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Comparing documents with Acrobat X Pro and Suite

Learn how to use the Compare Documents command to identify what has changed between two versions of a PDF file.

By Lori Kassuba – October 10, 2010


In this tutorial, learn how to use the Compare Documents command in Acrobat X to identify what has changed between two versions of a PDF file.

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Comparing documents with Acrobat X Pro and Suite

Lori Kassuba – October 10, 2010

Adobe Acrobat X Professional allows you to easily compare two versions of the same document.

To compare two documents, select the View > Compare Documents command.

This brings up the Compare Documents dialog that allows you to select the older and newer versions of a document.

If you have a document open already, it will appear in the first pulldown automatically.

I'm going to go ahead and select two versions of a document to compare.

When comparing two documents, you can specify the page ranges that you would like to compare.

In the Document Description area you can select the type of document that you are comparing.

For example reports, spreadsheets, or magazine layouts.

Presentation decks, drawing or illustrations, or scanned documents.

This will determine the type of comparisons that are made within your document.

You can also check the “Compare text only” box if you're only interested in comparing text and no graphics within your document.

This is new in Acrobat X.

Note that the Compare Document feature isn't available when comparing PDF Portfolios.

In this example, I'll be comparing two presentations, which is already selected in the Document Description.

When I click OK, the Compare Documents command brings up a new PDF document with the Compare Navigation panel open on the left hand side.

The top portion of the Compare panel displays thumbnails of a report that you can page through.

The icons just below the thumbnails identify that something associated with the page has changed.

The purple arrow indicates pages were changed and green arrows indicate pages were moved.

The bottom portion of the Compare panel is a dynamic thumbnail of the old version of the page that you're selecting on the top.

This allows you to see what the older version looked like, even though you are still within the new document.

Let's go back to page 1 and review the report.

The first page summarizes the differences between the files, and the blue hyperlinks navigate to the actual file.

Clicking on this hyperlink takes us to the first page where the change is highlighted.

If I hover over the highlight, it will bring a popup that details exactly what has changed.

The color legend in the upper-right hand corner details what colors are used to denote insertions, deletions, replacements and movements within the document.

On the next page, you'll see that insertions are denoted in blue.

And again, if I hover over the highlight, you'll the exact changes that were made.

On page 3 you can see that a deletion is noted with a marker.

On the next page, you can see from the navigation panel that page 4 does not have any icon below the thumbnail, which indicates that there are no changes.

Moving on to page 5, you'll see a red box around the graphic in the thumbnail.

If I hover over the actual image the popup tells me that the graphic was replaced.

If I click on the actual image we'll see a side-by-side comparison of exactly what has changed.

Acrobat does pixel-by-pixel comparison within the graphics.

On the next page, the gray box in the upper left-hand corner details that a page has been removed.

And finally on the last page, the blue box in the upper left-hand corner says that a new page has been inserted.

Another way to view the documents is to use the Show Documents Side by side command under the pull-down tab in the Compare navigation panel.

This will layout the two documents side-by-side and synchronize the pages as you move through the document.

Closing out my old document, let's take a look at some of the options that you can set in the Compare navigation panel.

Simply click on the Show Options button and this will open all the options that you can modify when comparing PDFs.

I can specify exactly what type of changes to flag between the documents.

For example, I can include or exclude backgrounds, which can be useful when comparing presentations with solid color fill backgrounds.

I can set the color used for the Color Legend and I can control the opacity used to denote highlights.

Sometimes changing the opacity is useful if you need to see more information underneath the highlight.

Acrobat X's robust comparison tool allows you to compare any type of PDF content from magazine layouts to presentations.

You can compare all the content, including pixel level differences within graphics, or simply compare the text within a PDF.

The resulting PDF report provides detailed information on exactly what has changed and where between two versions of the same PDF document.

Products covered:

Acrobat X

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Comments for this tutorial are now closed.

Lori Kassuba

5, 2014-12-19 19, 2014

Hi Cecilia,

Here’s a link to a free word count tool that one of our Experts created:



2, 2014-12-19 19, 2014

Dear Lori,

Thank you for your answer. The comments summary is a step in the direction I need, but I still have not figured out how to get a wordcount. I am currently looking into an Acrobat Action that creates a Comment Summary that can be exported into Excel, after which I could categorize the comments and use the wordcount in Office.

