Acrobat X Tips

Volume 38 Number 2


About the Author

 David Masters, A small-firm general practitioner in Montrose, CA, his practice focuses on municipal, real estate and business matters, transactions and litigation. He has written three editions of the book, “The Lawyer’s Guide to Adobe Acrobat,” as well as numerous articles and presentations on the use of information technology in the practice of law.

Adobe Acrobat has been an integral part of my paperless office for more than 10 years. As with most other applications, there are certain things that I do with Acrobat every day. Here are some tips, based on nearly 10 years of daily use.  

Customize Acrobat to Suit Your Needs

Tip No. 1 is to customize the toolbars. It’s easy and will improve your productivity. As a lawyer, I have never had occasion to need to know the zoom percentage of the current display, nor have I ever knowingly edited an object, so I don’t need or want those tools cluttering my toolbar. But there are plenty of tools that I use on a regular basis that do not appear by default on the toolbars. If you customize the toolbars, your use of Acrobat will be more efficient. Here are a few suggestions.


Customizing the Quick Tools is quick and easy. Click the icon on the toolbar that looks like a little gear (see right) to open the Customize Quick Tools window. The tools are grouped by category: Tools, Comments and Third Party Plug-Ins.

Tools Category

In the Tools category, in the Pages section, add (move from the left to the right side): Extract, Crop and Bates Numbering (Delete, Rotate and Insert are on the toolbar by default). These page tools see daily use in my office.

Several of these tools are used so often that you might want to remember these keyboard shortcuts: Delete is Page = Control+Shift+D; Rotate is Page = Control+Shift+R (press C to cycle between clockwise and counterclockwise; press 1 for 180 degrees); Insert is File = Control+Shift+I. 

Content Category

There are two tools in the Content section that should be on your toolbar. First is the Add or Edit Text Box tool. The name is confusing, but the icon is clear; this is the “typewriter tool” from early versions of Acrobat.

Second, move the Link tool from the left to right side. Move it up or down in the list of tools so that it’s in a group that makes sense to you. Speaking of “groups,” between the list of tools on the left and those on the right are the arrows for moving tools back and forth. The thing between the arrows is a “separator.” You can add separators and move them up and down to put tools into groups that make sense to you. 

Comment Category

In the Annotations Section, you’ll want the Stamps tool on your toolbar for quick access to your signature stamp (more on signature stamps later). In the Customize Quick Tools window, in the Comment section, go to the Annotations section and move the Stamps tool from the left side to the right. You’ll see that the Sticky Note and Highlight Text tools are on the toolbar by default. 

Drawing Markup Section

The Drawing Markup tools see a lot of use in my office. Your toolbar should include these tools: Text Box, Text Callout, Line, Oval, Rectangle, Polygon and Connected Lines. Setting the default properties for these tools is the subject of another tip.

Customize the View

Now that your frequently used tools are at the ready, it’s time to fix the way you see pages in Acrobat. This customization will be more difficult to accomplish, but it’s well worth the time and effort.

Pull down the View menu, put the pointer on the Show/Hide section, then move the pointer over the Toolbar Items section. This will display a menu list of toolbar sections that can be customized by showing or hiding tools within those sections. If you prefer using keyboard shortcuts, you can display this final menu by pressing Alt+V, then S, then T. Items that are displayed on a toolbar have a checkmark; clicking items will either add or delete the checkmark.

Page Display

Start in the Page Display menu and uncheck all of the tools. Don’t worry, the next thing you’ll do is add tools from another submenu. There is no easy way to do this. You can only uncheck one tool each time, so you’re going to make a few trips down the menu list from View to Show/Hide, to Toolbar Items, to Page Display. After a couple of trips through the menus, you might want to reconsider the keyboard shortcut (Alt+V>S>T).

Page Navigation

This will be easy. When you reach this submenu simply select Show All Page Navigation Tools. 

Select & Zoom

By default, the Select and Hand tools are both checked. First, check the Marquee Zoom tool. Next, select (i.e., put a checkmark next to) Zoom to Page Level. Finally, put a checkmark next to Fit Width. Now, when you want to zoom in for a close look at an area of a page, use the Marquee Zoom tool to drag a quick rectangle, and you’re there. When you’re done looking at the zoomed area, click the Page Level button and you’ll see the full page. If you prefer, click the Fit Width button and you’ll see the page from left-to-right margins. These three buttons make it quick and easy to zoom in and then jump back out to your preferred view (Fit Page or Fit Width).

Set the Default Properties for the Drawing Markup Tools

If you customized your toolbar to add the Text Box, Text Callout, Line, Oval, Rectangle, Polygon and Connected Lines tools, take a minute to set the default properties. I use the Text Box, most of the time, to create exhibit labels. So, I like it to have a two-point black border, a solid yellow background and centered 10-point black text.

Click on the Text Box tool, click and drag on the page to create the “box.” The insertion point will appear in the box so that you can add text. With the text insertion active inside the box, press the Control key and E at the same time (Control+E). This will open the Properties Bar. Because you’re working inside a text box, it will be labeled as the Text Box Text Properties. Set the text properties that you want as your default (color, justification, font and size). When you have the text set, right-click the border of the box; the label on the Properties Bar will change to Text Box Properties. Make adjustments to the border and fill, then right-click on the border of the box. At the bottom of the menu select Properties, check the box at the bottom to Make Properties Default, and click OK. The trick to setting the defaults for the Text Box and Text Callout tools is to set the text characteristics first and then the box properties.

PDF files created by scanning do not have a text layer that can be selected and highlighted, but you can make a “highlighter” out of the rectangle drawing markup tool. Click on the tool and drag to create a box. Right-click on the box and select Properties. There are two “color” buttons: one for the border and one for fill. Set both to the same color (try basic yellow). Use the slider to change opacity to about 30 percent. Experiment with color and opacity until you get the desired effect, then check the box to Make Properties Default.

