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10 cool ways to get more mileage out of Adobe Reader 8 and 9

Adobe Reader may seem a bit dull and utilitarian, but the latest versions offer some lesser-known features that can greatly enhance your PDF-reading experience. From enabling Automatic Scrolling to using the Snapshot tool to having the document text read to you, you'll find a new favorite trick in this mix.

Adobe Reader may seem a bit dull and utilitarian, but the latest versions offer some lesser-known features that can greatly enhance your PDF-reading experience. From enabling Automatic Scrolling to using the Snapshot tool to having the document text read to you, you'll find a new favorite trick in this mix.


PDF documents have become ubiquitous on the Web, and chances are good that you encounter them almost every day. When you do, you can either open a PDF from within your Web browser via the Adobe Reader plug-in or from within the stand-alone Adobe Reader program. Either way, once you open a PDF file, you probably jump right in and begin reading the content. While that is all well and good, many features are built into Adobe Reader that you can use to make the experience easier and more satisfying. Here are 10 things you might not know about viewing documents in Adobe Reader 8 and Adobe Reader 9.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Get word definitions

Have you ever been reading a PDF document and come across a word you were unfamiliar with or weren't sure how to pronounce? If so, you can automatically look up the word on Dictionary.com. Here's how:

  1. Right-click on the word you want to look up and select the Lookup "word" command.
  2. Your browser will launch, connect to the Dictionary.com Web site, and proceed to the page containing the definition. Each definition on Dictionary.com includes an audio pronunciation. You can just click the audio pronunciation icon and listen to how the word is pronounced.

If you have Flash Player installed in your browser, the audio file will immediately play. If you don't, it will be played by your default media player.

2: Search a PDF using the Full Reader Search tool

If you've had to search for text in a PDF, you may simply have typed your search term in the Find field on the toolbar and pressed [Enter]. The default Find tool is sufficient for most simple search tasks, but you can perform more detailed search operations using the Full Reader Search tool. Here's how:

  1. Click the drop-down arrow adjacent to the Find field on the toolbar.
  2. Select the Open Full Reader Search command.
  3. When the Search window opens, click the Use Advanced Search Options link at the bottom of the window.
  4. You can now choose to return results that match an exact word or any words in a phrase, enable case sensitivity, include comments in your search, and much more. You can even extend your search beyond the current PDF document and search through all the PDF files in your My Documents folder.

3: Copy graphics from a PDF with the Snapshot tool

Have you ever found a graphic image in a PDF document you wanted to use somewhere else? One approach is to select the image, right-click on it, and choose the Copy Image command. But what if you want only part of the image? In that case, you can use the Snapshot tool:

  1. Pull down the Tools menu, open the Select & Zoom submenu, and choose the Snapshot Tool.
  2. Use the pointer to click and draw rectangle around the image or part of the image you want to save and then release the mouse button.
  3. The image selection is automatically copied to the Clipboard. You can then paste the image into another document.

4: Set your Internet connection speed

By default, when you install Adobe Reader, its Web Bowser Options settings are configured to display PDFs you open on Web sites from within your browser. In addition, these settings are configured for fast viewing and background downloading, which allows the reader to download PDFs one page at a time and to continue downloading additional pages in the background while you are viewing the first page. However, the default setting for the Connection Speed is 56Kbps. To take full advantage of Adobe Reader's Web Browser Options, you should choose a setting that better matches your actual broadband connection speed:

  1. Pull down the Edit menu and select the Preferences command.
  2. Select Internet in the Categories pane.
  3. Select the appropriate speed from the Connection Speed drop-down list and click OK.

5: Get smooth transitions

When you zoom in or out and scroll through a PDF document, you may notice that the transitions made while zooming or scrolling are a bit jerky. Fortunately, you can remedy that distraction by enabling the Smooth Zooming feature in Adobe Reader 9 and both the Smooth Zooming and Smooth Scrolling features in Adobe Reader 8:

  1. Pull down the Edit menu and select the Preferences command.
  2. Select Page Display in the Categories pane.
  3. In the Rendering section, select your monitor type from the Smooth Text drop-down list.
  4. In the Page Content And Information section:

  • In version 8, select both the Use Smooth Zooming and Use Smooth Scrolling check boxes.
  • In version 9, select the Use Smooth Zooming check box.

