Adobe Acrobat 6.0: Getting Professional Results from Your PDFs
Sample chapter from new book by PDF Conference founder & host Carl Young

26 May 2004

8 CHANCES TO WIN! In collaboration with McGraw-Hill, we're giving away eight free copies of "Adobe Acrobat 6.0: Getting Professional Results from Your PDFs" by Carl Young, PDF Conference founder & host -- two copies during each of the next four weeks. Check out the details and enter soon to increase your chances of winning! ALSO: The ninth incarnation of the popular PDF Conference is slated for September 13-14 in Baltimore, MD. Planet PDF is a founding co-sponsor of and active participant in this event.

Carl Young book on Acrobat 6

"Throughout the book, we have been looking at Portable Document Format (PDF) creation from a lone author's point of view -- even if that lone author is working in a group with others. In chapter 11, we begin by looking at how the lone author can manipulate more than one file at a time. The next section moves beyond the single PDF creator to look at how server-based products can create many hundreds or thousands of PDFs at once. The chapter ends with a specialized type of batch processing: Scanning paper documents into PDF."

- Carl Young, author

Copyright 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Sample chapter from "Adobe Acrobat 6.0: Getting Professional Results from Your PDFs" by Carl Young republished with expressed permission.

Chapter 11: "Moving Beyond One-Document-at-a-Time Creation"

Introduction

Acrobat is designed as a desktop product -- the typical use is one person creating one PDF at a time. That workflow is fine for many uses, such as a technical writer producing an online manual or a designer producing an ad.

But what about other business processes? For example, the person in charge of producing a CD, who needs to add security settings to hundreds of PDFs.

Opening one file at a time and manually specifying security options is a great way to waste time doing a repetitive procedure. Wouldn't it be great if that process could be automated? Well, it can, because Acrobat includes a feature called batch processing, which gives you the power to process dozens, or hundreds, of files at a time.

Let's step back a bit and look at the use of PDF in a large organization, such as a financial institution, a human resources department, or a government agency.

Suppose that, each month, one of these entities has to produce thousands, or millions, of reports that are mailed to customers each month. For the financial institution, it might be a customer financial statement. For a human resources department, it might be a summary of health benefits used or a retirement benefits statement. A government agency might need to produce monthly business sales tax reports for thousands of small businesses.

Add up the cost of printing, folding, stuffing, and mailing these reports, and the cost is in the billions. How much money could these entities save by generating PDFs that could be e-mailed to customers instead? Millions, or billions, of dollars.

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service has been able to close warehouses and reduce its printing budget by many millions of dollars by making tax forms available in PDF at www.irs.gov. Not only is the agency saving money, but it's also making the forms available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No longer do taxpayers have to go to the library or the post office during business hours and hope the form they need is in stock. They also don't have to call an IRS service center and ask for a form to be mailed. Forms are always on hand at the IRS web site, ready to be downloaded day or night.

But how do you create 100,000 retirement reports overnight? You do it by not using the desktop version of Acrobat. You would have to have an army of workers equipped with the desktop version of Acrobat to turn out that many reports. Instead, you use a server-based solution from Adobe or another company.

In this chapter, you first learn how to power Acrobat to manipulate hundreds of files at once, and then you look at some of the many Adobe and non-Adobe server-based solutions.

NOTE: Why produce reports in PDF instead of HTML? Because a PDF looks like a paper document, it's an easier transition for users to make than shifting to an HTML document that probably won't look a thing like the statement customers are used to seeing-especially in print. Greater customer acceptance means fewer people will be asking for paper-based statements, which results in more cost savings. In addition, a PDF can be highly formatted, which is great for documents with lots of numbers in tables, as is the case with nearly all financial reports. And, for many businesses, legal requirements exist for keeping form data with the actual form that customers saw. And, unlike HTML, a PDF can be easily secured to prevent tampering, and then can be filled out offline.

Acrobat Batch Processing

Before moving on to the world of server-side PDF, let's take a look at what you can do with Acrobat.

