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Extracting Content

In addition to being able to edit page content in Acrobat, the software also offers a few ways to export text and graphics into other applications. If, for example, you make changes to a PDF file and want to go back and preserve them in the application file, you can take advantage of Acrobat's ability to extract content and use it in other files. I'd argue, however, that it's much easier to make the changes in the original application (be it Photoshop or InDesign) in the first place. Acrobat's text and image extraction capabilities are much better suited to repurposing content—that is, when you want to use pages or contents of specific PDF files for new projects destined for print or the Web. However, since these capabilities are often mentioned in the same breath as Acrobat's editing tools, I'll explain them to you now.

You can move PDF text and graphics into another app in one of two ways: copy it or export it.

To copy all of the text from a PDF file, choose File > Save As, then choose Rich Text Format as your format. The RTF file, stripped of graphic objects, can be opened by any standard word processing application or placed in any professional page-layout application. If the PDF file was tagged, formatting (such as tabbed tables) is preserved; if not, formatting is lost. (Windows users have a work-around with the Table/Formatted Text Select tool; see below.)

You can also use Save As to save a PDF document in a common image file format, such as JPEG, TIFF, or even EPS. In multipage PDF documents, each page becomes its own image file. Acrobat pops up a Save As dialog box where you can name the file and choose a destination; click the Settings button to choose interlace, compression, resolution, color space, and other options specific to each format. (If you forget, it's not a big deal; the default options should suffice.)

To extract the graphics in a PDF document (rather than save PDF pages as graphics), choose File > Export > Extract Images As, and choose the format you'd like to save them as (TIFF, JPEG, or PNG). In the Extract Images and Save As dialog box, you're also prompted with a Settings button so that you can customize the resulting image files' parameters. In the Extract Images panel of the General Preferences dialog box, you can specify the smallest size image to extract.

To extract small amounts of text or individual graphics, you can use the Text Select and Graphic Select tools, respectively (top and middle icons). Click and drag with the tool over the content you want to select, and then use the Copy and Paste commands to save the text or object to the Clipboard before you open it in another application. In addition, you can use the Column Select tool (bottom icon) and drag to select entire column, and you can choose Edit > Select All to select all text (or all of the graphics, depending on which tool is selected) on the viewable page or pages.

Windows users have one other option: the Table/Formatted Text Select tool, which lets you extract selected text while maintaining formatting and tabbed tables. Use it to drag and select an area of text or a table, and then either drag and drop the selection into another application (such as Word), copy it to the Clipboard for pasting elsewhere, or save it as RTF or ANSI text. With the text selected, use the context menu to specify whether to disregard line breaks (Text > Flow), to maintain them (Text > Preserve Line Breaks), or to retain table formatting, including rows and columns (Table). Horizontal is for tables using Roman fonts; Vertical is for Japanese fonts.

After you specify the type of formatting you want to apply, choose what to do with the text: Copy it or choose Save As, and specify the file type. ANSI, Unicode, or RTF are the safest options, especially if you've used symbols; ANSI is also good for Japanese text.

In the Table/Formatted Text Preferences dialog box, click the General tab to set global preferences for the Table/Formatted Text Select tool (Figure 4-34). Choose whether it recognizes selected text by default as a table or as text, how line breaks are recognized, how table cells are formatted, and how characters and paragraphs are formatted for RTF export.

Figure 4-34. Table/Formatted Text Select Preferences dialog.

Managing Pages

Imagine we just zoomed out on the screen so that we're now looking at entire pages in a PDF document. Acrobat has a number of tools for managing PDF pages in one or more files—all of which you'll find useful for repurposing PDF files. These tools provide you with ways to edit pages (crop and rotate) and reconfigure files (by adding, deleting, and otherwise shuffling pages). If you string individual files together to create large PDF documents (as described in Chapter 3), you'll also find many of these commands handy—you may need these tools to move pages, crop or rotate them (to make them uniform), or renumber them. Note that all of the following commands are accessible from both the Document menu and the Thumbnail menu on the Thumbnails palette.


We use PDF to put some of our maps in electronic form, either on the Web, on CD-ROMs, or just to email to government agencies that need our maps for one reason or another. We don't want to give them editable files, so almost every time a PDF goes out of here I make sure it is secured so that they can't go back and open it in Illustrator. We put a lot of energy and time into the production of our product and we don't want someone to grab it and start producing it as their own. It's a matter of copyright.

Richard Dey, senior cartographer, California State Automobile Association

Extract Pages. We talked earlier about extracting text from PDF pages, as well as extracting graphics and entire pages as graphics files. You can also extract pages from a PDF document and save them as individual PDF page files—useful for repurposing PDF content as well as for circulating pages of documents that have undergone changes since the last round of review.

Although you can use Save As to extract text or graphics in other file formats, this is not the way you extract pages of a PDF document: If you Save As and choose Adobe PDF Files as your format or type, you'll get a new saved version of the entire PDF document, including any changes you've made to it or notes you've slapped on. To extract individual pages, use the Extract Pages command. In the Extract Pages dialog box (Figure 4-35), specify the range of pages you wish to extract, as well as whether you want to delete them from the original. (Yes, the pages must be consecutive.) When you click OK, Acrobat displays the page or pages in a new file, appropriately named “Pages from_.pdf,” where the blank is the name of the original file. You must then manually save this file, being sure to choose .pdf as your file format or type.