Do you think there is a way to count the words in all insertions/deletions directly in Acrobat? This feature used to be right there in the comparison summary and that’s why I rely on it to calculate how much a document has changed from one version to the next.

Thanks again.

Matthew Trapasso

1, 2014-12-12 12, 2014

Hi Lori,

I noticed the compare function is not picking up double spacing or line spacing. Do you know what I can do to pick these up?

For example, I have hidden text in my documents, and I was able to pick up changes by changing the background color in both documents.

Kary Miller

5, 2014-12-11 11, 2014

The compare was created by someone that had Acrobat Pro.  My issue is that the Color Legend shows in the top right corner when
I open the document and scroll through the pages but on two others people’s computer the legend didn’t appear.  We ended up pasting a copy of the legend on the first page so that they could reference it there.  I’m wondering if it’s JAVA related or something.

Lori Kassuba

2, 2014-12-09 09, 2014

Hi Kary Miller,

The Compare feature is part of Acrobat Pro. To show or hide color options using the Show Options button in the compare panel.


Kary Miller

8, 2014-12-04 04, 2014

How come I can see the Color Legend on the compared document but other people cannot?  Also, if I close the color legend accidentally, how do you reopen it?

I’m using Adobe Acrobat X Standard

Lori Kassuba

6, 2014-11-07 07, 2014

Hi Cecilia,

When you begin the compare process, you can choose just to compare the text differences. Then, in the resulting Compare summary document, open up the Comments List and run the Create Comment Summary command. This will give you a listing of the insertion/deletions.



6, 2014-11-06 06, 2014

Can I get the summary of added and deleted words in two compared documents in Acrobat Pro XI as there was in Pro 6?

I want to be able to estimate the amount of words that change from one document to another. I am using Adobe Acrobat Pro XI to perform a comparison. The summary says “Differences exist between documents” and lists the amount of pages.

Previously, I had Adobe Acrobat Pro 6.0 and, after performing the comparison, I got a summary of how many words had been added and how many words had been deleted.

I have checked the configuration of the new Acrobat but I have not been able to find the same functionality. Is there something I am missing? Is this feature not supported anymore?

If so, is there a workaround? I have been looking into using JavaScript but I cannot access properties of words that the program highlights as having changed.

Thank you so much for any hints.

Lori Kassuba

10, 2014-10-07 07, 2014

Hi Rob Ortiz,

The Compare Documents command is located under the View menu. If you don’t see it then perhaps you’re using the Standard version instead of the Pro.


Rob Ortiz

8, 2014-10-01 01, 2014

Hello, I have acrobat XI pro but I don’t see the “compare documents” option anywhere. Can you help me? Thanks

Lori Kassuba

7, 2013-04-16 16, 2013

Hi Jeff,

Have you tried using the Report document type? To see the changed pages look for the purple triangle below the thumbnail for easy navigation.



10, 2013-04-11 11, 2013

I just upgraded from 9 PRO to 11 PRO and am struggling to use the compare tool. I am comparing text only in non-scanned PDFs and it takes a very, very long time (compared to 9). Plus, I don’t know how to set it to show only changed pages. My documents can be very long and it is time-consuming to have to go through page by page to see what has changed. Oh how I miss the compare in 9 PRO! It was perfect! Should I downgrade my version to 9, or is there some way to make 11 work as well as 9 did?

Lori Kassuba

8, 2013-02-19 19, 2013

Hi Ambika,

Unfortunately you cannot compare PDF documents created using Adobe LiveCycle Designer.


Ambika Mittal

5, 2013-02-12 12, 2013

Hi Lori,

I tried comparing XFA forms in pdf format using Acrobat X. However, every time, I am getting “Matching page not found”. Even though I just created another copy of the same pdf.
I used “Scanned Documents” option under Documents description.

Please help me with this.



6, 2013-02-01 01, 2013

When there is a change in text format( Bold or italic), the comparison is not detecting the change. How to resolve this isuue.

I tried by enabling the compare options-> include changes to -> Formatting , Even then it did n’t worked out.

Please update me on how to compare the styles.

Hi saikrishna,

When you run the Compare, try choosing the Report or Presentation type under the Document Description and make sure “Compare text only” is unchecked. Also, double check that the Formatting is still checked after the files have been compared—by default this doesn’t appear to stay selected. You may need to re-check it.


Comments for this tutorial are now closed.