There are a few things that the free Adobe Reader XI PDF software cannot do. But only a few. For most editorial markup, the free Reader is all you need, and it works on all platforms. It contains pen-like tools, text markup, stamps, commenting and attachment functions that copy editors and proofreaders need.
Tasks that Adobe Reader cannot do
There are three tasks I do regularly during the (extended) editorial workflow that the free Adobe Reader cannot do:
- Reduce file size.
- Delete, add, or rearrange pages.
- Add hyperlinks (internal and external).
To change the actual content on the page (rather than just marking it up) would also require one of the paid programs. Editors are rarely asked to do that.
Why do I do these tasks?
Reducing file size recently took a 48 page photo manuscript from 75 MB to 3 MB. Faster transmission and less storage space taken up.
Deleting pages sends only those with corrections (as would be helpful during a final random spot-check) which reduces file size and eliminates confusion or needless leafing through pages.
Adding pages is one way to add inserts (though maybe the least efficient) or show revised layout.
Rearranging pages shows the designer the order I want. Be sure to note that this is done.
Adding hyperlinks makes a document navigable with a click and helps users follow links to external resources (usually websites). I use this in my ebooks to make clickable tables of contents and to turn icons into live links to support videos. Bookmarks are another (perhaps more) helpful way to make a document navigable; it creates a sort of table of contents accessible from the left-hand navigation pane. But these tasks only matter if you are producing end product (ebooks).
Remember, there are quite functional alternatives to the expensive Acrobat software. Even Mac’s built-in Preview program will let you do #2.
Adobe Reader is the free version of Adobe Acrobat. Why the two different names? To drive us crazy. Download it here.