Figure 4-35. The Extract Pages dialog box.

Insert Pages. Once you've extracted pages from one file, you may want to place them into another. Not a problem: Simply open the PDF file that you want to add the pages to, and choose Insert Pages. Acrobat will prompt you to select the file you want to insert (Shift-click to select multiple files); when you click Select, Acrobat gives you the Insert Pages dialog box (Figure 4-36). Here you can specify where you want the new pages to fall in the document—before or after the first, last, or other specific page in the document.

Figure 4-36. The Insert Pages dialog box.

Move and copy thumbnails. You can also put pages from one PDF file into another by moving or copying their thumbnails (another good reason to create thumbnails when you distill files). In addition, you can use thumbnails to reorder pages within a document. Choose Thumbnails from the Window menu. With the Thumbnails palette displayed, click to select one or Shift-click to select multiple pages. Although you can select the entire thumbnail, it's easier to select the page-number icon at the bottom. Drag to move the pages to a new position in the Thumbnails palette in the same document, watching the position bar to see where they're placed. Copy pages the same way by pressing Option (Mac) or Ctrl (Windows) as you drag. Use thumbnails to copy or move pages to another document by having it open onscreen, too, and dragging into the target document's Thumbnails palette. Acrobat automatically updates the page numbers on the thumbnails in all documents when you release the mouse.

Replace Pages. When you copy or move page thumbnails to another PDF file, you add them to that document. If you want to replace a page (or pages) in one PDF file with a page (or pages) from another, use the Replace Pages command. Open and display the document containing the pages you want to replace, and choose Replace Pages from the Thumbnails or Document menu. Acrobat will prompt you to select a file or files that you want to place in the open one. Make your selection and click Select. Acrobat will display the Replace Pages dialog box (Figure 4-37), confirming your request and prompting you to specify which pages in the original should be replaced by the pages in the selected PDF file. After you click OK, Acrobat prompts you again to confirm. Be certain of your choices here: There's no undo.

Figure 4-37. The Replace Pages dialog box.

You can also use thumbnails to replace pages by dragging and dropping them onto page thumbnails in a second document. This isn't quite the same as moving them: Drag the thumbnail directly onto the page you want to replace (rather than position it between two pages). Release the mouse, and Acrobat replaces the old pages with those you dragged on top of them.

Delete Pages. Use the Delete Pages command to remove a selected page or range of pages from a PDF document.

Rotate Pages. Once you get the right mix of pages in your PDF file, you may need to tweak them to get them to fit properly. The Rotate Pages command can help. In the Rotate Pages dialog box, you can rotate pages in just about any permutation you desire (Figure 4-38): You can rotate the selected page (Shift-click on page thumbnails to select discrete pages), all pages, or a range of pages. After making your selection, you can apply the rotation to odd- and/or even-numbered pages, and you can opt to rotate by orientation: landscape and/or portrait. However, you can't freely rotate: The transform must be applied in 90-degree increments (clockwise or counterclockwise). It's meant to reorient pages between landscape and portrait modes, nothing fancy.

Figure 4-38. The Rotate Pages dialog box.

Crop tool. The Crop tool lets you adjust margins on individual pages or globally—though since you can't see every page onscreen in long documents, it's safer to perform crops on one visible page at a time. Start by making sure you're in Single Page mode (select it from the View menu). Then navigate to the page that you want to crop and drag a bounding box with the Crop tool. (You can drag on corner handles to resize.) When you're satisfied, press Return or double-click inside the crop box to display the Crop Pages dialog box (Figure 4-39). You can also get to this dialog box directly by choosing the Crop Pages command. You can further refine the crop box here: Either enter precise measurements in the various margin text boxes or check Remove White Margins to crop the page to the outermost edges of the page's graphic content. The cropped page size displays interactively as you edit, and you can always click Set to Zero to undo your choices. When you've finished doing this, indicate whether you want to crop a range of pages (specifying odd, even, or both). Unless you're absolutely certain of what the other pages in the document contain, just crop the one visible page. Click OK to apply the crop.

Figure 4-39. The Crop Pages dialog box.


Thus far, I've only described what you can accomplish using Acrobat's collaborative editing tools; however, there is a plethora of third-party plug-ins out there that offer complementary—and often more robust—collaboration and editing tools for PDF files. Enfocus' PitStop Professional, for example, lets you edit text, but instead of creating substitutes when Acrobat would, it lets you choose from available alternative fonts. Lantana's Stratify PDF, meanwhile, lets you enhance PDF files with layers, which designers are accustomed to using in page-layout applications. You can place objects or entire pages on layers, giving added functionality to the editing and printing processes.

PitStop and Stratify PDF are just two of many useful Acrobat plug-ins that facilitate everything including editing, prepress, forms, document management, Web publishing, and more. Some are described in the next chapter. Also see Appendix One at the back of the book for a more complete list of the most popular and useful PDF plug-ins for graphic arts design and production workflows.

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