Review Anything, Anywhere, with Anyone

Post-It Notes aren’t intended to be permanent; that’s why they’re backed with a special kind of glue. I learned this the hard way when I was much, much, younger and working at the same printing plant as my father. Back then, we were still producing boards with camera-ready artwork on it that we’d send out for proofing. We were close to being ready to go to press for this one particular job and, of course, we  were also way too close to the deadline… we were always close to the deadline. One of the boards came back with some corrections and as I pulled the board out of the envelope, the little Post-It notes pulled off, the board had been slid into the envelope with the glue edge of the Post-It towards the bottom of the envelope, As I pulled the board out, the curl in the Post-Its caught the envelope and, as I mentioned above, pulled off. I was left with a camera-ready board and an envelope full of Post-Its with little red arrows drawn on them, some with the corrected Pantone color codes, some with text that needed to be corrected. We lost a day of production over that simple mistake… and the fact that Post-It Notes aren’t intended to be permanent.

This is how we did things before PDF. It was terrible.
Last month I wrote about how My Love Affair with PDF got started, in this article I will start to unpack the many reasons why that love affair has continued… starting with how you can review and markup anything with PDF.
From version 1.0, Adobe Acrobat had a sticky note feature, it was the digital equivalent of the real world Post-It note… except that it stayed where you put it. But that was the extent of the markup capabilities of Acrobat, shorty after the release of Acrobat 2.0 and the first Acrobat SDK, clever companies like Appligent added a bunch of other markup tools by creating plugins for Acrobat. Later Adobe added their own markup tools and standardized the way that comments got stored, presented, collected, and tracked in PDF files.
But Adobe didn’t stop at enabling users to markup and review documents using the paper metaphor; as Adobe added multimedia capabilities to Acrobat, they were able to have the commenting tools keep up.
Today, document authors can distribute documents that contain regular PDF pages, 3D models, video, and audio. Then reviewers who may only have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader can comment on those pages as well as the multimedia elements using exactly the same tools. But it goes even farther than that; when a user comments on a 3D model, the position of the camera is stored with the comment so that when the author selects the comment to see what it says, the model snaps into the same position and zoom factor as it was when the comment was added. There’s no guessing. Additionally, when a reviewer comments on a piece of audio or video, the time code of the paused video gets added to the comment as well, so the author can easily see exactly which frame of the video was commented on.
For reviewing documents, PDF is unprecedented. Adobe Acrobat is the only tool on the market that can comment on PDF pages, 3D models, audio, and video… four completely different types of media… using exactly the same tools.
Ok – that’s not completely true; there is another tool. The Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit will allow developers to reach into a PDF file, extract, modify, and import annotations, programmatically enabling server-side management of document reviews. Below is a list of articles that will help developers get started with interacting with PDF files and annotations.
Creating Comment Annotations using the Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit
Drawing Polygons using the Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit
PDF Java Toolkit Sample of the Week: Quads!
Back to Basics: Using Acrobat Stamps with the Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit
Back to Basics: Stamping Images using the Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit
Automating PDF Redaction using the Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit
Redaction using the Datalogics PDF Java Toolkit

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