Creating and Managing PDF Documents

Many companies produce forms in PDF format and make them available either via their web site or emailing them directly to their customers. It has been possible for several years to fill these in on your computer and email the completed form back.

Orignally PDF documents were read only and you had no options to modify them or create them outside the offical PDF application provide by Adobe. Now there are several companies providing a PDF environment. The PDF readers are free, but their capbilities extend to adding text and images and attaching other files. Many standard applications such as word processors and spreadsheets can produce PDF format and there are pseudo printers that enable you to produce a PDF file.

If you have a recent copy of Word, it is possible to convert a PDF document back into Word as an editable document.

Annotating a PDF Document

The major PDF reader applications, e.g. Adobe Reader, allow the user to annotate a PDF document. There is usually a tab, icon or dropdown menu that will provide a number of facilities for annotation, depending on the PDF reader being used. Once the appropriate function has been selected, the cursor can be placed in the required position and text typed.

This means that a form can be completed by typing in the data in the appropriate positions.

Once completed the form can be saved and then emailed. This can usually be done directly from the reader.

Examples for two readers are shown below. The DVLA SORN form has been saved as a local file and used as the example. The Adobe Reader tends to be the PDF reader used by most users, but I have used the Foxit PDF Reader as the first example as it is more straight-forward for annotation.

A lot of web browsers will now display PDF and this can be the default display mode for PDF files for some computers. if this applies to your computer, you will need to specifically download the PDF file into a local folder in order to annotate it.

Foxit Reader

The Foxit PDF reader is more straight-forward to use than Adobe Reader for annotating PDF documents. It can be downloaded here. Click on the Download button and then select the operating system and language in the pop-up window and click on Free Download. You do not need anything else and do not click on anything in the next screen. One the installation file has loaded, launch that and read each stage carefully before proceeding - there are extra software options offered during installation which you do not need.

To annotate documents using Foxit, open the PDF document. This example is using the SORN form from the DVLA. You will see this screen,

In the menu bar at the top of the screen, click on Home (next to File highlighted in orange on the left) to show the Home ribbon. In this ribbon, click on the large T with Typwriter underneath it, highlighted in a blue box.

Now move the cursor to where you want to type, click and start typing. I have started to add the vehicle registration. Don't worry about the size of the text initially. You can click slightly outside the typing box and you will see the pop-up as shown below, with A+ A-. Click on the appropriate one to increase of decrease the size of your text. To move to the next box to fill in, simply move your cursor to the new position, click and start typing.

Editing can be done as follows,

Edit text:Double click within the text
Moving a block of text:Click in the text and drag the text box to the new position with the left hand mouse button
Copy a block of text:Click in the text, hold the CTRL key down and drag the text box to the new position with the left hand mouse button
Delete a block of text:Click in the text, then press the delete key
Change the size of the text block:Click in the text, then select one of the square blocks in the text box outline and drag it to the required size

When you have finished, save the file with a new name; the original document can then be reused. The edits are retained as separate information, so you can go back and edit the items you added to the document.

Adobe Reader

I don't use Adobe Reader as standard, so I may not have found the optimum method of annotating with it.

Open your document in Adobe Reader to see,

Click on Tools in the menu bar to see,

Click on Comment to see,

Click on T (highlighted in a red oval) in the Comment tool bar. Position your cursor to where you want to eidt and start typing. Editing is not done in place, but in the side pane on the right where you can see No Comments Yet. When you want to edit an annotation, double click on it to see the text in the side pane where it can be edited.

Saving anything that can be printed in PDF Format

Warning: The descriptions below are based on a Windows environment. Applications that run on both Windows and Apple can have different interfaces and while the same facilities may be available they may not present in the same way. Tablets and Phones can have stripped down applications, which may or may not support the features of their "bigger" bretheren.

What does Saving anything that can be printed in PDF Format mean. Most applications offer a facility to print what you are looking at. Thus, in addition, to items that you would expect to be able to print, e.g. Word, Excel, you can print a mail message, a web page and most other items that you can view on a computer. In order to print, you don't need a printer! There are pseudo printers that will print to a file in PDF format rather than a physical printer. If you have a Windows 10 device, then you should have a Microsoft print to PDF "printer" by default. The Foxit PDF reader provides a Print to PDF as part of the reader package.

This means that virtually anything you can view can be saved as a PDF document. There is a problem if you are printing a web page as a lot of web pages are plagued by advertisements and that is probably not what you want to save. The major browsers now have a reading view mode that strips a page of all its advertisements and only displays the "real" content of the page. If you enter this mode first, your PDF document should only contain the "real" content.

There will be a print function somewhere in the application or browser that you are using, but the easy way to get to Print is the shortcut CTRL + P, i.e. hold down the Control Key and press P simultaneously. This is a standard that works in most applications. In some cases, this may not get you to the full print dialog, but just print to the default printer. If your default printer is set to "Print to PDF", then there is no problem, otherwise you will have to look for the Print feature in your application.

Once you have the print dialog, select your printer to "print to PDF". The wording will vary according to what you have set up. Then Print. You will get a pop-up dialog asking where you want to save the file. Select the required destination and click on Save

You now have a PDF document that you can use just like any other file. If it's a set of instructions that you wanted and it's not quite clear, you now know how you can add some clarification notes.