  1. Click OK.

6: Ease document viewing with Reading Mode and Automatic Scrolling

When you're viewing a long PDF document in Adobe Reader, you can reduce eyestrain and repetitive scrolling by taking advantage of Reading Mode and Automatic Scrolling:

  1. Select the Hand tool on the toolbar.
  2. Press [Ctrl]+H to activate Reading Mode.
  3. Press [Ctrl]+[Shift]+H to activate Automatic Scrolling.
  4. To pause the scrolling, click and hold the page with the Hand tool.
  5. To resume scrolling, release the mouse button.
  6. To stop the scrolling, press [Esc].

7: Rotate the view

Chances are good that while reading a PDF document, you'll come across page that is set up horizontally. These pages usually show charts or tables and are meant to print out in Landscape mode. Instead of tilting you head to read a horizontal page, you can use the Rotate View command:

  1. Pull down the View menu, open the Rotate View submenu, and select the Clockwise command.
  2. To return to the vertical view, pull down the View menu, open the Rotate View submenu, and select the Counterclockwise command.

8: Have PDF documents read to you

Did you know that Adobe Reader can read PDF documents to you using the Text To Speech feature built into Windows? This is designed as an accessibility feature, but it can also come in handy for anyone who wants to perform other tasks without having to sit in front of their computer screen. Here's how it works:

  1. Pull down the View menu, open the Read Out Loud submenu, and select the Activate Read Out Loud command.
  2. Again, pull down the View menu, open the Read Out Loud submenu, and select either Read This Page Only or Read To End Of Document.
  3. You can then use the Pause and Stop commands on the View menu to discontinue the Read Out Loud session.
  4. To turn off Read Out Loud, pull down the View menu, open the Read Out Loud submenu, and select the Deactivate Read Out Loud command.

9: Emulate PowerPoint

If you encounter a PDF document that was created from a PowerPoint slide show, you can configure and use Adobe Reader to emulate PowerPoint:

  1. Pull down the Edit menu and select the Preferences command.
  2. Select Full Screen in the Categories pane.
  3. If you want slides to advance automatically, select the Advance Every check box and type a number in the Seconds box.
  4. If you want to enable transitions, select one of the items from the Default Transitions drop-down list.
  5. Click OK.
  6. To start the slide show, press [Ctrl]+L to enter Full Screen Mode.
  7. Use the left mouse button to go to the next slide and the right mouse button to go to the previous slide.

10: Open multiple windows for the same document

When you're viewing a large PDF document and need to simultaneously reference information at the beginning and at the end, it can be a pain to have to scroll back and forth to get all the information you need.  Fortunately, there is a better way to view information in different parts of a document: by using multiple windows. You can view information at the beginning of the document in one window and information at the end of the document in the other window. Here's how:

  1. Pull down the Window menu and select the New Window command.
  2. Pull down the Window menu again, open the Tile submenu, and select the Horizontally command.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

6 comments
rmazzeo
rmazzeo

I agree with Jetter - the best way to get more mileage from one's PC is to dump Adobe Reader altogether. While it is the defacto standard program for pdf files, it has become so bloated that it is no longer useful. There are plenty of other free, smaller programs that do the same thing much more quickly using much less in terms of system overhead.

john3347
john3347

I use Adobe Reader and I appreciate tips to make it more functional and more productive for me. Thank you, Greg. John edit: p.s. I have tried Foxit Reader a time or two in the past and have, for reasons that I now forget, always gone back to what is the worldwide standard pdf reader.

Jenn.Luscombe
Jenn.Luscombe

Very useful, practical, time saving, neat .... and free - thank you

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

Ok, this is not what the article is about, but I personally dislike the bloat in the Adobe Reader. I also don't like the constant update checking (yes I know you can turn it off). I have replaced the Adobe Reader on my system with the FoxIt Reader (www.foxitsoftware.com). It loads much faster, and as a bonus allows for some editing (comments, small stuff). The only dink against FoxIt is you need to carefully watch the questions during install (no I don't want the eBay toolbar).

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

Foxit on Windows (and now Linux too). EPDF on linux (prior to Foxit's release) and Whatever comes with Mac on OS X. We use pdf's everyday here at work, and we sure as hell don't use adobe.