Tips & Tricks

Organizing Your PDF Documents Using Acrobat

March 17, 2004


Has the maze of papers around the home or office become overwhelming for you? Do you spend more time searching for information than using it?

This tip is for the disorganized or those searching for a better means of organizing files, papers, articles, and other important documents.

In a traditional filing system, you might create labels, stick them to tabs on manilla folders, then find the alphabetical order and file the folders in cabinets.

Using Adobe Acrobat, you can create an alternative system that numerically orders files. It's much easier to do and you don't need to be concerned about reserving space in drawers for the alphabetical order.

For a nifty alternative and efficient means of storing information, follow along as I offer you Ted's Pat Pending Filing System.

The Files

On a manilla envelope, affix a label or write on the tab a number. You can use 001, 002, etc. or simply number the tabs 1, 2, 3, etc.

A folder will be needed for each independent document just as you might organize files in an alphabetical system.

Create a Template

Using a layout or Illustration program, create a template. Adobe Illustrator 9.0 is an excellent tool for designing a template that can be exported to PDF when the design is complete.

On the template, you'll want to have an image that might be used as a button to create new pages in your PDF file, perhaps a title, and a few lines of text where field data will appear.

In my example, I used:

Short Description: to provide a one line description of a folder's contents.

Detail: for a more amplified description.

Item No: will be used for the number matching each folder.

Location: is the file cabinet where a given item is stored.

Location No.: can be a drawer in a file cabinet or a shelf in a cabinet.

Date: would be the date the document is entered in the system.

The fields corresponding to each item will be created in Acrobat 5.

Create the PDF

Save the template created from Illustrator or a program that exports as PDF, or print to PostScript and distill the PostScript file in Acrobat Distiller.

If you wish to have a cover page, create a design and also save the file as a PDF. The organizer file can be created with or without a cover page.

On a cover page, you'll want an icon or button that will be used for creating new pages. The icon might be created in your illustration program and the form field would be created in Acrobat.

Create the Form Fields

Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat. If you use a cover page, open the file after converting to PDF and select Document -> Insert Pages. Insert the template page after the cover page.

A button will be needed to spawn a page from a template. Create the button on a cover page or if not using a cover page, create a button form field to be used for spawning pages from a template.

In the example at left, I also created a field for a short description; a field for detail where text will describe the folder contents; and on the lower right, I used a button to import an image in case I want to scan a document or a page in a document.

In the upper right corner, a field will be used to automatically increment the number. As each new page is spawned from a template, the next number in sequence is automatically placed in the field box. The remaining fields are used for location and date.

Add the JavaScript

Several JavaScripts will be needed, First, you need a document level JavaScript that will increment field names as pages are created from a template.

The form field over the button will need to have a JavaScript to spawn a page from a template. If using a cover page, it can be created on the cover and eliminated from the template.

Finally, you'll need a button field with a JavaScript to import an image.

The code for each of these buttons can be found in my Acrobat Forms eTips and Techniques publication on MightyWords, or use the JavaScript Specification document for a reference in your Acrobat Help folder to create the proper scripts.

Create a Template

After all fields have been created, select Tools -> Forms -> Page Templates. A dialog box will appear as shown left.

Supply a name in the Name field and click on the Add button. When the template appears in the list box an eye icon will be displayed adjacent to the template name. Click on the eye icon to hide the template.

If you use a cover page, the button that spawns the page from a template can be placed on the cover page.

Using the Filing System

Each time I want to file another document, I open the PDF and click on a button. A new page is created and the next number in sequence is automatically added from the JavaScrpt routine. A corresponding number is written on a tab on a manilla folder and filed in sequential order in a cabinet identified with the filing system.

Information is entered in the description field with keywords to easily locate a document.

When searching for a file, open the PDF and use Acrobat's Find command. The Find dialog box will locate occurrences in form fields as well as text on a PDF page. When URL addresses are needed, use the procedure described in the tip for Securing Passwords.

If you need help, you can get my 101 Acrobat Forms eTips and Techniques. The tips book has copy/paste form fields and JavaScripts already created to duplicate this example.


When scanning documents into Photoshop any text added to the Photoshop document can be searched in Acrobat. Be certain to Save as PDF from Photoshop 6 and include the vector data without flattening the layers.

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