software is a convenience but it’s a passive capability only. Unless the receiving computer has Adobe Acrobat 6.0, the authoring program sold by Adobe, all the recipient can do is read files.
But many contractors could benefit from using Adobe Acrobat 6.0 to create PDF files for assembling a set of documents created in various programs for distribution (as a bid set or otherwise) to others. The file set, in PDF format, could include drawings, specifications and performance requirements.
Adobe Acrobat 6.0 can convert most file types to the PDF file format. (PDF stands for Portable Document Format.) Among the files it can convert are Microsoft Word, Excel and Project. The Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Professional edition supports creation of large-format documents created from AutoCAD files and Microsoft Visio files, while preserving multiple layers. (D-size sheets are possible inside a standard paper size.)
The program, which requires Windows NT Workstation 4, Windows XP Professional or Home Edition, or Windows XP Tablet PC Edition plus Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher (to generate Adobe PDF files from Web content), expedites the review process of critical documents through electronic document exchange.
Adobe PDF documents preserve the look and content of the original document, with all information converted into text and graphics. (When making a PDF from AutoCAD, the Acrobat PDF maker converts AutoCAD’s vector-based image to text, which facilitates efficient searching for a part number or any other entry that was placed as a vector in AutoCAD.) Adobe Acrobat also includes the ability to add annotations, such as links, bookmarks, attachments and comments, which are then saved with the PDF document.
Intuitive Adobe PDF creation tools are integrated into the Windows desktop and Microsoft Office applications, so users can convert Office documents to Adobe PDF without leaving the application in which they are working. Users can combine multiple files, including documents from Word, Excel and PowerPoint, into one Adobe PDF file in a single step.
A Review and Comment drop-down menu provides access to a Commenting Toolbar and other options, including a Cloud Tool that creates “clouds” around a particular area of an architectural drawing to call attention to a specific element of the drawing.
The program supports neat redlining of any text in the files. A “stamp” tool enables users to stamp the current date, time or other variable. Users also can create custom stamps from Adobe PDF files.
A Comments pane allows file reviewers to see comments in context in the document and then reply to, delete, search, print, spell-check, import, export or summarize them.
The value of review and comment capabilities can be enhanced if two or more networked users have Microsoft Outlook 2002 on their PCs or have Internet access. The program, designed for a collaborative environment, allows for a hierarchy. A “Secure” button gives fast access to Acrobat security controls that support restricting document access and editing so authorized users can password-protect documents and prevent recipients from making changes. Users with authority also can set the status of a comment, such as “accepted” or “rejected.”
There are almost 20 ways to add notes, including color-coded “post-its.” Comments can be sorted by author, date, page, color or other criteria.
The ability to export text edits or other comments directly into Word 2003 lets users maintain the integrity of a source document with Adobe PDF during a group review while eliminating the need to retype comments in the original file.
Users can view two areas of a large drawing simultaneously by activating the split-pane view. Employing the Loupe tool (which operates like a magnifying glass of the type that fits over your eye), it is also possible to zoom in on detail in a specific area without affecting the magnification level of the rest of the document.
When working with layered Visio or AutoCAD files, the program operator can carry over the layers intact or can, from a clearly delineated dialog box, rename, rearrange and designate layers as visible or not and to be printed or not. Preserving layers allows program users to view or hide information as needed in a document. Layers are also combinable into sets, which can be saved as a new layer settings file. The more compact the Adobe PDF file (i.e., including only those layers that are needed by an intended recipient) the easier it is to share via e-mail.
The recipients of the PDF documents can send comments back to the author without having to send the entire document. The author can then incorporate those comments into the document, for re-publishing in a final draft of a bid set. And as a job progresses, a contractor working through Adobe Acrobat can handle all documentation for change orders, including revised jobsite drawings.
William and Patti Feldman provide Web content for companies and write for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].