PDF In-Depth

What's your preference, sir?

April 29, 2010

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Remember this joke? Guy goes into see the doctor, and the doc asks, "What seems to be the problem?" The guy says, "Doc, it's my arm. It hurts when I do this." And then the doctor says, "Well, then don't DO that!"

I mention this joke because it's basically what happens when people fail to make any attempt to set the preferences for their applications. Technology trainers are constantly hearing lawyers complain that Word wants to auto-correct certain words. In the attorneys' view the problem is irresolvable; it's a bug in the program that simply can't be fixed.

The tech trainer usually wants to say something similar to what the doctor in the joke says: "if you don't like it when your computer does that then tell it not to." Then the tech trainer patiently shows the lawyer how to set the preferences for that program. Every program has preferences. You knew that, right?

Maybe you didn't. And, if so, then you wouldn't be alone.

Computers seem to make people dumb. Imagine picking anyone out of a crowd and telling them that they'd get to live in a mansion with a butler for a week. The first time the butler does something that is annoying or not to their liking, do you think they'd be at a loss as to how to fix the problem? No, they'd pipe right up and command the butler to do what they want. Even if they never had a butler before.

But these same people when they get a new program seem to think that the designers of the program have configured it just for them. And so therefore they should expect it to work perfectly in the way that's most natural for them. If it doesn't then they curse the program.

Adobe Acrobat is an amazing program. If you want to be 'paperless' then you should invest in Acrobat (preferably the Professional version) and you should take the time to learn how to set it up to your liking. The reason you prefer paper is because you're used to working with it. The reason you tend to feel less comfortable with PDFs is that they don't behave like the paper you're used to. So what are you going to do about that?

One thing you can do is to set up the preferences to how you like things to be. Do you prefer to see one whole page from top to bottom when you open the PDF? Fine, then set it up in preferences. Maybe you like to view two pages side by side. That's a preference choice too. I could sit hear and describe all the preference choices for you, but that's not the optimal approach. You should open up the preferences and see what all your options are. If you have a Windows machine go to the EDIT menu (or select CTRL + K). If you have a Mac the preferences are under the ACROBAT menu (shortcut: CMD + ,).

If you don't like how your computer acts, then change it. You have the power.

This piece originally appeared on PDFforLawyers.com, and has been reproduced with permission.

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