Beginning with version 5, Adobe added a macro-like capability to Acrobat called batch sequences. Acrobat batch sequences only work inside of Acrobat. In other words, you can't use an Acrobat batch sequence to control PDF creation from Microsoft Word.

NOTE: If you want to connect an Acrobat batch sequence to another program, you have to use platform-specific scripting languages. In Windows, you can use Visual Basic to control Acrobat, and use batch sequences to run operations inside of Acrobat. In MacOS, you would use AppleScript instead of Visual Basic.

What Is Batch Processing?

Acrobat's batch sequences are a lot like macros inWord andWordPerfect. You are essentially replacing manual keystrokes with automation. Each sequence is a specific set of commands carried out in a specific order. You fire off the batch sequence, and then sit back and watch Acrobat do the work. Or, you can leave for a cup of coffee. Batch sequences can be run on one file or hundreds or thousands. Sequences can run without your intervention, or you can interact with the sequence to make a choice at a predefined step.

Acrobat comes with some sequences already written, or you can roll your own custom batch. You can share your sequences and use batches written by others. Sequences are saved for reuse, and your custom sequences appear alongside the sequences that come with Acrobat. Let's start by looking at the sequences that come with Acrobat.

Running a Sequence

Tucked away in the Advanced menu are several simple sequences that Adobe has provided for you. Looking at these sequences is a great way to learn how to create your own. While Acrobat 5 shipped with 8 batches already installed and 19 optional batches on the installation CD, Acrobat 6 comes with only the 8 preinstalled sequences. No additional batch sequences are on the installation CD.

NOTE: Start Acrobat, but don't open any files to run these sequences.

Using Prebuilt Sequences

Sequences are stored in the Acrobat 6/Acrobat/Sequences/ENU folder. The file extension for Acrobat batch sequences is *.sequ. The prebuilt sequences in Acrobat 6 include the following:

  • Create Page Thumbnails: Permanently embeds miniature pictures of each page for display on the Pages tab.

  • Fast Web View: This speeds the user viewing experience for PDFs posted on the Web. PDFs that aren't set up with Fast Web View (also known as linearization) must completely download to the user's machine before they can be viewed. Fast Web View lets users see each individual page as soon as it's transferred.

  • Open All: This opens all the selected files. It will even automatically create PDFs if you select a file type that Acrobat can convert, such as Microsoft Office files and TIFF images.

  • Print 1st Page of All: This prints only the first page of each selected file using your current print settings.

  • Print All: This prints all selected files using your current print settings. Remove File Attachments This strips files that are attached to the selected PDFs.

  • Save All as RTF: This converts the selected files to Rich Text Format (RTF).

  • Set Security to No Changes: This restricts access to a PDF by setting up passwords and disabling certain features, such as printing and editing.

Sequences on the Acrobat 5 CD

Instead of building a sequence from scratch, you might find what you need on the Acrobat 5 CD. If you don't have one, ask a friend for a copy of the sequences.

One sequence from the Acrobat 5 CD that I find useful is 'Spell Check a Document.' While Acrobat 6 will spell check form fields and comments, this sequence checks the spelling of the entire PDF. Red squiggly underlines appear beneath suspect words.

Batch-Process Documents

The following procedure can be used to run any batch process. If a step calls for a manual process, you would stop at that point, and then continue. Figure 11-1 shows the Batch Sequences dialog box.

  1. Choose Advanced | Batch Processing.

  2. Select a process from the list on the right side of the Batch Process dialog box.

  3. Click on the Run Sequence button.

    carlyoung_fig11-1
    FIGURE 11-1: Acrobat's batch processes (prebuilt and any custom) appear in the Batch Processes Screen.

  4. Make sure the sequence you selected is the one you want.

  5. Click OK.

  6. Choose the files you want to process.

  7. Click Select.

  8. Some sequences have options at this point. Specify your options if applicable and click OK.

  9. Repeat the process on another file, or click Close in the Batch Sequences dialog box to end.


[CONTINUED in Part 2 of 5]


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