Tips for Using Adobe Acrobat Reader

Acrobat "Reader" is a program from Adobe that is used to view documents that are in the "PDF" (Portable Document Format) format.  The Reader version of the software is basically for being able to view documents that have been created using the full Acrobat program, and doesn't allow you to modify or create any changes to such documents.  You can though use the Reader program to copy items from such documents and to print documents in their original format and color.  The full Acrobat program essentially allows the user to create a "photocopy" of their original document so that it can be accessed by any user, with any type of computer, in its original design or composition.

Working with Browsers and the Internet

When you select to download a document from the Internet in a PDF format, the Reader program will automatically open, either within your browser window itself, or as a new, separate window.  By default, when you install the Reader program, it has set this option to open in your browser window and will look something like the following graphic on a PC, if you use Internet Explorer:

Acrobat Reader as plug-in

The blue bar across the top is the "title bar" of the window and you will notice by the icon in the upper left corner, and the text in the title bar, that it is still the Internet browser program window - in this case Internet Explorer.  The first four rows of this window are Internet Explorer functions, i.e. the "title bar", the "menu bar", the "toolbar buttons" and the "address bar". Following that are two rows of tool buttons that are part of the Reader program.  So as you can see, the Reader program is set up in this example to automatically open within the browser program.

If you use AOL, the Acrobat Reader program will look something like the following graphic, again on a PC:

Acrobat Reader as pulg-in with AOL

Again, the only tools that are available to work with in the Acrobat Reader program are the tool buttons in the bottom two rows.

The disadvantage here is that you are only able to "work" with the open PDF document by using the toolbar buttons in the bottom two rows - i.e. within the Reader program itself.  Many of the menu functions are unavailable as they are specific to the browser program only.  You will notice that if you select the "File" menu from the menu bar, that "Save" functions are not available.  "Save" is only available using the toolbar button in the Reader program toolbar.  This button is the one in the top left-hand corner of the Acrobat Reader section of the window, that looks like a small floppy disk.  This is the top row of the two rows of tool buttons that are a part of the Reader program itself.

Likewise, the "Cut", "Copy" and "Paste" functions are not available under the "Edit" menu, but the copy function is, using a combination of the Reader toolbar buttons and a "right-click" pop-up menu.

One other disadvantage with having the Reader program open within the browser program is that when you select to download a PDF document from the Internet, you are not given the option of opening (to view) or just downloading (to save) the document.  By having the program set to open within the browser program, the program assumes that you always want to view anything that you download, immediately.

The Acrobat Reader program can be very simply reconfigured at any time, so that it will open in its own window, when you download a PDF document.  To do this, open the Reader program.  You will find the program under "Programs" on your "Start" menu, or you may have a shortcut to the program on your "Desktop" (in a Windows based PC).  Once the program is open, select the "Edit" menu.  Select the "Preferences" item near the bottom of the menu and it will open the following window:

Acrobat Reader Settings

In the column on the left, select "Options" as you see highlighted above.  This will open the specific window that you see in the graphic.  The first two items under "Web Browser Options" will be checked.  If you uncheck the "Display PDF in Browser" item, the Reader program will then open in its own window when downloading a PDF document from the Internet.  You will probably want to uncheck the second item too, because if you don't, every time the Reader program now opens, it will tell you that the program is not configured correctly to open in the browser window, and asks if you want it to change the settings so that it will work that way in the future.  Select "OK" to close the window.

Please note that in the latest version on Acrobat Reader - version 6, the "Preferences" window has several more items that appear in the column on the left. The "Web Browser Options" selections can now be found under the "Internet" item in the left hand column, instead of "Options".

If you choose to reset the option to have Reader open in its own window, the next time you download a PDF document, the program will open and the top of the window will look like the following graphic, again on a PC:

Acrobat Reader in its own window

You will notice that the "title bar" now shows the Acrobat Reader icon and name in the upper left corner, and the "menu bar" has some new items available, as it is now specific to the Reader program and not your browser program.  The menu bar is then followed by a couple of rows of the familiar "toolbar buttons".  On the far right are four tools that can be used to work with a PDF document.  When the program opens, the default tool selection is the "Hand Tool".  If you move your cursor over any button, you will see a pop-up message with the tool name.  In this case it shows the name of the hand tool button.  To the right of the hand tool is the "Zoom In Tool".  The next tool that looks like a capital "T" is the "Text Select Tool", and to its' right, the "Graphics Select Tool".  You will notice that to the right of the zoom in and text select tools, is a downward pointing arrow.  This indicates that there are additional options under these tools, and by clicking on the arrow, a menu will open to allow you to select these additional functions.

Using the text select tool you can select or "highlight" text from the document and copy it.  This is handy to use when you want to copy a website address to paste into your browser address bar, for example.  You can also copy pieces of text to paste into a word processing program, if you want to only print a limited amount of text.  The graphics select tool works similarly, but anything copied from the document will be in the form of a graphic, including text.


You can choose to print any or all pages of a PDF document using either the "Print" toolbar button or the "Print" function under the "File" menu.  You will find that in the printing options window that opens, in the "Print Range" options of the window, you can select to either print "All" pages, the "Current" page, "Pages from:/to:" or a "Selected" portion.  In the "Pages from:/to:" selection, you can choose to print any single page by selecting the same page number as "from" and "to".  The "Selected" printing option will only be available if you have made a selection of an item in the document using the "graphics select tool".

As previously mentioned, if you only want to print a limited amount of information such as a paragraph or one story from our newsletter, you can highlight the text using the "text select tool".  Then select "Copy" from the edit menu.  You can then paste the copied information into a word processing program and print it from within that program.  Some basic word processing programs may not maintain the formatting, font or color of the text you have selected.  On a PC, the "Notepad" program will not retain any of this formatting.

We hope that this information is helpful in allowing you to use the Acrobat Reader program more easily.  If you still have questions please click here to send us an email.  Be sure and email us too, if you find a neat trick in using the Reader program and want us to include it here on this page!