Use the Compare tool in Adobe Acrobat Pro to flag changes

Adobe Acrobat Pro is a powerful tool for editing and publishing PDF documents. One of the features I use most often is the Compare Documents feature. This quick and easy process allows me to see at a glance the changes that have occurred in a document from one version to another. For example:

  • A document was updated from one release to another – the Compare ability allows me to zero in on changes for source documents that I must review for content to include in my eLearning courses
  • I produced a new draft of a document after a review – Compare highlights the sections I need to proofread to ensure correct coding and content for updated material, quite a time saver over proofing the whole document!

Recently, I had to notify a translation vendor of updates to make to the in-language source material for a series of Word documents. Here’s the process I used:

  1. Print all the source files as PDFs, making sure the files are clearly identified as 6.3 or 6.4.
  2. Open the two PDF files I need to compare.
  3. In one of the documents, select View > Compare Documents
  4. In the Compare Documents dialog box, ensure that the correct document is displayed in the “Compare (older document)” and “To (newer document)” fields. In my example, I wanted the 6.3 document to be the older version and 6.4 to be the new one.
  5. Select any other options (such as text only), and click OK.

Acrobat Pro creates a color-coded [Compare] PDF that clearly shows changed, inserted, or deleted text. I used this comparison as a guide to update the in-language material. For example, if the Compare document flagged steps 3-5 as new, I pasted steps 3-5 from my source material into the translated document in the appropriate place. I also saved the comparison document and provided it to the vendor so they could also check their work. 

You can get a little fancy with this. For example, if I moved a large chunk of content from one location to another, I will often duplicate the move in the source file before I produce the PDF to run a comparison. That way, the program compares the old text to the next text in its new location, and flags the changes within that moved section. (If I don’t move the text, Compare flags the whole passage as new.)

Compare Tool example

The Compare Tool flags insertions, deletions, and moved text for quick verification.

The Compare Documents tool has saved me hours of time reviewing documents while ensuring new material is correctly inserted. You only get this ability with Acrobat Pro; the free Adobe Reader doesn’t have it. But if you process a lot of documents, as I do, it’s worth the investment.

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