Mostly in life, you get what you pay for. And when you pay nothing, you don’t often get much in return. Sometimes you get more than you bargained for, but not in a good way. Once in a great while, though, you get an unexpected prize. Adobe Reader XI, Adobe’s free PDF reader software, is one of those prizes: A rare, good, free thing.
Each new version of Adobe Reader has had slight improvements but, essentially, retained the same functionality—the ability to read existing PDF files. However, this latest version, Reader XI, offers some substantial improvements over earlier versions and is certainly worth a download and look-see.
Here are two notable enhancements in the security features:
Automatic Updating. Reader XI installs with an option to download patches and update automatically. Since Adobe regularly releases security patches, it is a no-brainer to choose this option—one less thing in a busy day to think about. (Thankfully, Adobe seems to have finally coordinated its patching schedule with Redmond’s Patch Tuesday, rather than releasing on some other date.)
Enhanced Protected View. Adobe introduced Protected Mode in Reader X, but has improved it in Reader XI. According to a post on the Adobe Reader blog, “[Adobe has] added a new Protected View, which implements a separate desktop and winstation for the UI, providing an additional layer of defense.… In Reader XI, Protected Mode now restricts ‘read-only activities’ to prevent attackers trying to read sensitive information on the user’s computer.”
Improved Editing, Filling and Signing
Reader XI really shines here: PDF Revision Marks were previously reserved for Adobe Acrobat itself, but Reader XI incorporates full commenting capabilities, allowing users to mark up any PDF they receive, assuming the sender didn’t lock down editing rights on creation. (Side note: You do know how to get around that locked-down PDF, right? Just print it out—unless that function is also locked down, too—then scan it back to yourself as a PDF. Like magic: No security! You will, however, need to run the now-scanned PDF through OCR software to make it searchable again.)
To use the commenting tools, with the PDF open in Reader XI, just head over to the right side of the window, and you’ll see the Tools, Comments and Editing bars. Click on Comments to display all the tools you can use to mark up your PDF, including strikethrough, replace, insert and more—all with associated comment boxes. I used this process recently to mark up a PDF I received while out of town without access to Acrobat Pro. Happily, commenting in Reader XI had much the same functionality as Acrobat Pro. Very sweet. Reader XI also allows you to fill, sign, save and electronically send PDF forms.
Of course, you can’t expect Reader markups to be the same as the revision marks you may use in Microsoft Word or other word processing software. The PDF format is not a word processing file format. It’s nice to know, however, that if you receive a PDF and need to mark it up for edits, you will no longer have to print it out, mark it up with that old-fashioned red pen and scan it back before returning it to the sender. As a bonus, if the recipients have Acrobat 11, they should be able to incorporate your Reader XI markups right into the PDF. (I haven’t actually tried this myself, though, so I won’t comment on how it works in real life.)
Particularly if you’re still using a version prior to X, I encourage you to head to www.adobe.com and download and install Reader XI. (Note that you can’t upgrade from within your current version of Reader—you must download and install the new version. Just don’t forget to check with your Tech Department first!) You’ll be pleased with Reader XI’s new functionality. Don’t be thrown by the different look—just spend a few minutes poking around in the toolbars on the right-hand side (and don’t forget to right-click on icons you think you’ll use often to add them to the Quick Tools Toolbar). You’ll soon be comfortable working with the different look of Reader XI. Even if you hate the new layout, the increased security and functionality is well worth getting used to it all.
Even the new mobile Reader Apps for Apple and Android devices include some of this improved functionality, making them now-worthwhile free downloads for your mobile device, too.
“Power User” columnist Vivian Manning is the IT Manager at Barriston Law LLP in Barrie, Bracebridge and Cookstown, Ontario. Prior to moving into IT, Vivian practiced law at Barriston (formerly Burgar Rowe PC) primarily in the area of Municipal Land Development, with 17 years in private practice before switching to the IT side of the law office. She currently indulges her love of teaching tech through her blog Small City Law Firm Tech, where she provides “tips of the day.”
More Tech Tips from Vivian Manning