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Working with PDFs (Adobe Reader)

OU module content is often provided as PDFs (portable document files).

You may find that PDFs on other websites open in your browser, but most Open University PDFs need to be downloaded to your computer and viewed offline using Adobe Reader software. You have more functionality (such as highlighting and commenting) if you open a PDF by downloading it and opening with Adobe Reader.

Note

You need Adobe Reader (formerly known as Adobe Acrobat) to open a PDF file on a PC. If this software is not already on your computer, you can download it for free from the Adobe website. All Macs come with Preview, a very similar programme but you can install Adobe Reader for Mac and get some useful extra functionality such as the ability to search the notes you make.

Downloading and saving a PDF file

To download a PDF file from a web page, once you have the software.

  1. click the right button of your mouse on the filename (Mac users use Control and mouse-click).
  2. choose Save Target As (Internet Explorer) or Save Link As (Firefox, Chrome) and check that the file is being saved where you want it to be.
  3. choose a location to save the file on your computer such as, 'Desktop' or 'My Documents' and then press 'OK' .
  4. to open it browse to the location where you saved the PDF or you may get the option to ope' the file once it has finished downloading.

In Safari, right click on the link to the PDF and then select 'Download linked file as'. Select a location to save the file to and then open the copy of the file on your computer.

Making notes in a PDF?

Many people print out PDFs and hand write notes on them. However the built-in tools for electronic annotation are fast, flexible and free. They’re explained and illustrated in Making notes in PDF documents.

Keep your Adobe Reader software up to date

Adobe Reader is a favourite target for hackers. You should keep your version updated for security reasons and to take advantage of any useful new features that are added. You can install the latest version of the software from the Adobe website

Even if you run an older operating system you can and should run an up-to-date version of Acrobat. The latest version (2015) is Adobe Reader DC, which is compatible with Windows 7 and later and with Mac OS X 10.9 and later. The previous version was Adobe Reader XI, which was compatible with operating systems back to Windows XP and Mac OS 10.6.8. If you need a copy of that go to http://get.adobe.com/reader/otherversions/. Do not download from an unofficial source because of the risk of picking up malware.

Add backwards and forwards buttons to the toolbar

PDFs often include hyperlinks to other places in the document. When you've clicked on the link and read the material you often want to return to where you were before following the link. When you're in your browser reading a web page you simply click on the back button; Adobe Reader also has a back button, but it's hidden. To reveal it select View > Show/Hide > Toolbar Items > Page Navigation > Previous view. A button with a leftward pointing arrow appears in your toolbar next to the page count. If you repeat the process and select Next view you get the equivalent forward button. These can save you a lot of time navigating complex documents.

When I print PDF files I get unreadable characters. How do I resolve this?

You can fix this by following these steps within Adobe:

  1. Select File > Print
  2. Select Advanced
  3. Tick the 'Print as image' checkbox
  4. Now print the PDF again