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Enhancing a PDF file using Acrobat X

Learn how to use Acrobat X to merge or combine PDF into one document and then unify the appearance.

By Dave Merchant – March 14, 2011


In this tutorial, learn how to use Acrobat X to combine PDF or merge PDF into one document and then unify the appearance.

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Enhancing a PDF file using Acrobat X

Dave Merchant – March 14, 2011

Hi, I'm Dave Merchant from, and today we're looking at how we can use Acrobat X Pro to enhance a PDF file with some unifying elements and overlays - just a few moments work to make a file look a lot better.

Often when you're making a PDF file in a single application you'll do most of this work in the original file, but there are limits.

You could have problems putting in things like borderless backgrounds, and if you're making a PDF by bringing together pages from different content - maybe the text is from Word, there's a table from Excel, the cover sheet from InDesign - getting all these pages to match exactly can be very difficult, if not impossible.

With Acrobat we can combine the content into a PDF file and then apply these elements afterwards - it means it's very easy to make the file look professional but also we can reuse the content without having to alter the original documents.

In this example we have a relatively-plain-looking PDF exported from Word, and we need to bring in a summary page in front of all these current pages, send a copy to an important client on official corporate paper, fax a copy to a contractor on plain paper, mark both as confidential, with the copy sent to the client comment-enabled and identified as a prerelease copy but only when printed; and we only have the PDFs and we only have a few minutes - but it's not a problem, so let's get started!

First, bringing in the summary page.

We can go to the Tools Pane, Pages Panel, and choose "Insert from File", or we can open the page thumbnails panel, open the little toolbar, and choose "Insert Pages > From File".

Same result: we get to pick our summary sheet, which is a PDF single page, select it, decide where it goes; it's going before the first page; click OK and in it goes.

It doesn't have to be the same page size as everything else - in this case it happens to be but we could have brought in landscape files; anything we wanted; but it has changed the page numbers for everything else so our original page 1 is now page 2, and that's a bit of a problem as they do actually have page numbers in their footers, which now don't match the toolbar.

The easiest way to fix that is to put page 1 in its own section.

I'm going to right-click it, go to "Number Pages", put it in a new section using Roman numerals, click OK, and now our summary page is page "i" and everything else automatically goes back to the right sequence of 1,2,3...

so if someone searches for page 8 in the toolbar, they will indeed go to page 8.

Next we need to add a header and a footer, so from the Tools Pane,Pages Panel, "Header & Footer", choose to add one.

It's telling us there already is one: this was a PDF exported from Word, and Word headers and footers become PDF headers and footers so if I choose to Replace Existing I'm actually going to kill off my page numbers, and I kinda like them, so I'm going to Add New, leaving the existing ones intact.

I'll put in at the start here that this is "CONFIDENTIAL".

Down at the bottom I think we'll put in a copyright message, and I think we'll say here when it was issued - but I want a kindof European-looking date, because I'm a kindof European-looking person, so we'll go date/month/year - OK - Insert Date, and it does it automatically for us.

And I think we need to be a fair amount bolder, a fair amount bigger, and a fair amount redder.

I can choose how to apply this - I don't actually want it on page 1 (the summary sheet) so I'll start on page 2.

These are absolute numbers so there's no "i" involved in this dialog.

Click OK.

I'll also have a quick look at how page 2 is looking, and I think we'll move that left margin in a bit to separate that copyright from the rest of the text, click OK and we have our headers and footers on every page apart from page 1.

At this point we're good to go with our fax to our contractor.

If we put the page background on and then tried to fax it, the background would look horrible and get in the way of the text on a B+W fax machine, so I can simply print this PDF to a virtual fax machine or multifunction printer, and while it's whistling it's way off to our contractor and slowly exuding paper across his desk, we can carry on adding content to make the copy to send to our important client - and they want proper paper!

I'm working down this list, next one is "Background" - this is what we need so I'll Add one of those, and I get to either put in a plain color, which is a bit boring, or bring in a file.

I've been sent our corporate-styled paper as a PDF file, which came from InDesign.

I'll select it, choose Open, and by default it actually gets it right - behind the page, scales it properly, 100% opacity, everything's marvellous.

I want it on every page this time, and under Appearance Options I can decide when it appears - on printouts or on screen - I actually want it all the time so I'll keep it like that and say OK.

There we have our nice background on every page.

Now you could have done that in Word, but borderless backgrounds in Word are actually quite tricky to get right.

Borderless backgrounds in PDF: single click, doesn't care, applies it, everything's happy - and you could have brought in any type of file and it would have automatically made it into a PDF and put it as a background layer, so even if you're starting with a JPEG image or something else, it's not a problem.

We're almost there but we need to mark this if our client prints it out to make sure they know it's not a copy to use for reference purposes, so I'm going to work down the list to the next option "Watermark" and add one of those.

A watermark is like a background but it goes on top, and it's basically the same dialog but we get this extra feature to add in some text, so now I can say "PRERELEASE COPY DO NOT PUBLISH".

I'll center it, make it (yes indeed!) red, and we'll start by making that 80% of the page width and setting it at a nice jaunty angle of 60 degrees.

I still want to be able to read the content so I'm going to bring the opacity down to around 20% so it's visible but doesn't get in the way, and under Appearance Options I'm going to only show it when it's printed, so it's not going to get in the way on screen, but if they print it out they'll be carefully-reminded about the status of the document.

Click OK.

Again with Page Range Options I can choose where this applies - I'll apply it to everything, and I can also gently nudge this around if I need to get it centered on the document or to avoid something like a header or footer.

Click OK, and obviously you can't see anything because it's only going to appear on a printout, but we're now good to go.

We can save this file out with commenting enabled by going to the File menu > Save As > Reader Extended PDF > Enable Commenting & Measuring.

When we save this out for the important client we can now either email it, use the Share pane to send it via email or SendNow - we could even start a Shared Review if we want but there's only one client, so an ad-hoc system of sending the file back and forwards works just as well, and hopefully the end result of this looks like we've put a fair amount of work into it, when in reality with Acrobat we haven't done a whole lot.

But, if we're going to do this more than once it would make sense if we didn't have to go through all this process over and over again, and we don't - because in Acrobat X with Actions we can automate pretty much everything we've done into a single step.

If I go back now to my original version, all boring-like, I've made myself an Action so I can go to the Tools Pane, Action Wizard, and I've got something called "Prepare Draft" which will add the background, add the header/footer and add the watermark, and if I run that Action it's done!

Sorted - we've even, if I look at the Print Preview, got our watermark in place.

A single Action, easy to implement, and you could apply it to one file or a whole range of files all in a single click.

Your client will think you've done a lot of work, assuming they don't get round to watching this video I think we can live with their belief that you've pulled out all the stops for them.

I won't tell them if you won't!

Products covered:

Acrobat X

Related topics:

Combine Files

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Comments for this tutorial are now closed.

Lori Kassuba

7, 2013-09-06 06, 2013

Hi andres borondy,

You can create a Preflight droplet (which is n .exe file) from the existing Preflight profile called Convert to CMYK. Then, all you would need to do is drop your PDF file on the droplet to convert to CMYK.


andres borondy

12, 2013-09-05 05, 2013

we need to convert pdf files with RGB color to CMYK, i know how to do it, my question is: can i create a profile that when i open or edit the file, just click save and acrobat will convert the file? thanks

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