Now, every time you use the Rectangle Drawing Markup Tool, it will be the color and transparency that works for you. The translucent rectangle you see on your computer will not look the same when displayed using a projector. Test the appearance with your projector and reset the defaults before heading to court.

Set the default properties for the other Drawing Markup Tools to your preference. I like my Line Tool to produce a solid red line two points wide with no “ends” (arrows, dots, etc.). My Oval is bright green, again two points wide, with no fill.

Set Preferences

There are several program preferences that are worth setting. Selecting Preferences from the bottom of the Edit menu opens a window with lots of options. At the top of the list on the left side, click on Commenting. Now, on the right side, in the Making Comments area, check the bottom box to “Copy selected text into Highlight... .”

With this box checked, whenever you use the Highlight Text tool, the highlighted text will be copied into a comment that will appear in the Comment List (this feature is very handy when reviewing transcripts).

Next, click on Documents in the left column. At the bottom of the right side, under Redaction, check the box to “Adjust file name when saving applied redaction marks.” Fill in one or both boxes with your preferred prefix or suffix to be added to the file name when saving after redaction has been applied.

Finally, set the way PDF files will be displayed upon opening. In the list on the left side, click on Page Display. At the top of the right side, in the Default Layout and Zoom, set your preferences for Page Layout (try Single Page) and Zoom (try Fit Page). Click OK, and you’re done with Preferences.

Create a Custom Signature Stamp

One reason for adding the Stamp tool to the toolbar was so your signature stamp would be handy to use. Now it’s time to create that stamp. If you don’t want your signature to have a solid white background, you’ll need a photo-editing application that allows for saving TIFF files with transparent backgrounds.

Start by signing your name on a piece of paper about a dozen times (or at least until you have created one exemplar that you like enough to use as your Stamp signature). Scan the page of exemplars and save it as a TIFF file. Use an editing application to crop and save desired exemplar.

If you have an image-editing application that can create layers and preserve transparency, use it to put your signature on a transparent background. In Photoshop Elements, use the Magic Wand tool or Select by Color Range to select all parts of the signature. Use the Layer menu to create a new layer via cut. Now delete the “background” layer and you have a signature image with no background.

In Acrobat, click the drop-down arrow on the right side of the Stamp tool. Near the bottom of the list, highlight Custom Stamps then click on Create Custom Stamp. Click the Browse button, locate and select the image file of your signature, then click OK. At this point, you will probably want to create a new category called Signatures, then give your stamp an appropriate name (e.g., your initials), click OK again, and your new signature stamp will now be in the Signatures category when you click on the Stamp tool.

Get Acrobat Pro for Bates Numbering and Redaction 

Bates Numbering

With Acrobat X Pro you can apply Bates numbers to one file or multiple files. If you have been using Bates numbers before moving to digital files, you know the reasoning and importance that underlies this practice. If you are new to Bates numbering, understanding why this represents a best practice will lead to considerations of how you number documents. When the documents bear unique sequential numbers or alphanumerical markings, questions about whether they were or were not produced can be avoided. For example, when 1,000 pages are Bates numbered and produced, there can be no dispute about whether a particular page or set of pages was included.

If you did not add the Bates Numbering tool to your toolbar, you will find it in the Tools “task pane” on the right side of the workspace in the Edit Page Design area. Click on the tool and select Add Bates Numbering; a Select Files dialog box will appear where you choose the file or files that you want to apply Bates numbering. If you select multiple files, you can rearrange the order within the list. After you select the file or files, the Add Header and Footer window opens (see screenshot   A). This version of the Add Header and Footer window has a button to Insert Bates Number. If you just went to the basic Add Header and Footer window, that button would be labeled Insert Page Number. Click in the area where you want the Bates numbers (top or bottom, left, right or center), click on the Insert Bates Number button, set the number of digits, the starting number, and add a prefix or suffix (See screenshot B). As you do this, a preview of the Bates numbering will appear in the Add Header and Footer window. Click OK and the numbers will be added to the selected file(s).


Acrobat X Pro comes with a powerful redaction tool. When documents must be produced, but contain information that cannot or should not be made public or seen by the opposing party, that information must be redacted. Personal identifiers in “protected health information,” account and Social Security numbers, financial information, and the like all must be protected from disclosure in various circumstances. The redaction function in Acrobat X Pro permits the marking and removal of both text and any portion of image-only PDF files. When working with image-on-text files, words, phrases or any string of characters can be searched for and automatically marked for redaction. The redaction process, generally speaking, involves two steps: 1) information within a document is “marked” for redaction; and 2) the redaction is applied.

The redaction tools are in the Tools task pane on the right side of the workspace, in the Protection section, under the caption Black Out & Remove Content. My redaction tip: Set the Redaction Properties before you start. Whether you select text or draw rectangles when “marking” for redaction, you need to decide in advance what the “marked” areas will look like after the redactions are applied. The redacted areas can be filled with a solid color or text. If you use a text overlay, you can set the font, size, color and other properties.

Applied redactions become irreversibly permanent when you save the file. That’s a good reason to set the program preference (Edit > Preferences > Redaction) to “Adjust filename when saving applied redaction marks.” If you don’t set the program preference, be sure to keep a copy of the unredacted file in case you have to show a judge what you redacted.

Closing Tip

Customized toolbars, default tool properties and general preferences are just the beginning. As you work with Acrobat, you’ll probably find tools that should be on your toolbar and others that should be removed. Take five minutes and customize Acrobat to suit your needs. You’ll be glad you did.


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