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How to create documentation graphics using Acrobat X

Learn how to create, review and produce all the graphics used in software documentation.

By August 26, 2011


In this tutorial, learn how to use Acrobat X Pro or Suite to create software documentation graphics. This video steps you through the process for creating, reviewing and producing all the graphics used in software documentation.

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How to create documentation graphics using Acrobat X

Lori KassubaAugust 26, 2011

Hello, this is Lori Kassuba for In this video tutorial, we'll
discuss how to use Acrobat X Pro for the creation of software documentation

graphics. We'll step through a process for creating, reviewing, and producing
all the graphics used in software documentation. Now typically software

documentation is developed by more than one individual: a subject matter author,
like a technical writer and a graphic artist. The author will craft the text

and draft of the associated graphics, while the graphic artist produces the
final artwork. I'll explain how Acrobat X Pro. can be used to facilitate the

development of the software documentation graphics between authors and a
production team of graphic artists.

This workflow example has been provided courtesy of the Community Help & Support
team at Adobe Systems. This team develops all the documentation and graphics

for Adobe software that are published both online and in hardcopy format.

There are seven basic steps in this workflow. First, the author creates the
screenshots and then converts the screenshots to PDF directly in Acrobat.

Next the author will combine all the captured images into a single PDF and
add comments on the PDF pages with instructions on how to modify the graphics.

The author then sends the PDF to a production team of graphic artists. And this
team of graphic artists will use Photoshop or Illustrator to modify the graphics

based on the author's notes. Then the production team returns the PDF to the
author for review and approval. And then once fully approved, the production

team will export each page as a PNG image to use in Adobe's Online Help

Let's start by reviewing how the authors create screenshots graphics used in
the product documentation. You can use the File > Create PDF from Clipboard

command in Acrobat X Pro. to create a new PDF with the screenshot. If you have
multiple screenshots that you want to combine into a single file all in one

step, you can use the Combine Files into PDF command directly from the Welcome
Screen. This will allow you to both capture the clipboard content and combine

the screenshots into a single file all in one step. For this demonstration,
let's say I'm an Acrobat author documenting the Create New Action feature in

Acrobat X Professional. So, I'll bring up the Create New Action dialog
underneath the Tools Pane, Action Wizard panel, Create New Action. I'll press

Shift+PrtSc on Windows or Cmd+Control+Shift+3 on the Mac. You can also use
Alt+PrtSc to capture just the active dialog. But for this example I'll copy the

whole screen. This will load the screenshot onto the clipboard. Once the
screenshot is loaded onto the clipboard, I'll bring up the Combine Files dialog

and I'll add a few screenshots directly from the clipboard into a single PDF.
I'll take one more screenshot, documenting the dropdown. Press Shift+PrtSc and

add this to my file. When I'm done, I can drag and drop to rearrange the order
of the screenshots if necessary and when I press Combine Files, the screenshots

are converted into a single PDF. And now I have a 2-page PDF of my screenshots
that a graphic artist will need to clean up. So, I'll move on to step 3 of the

process. In step 3, I'll use the comment tools in Acrobat to let the graphic
artist know that they need to crop all the graphics in this particular file.

I'll use a sticky note located underneath the Comment - Annotations panel to
provide detailed information for the graphic artist. There are actually a whole

host of markup tools that allow you to provide detailed commenting capability if
necessary. In this particular workflow, I won't be using the Shared Review

capability either because Shared Reviews will Reader-enable your file to allow
commenting in the free Adobe Reader. However, this also disables the

ability to edit your PDF, which you'll see is necessary in the next step.

Now in step 4, I'll use the Share pane on the right-hand side to automatically
send this file to the production team with just one click. If this particular

file was large or contained video, I could instead choose to send it via the
Adobe SendNow services. SendNow is a cloud service that allows you to send,

share, and track large files online without the headaches of email size
restrictions, multiple email attachments, FTP sites, and costly overnight

services. But in this particular case, since my file is small, I'm going to
send it via email.

Now in step 5, I'm going to change rolls a bit, and act as the graphic artist
who has just received this file from the author. I'll see what changes need to

be made from the author's sticky note. And it appears that I just need to crop
the dialog boxes. To edit this graphic directly from Acrobat I'll open up the

Content panel underneath the Tools pane and select the Edit Object tool. I'll
then select my graphic, right click, and select Edit Image. This will load your

graphic in your image editing application of choice. In this case I'm using
Photoshop CS5. And notice how a temporary copy of my file has been loaded into

Photoshop. I'll make my changes here and crop the graphic. And when I exit the
application, and save my changes, they're reflected directly back into my PDF

file. Now to make this happen seamlessly. You'll need to make sure the following
preference is set, under Edit > Preferences, Ctrl+K on Windows or Cmd+K on

the Mac. Select the TouchUp category and make sure that you have an image editor
selected. Now I'm going to return this file to the author using the Share

files capability again. But first, I'm also going to reply to the author's
comment to let then know that the changes have been made. To do this I simply

select the Comment Pane, select their comment, and reply. I'll let them know the
images have been cropped. And notice how the sticky comment still appears in the

file even though the graphic has changed. Now this is because comments are
actually layers in the PDF. Layers are also referred to as Optional Content

Groups or OCGs. Now, I'll go return this PDF to the author in one step
again by using the Attach as email command underneath the Share pane.

In the final step, if all the graphics have been approved, I can complete this
workflow by exporting all my graphics directly from Acrobat X Pro. To do this I

simply use the File > Save As > Image command and select PNG format, which is
the graphic format used for the Online Help. This will export each graphic as a

separate PNG file. You can also adjust the PNG setting upon export if necessary.
Now my graphics are all complete. So, through this video tutorial you can see

how Acrobat X Professional helps facilitate the entire workflow used to produce
software documentation graphics - from screenshot capture

to final graphic format.

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