Add Formatted Text to PDFs on the Fly

January 15, 2008 - 3:00am ||| 0 Comments | Add new

Let's say you're in Acrobat and you need to add some text to a PDF, in the margin or under an image or to fill out a static form field, and you want that text to appear in the printouts, just like the rest of the text. The original file that was exported to PDF isn't available, all you've got is the PDF itself. Which tool do you turn to?

Most people would say the Typewriter tool, and that's a good answer. You can access it in Acrobat 7 or 8 by opening the Typewriter tool bar (View > Toolbars > Typewriter) or from the Tools menu. Click on the Typewriter icon in the toolbar and you can click anywhere on a PDF page and start typing.

The problem is that the Typewriter tool is clunky. The text you type won't automatically wrap to the next line, for example, you have to hit the Return/Enter key to stop your text from continuing out past the page edge.

Also, you're limited to your system's default font. Yes you can change the text's size, linespacing and style with the Properties toolbar (Command/Ctrl-E), but there's no way to change the typeface itself.

A Better Text Tool
The next time you need to add text to a PDF in Acrobat Pro, try the Text Box tool. It's part of the Comment group, so open the Comments & Markup toolbar to access it. Unlike most of the other comment tools, text you enter in a Text Box remains visible all the time, it doesn't close up to an icon like a pop-up note. (Like all comments, though, you can choose to Hide it, which might come in handy.)

Select the Text Box icon in the Comments & Markup toolbar and use it to drag out a box (a text frame) on the page, just like in a page layout program. Release the mouse button and the text insertion cursor is blinking inside it, ready for you to start typing. As you might have guessed, the text wraps as soon as the cursor hits the edge of the frame.

The initial look of the text and the box itself is probably not what you want, but I'll tell you how they're easily changed, and how to set your own default appearance for it.

Modify the Box
To adjust the box's position, click on it with the Text Box or Hand tool. The frame itself highlights, meaning you can drag the frame around on the page or drag one of its handles to resize it.

The default style for the Text Box frame is a one-point red stroke, which would make sense if this were an actual comment we wanted a reviewer to notice. For our purposes we don't want any border surrounding the text box.

To change it, right-click on the box's edge (highlighting the box first if necessary) and choose Properties from the context menu. In the dialog box, change the line Style to "No Border" so the red line disappears. Note you can choose a fill color for the box (White is the default) — I usually change this to No Color so my boxes don't accidentally mask out existing text — and even an Opacity. I'd leave it at 100% opacity, though, since the setting affects the text as well as the fill.

To make these settings the default look for all the text boxes you'll add to the document, turn on the checkbox next to Make Properties Default at the bottom of the dialog box.

Modify the Text
The text you enter inside a text box is easily modified, but you have to select it first. If you've moved out of text editing mode, just double-click on the text with the Text Box tool to jump back in.

Drag over the text to select it and open the Properties toolbar (from the View > Toolbars menu, or press Command/Ctrl-E). Now you can change the selected text's color, horizontal alignment, typeface, and style (bold, italic, underlines, etc.). You can mix formatting in the same text box, changes are applied just to the characters you select.

These fonts get embedded in the PDF, by the way, so go ahead and add some text in Bickham Script if you want! Even users with Adobe Reader will see the text just as you entered it.

To make your modified text formatting the default for all future Text Boxes in this PDF, you need to select the box with the Text Box tool (so the frame highlights), right-click on it, and choose Make Current Properties Default from the context menu.

Paste in a Text Box
Here's one last neat trick: If you select some of a PDF's text with the regular Select Text tool (to the left of the Hand tool), copy it (Edit > Copy), and paste it in, it automatically comes in as an editable Text Box. You can even copy/paste from one PDF to another, a neat way to grab some content from one PDF and add it to another.

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