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Adobe Acrobat 9 How-To #84: Comparing Documents

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Acrobat 9 can compare two documents to see what changes have been made from one version to another. Donna L. Baker discusses the Compare feature and explains how comparing differs from reviewing.
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The Compare feature in Acrobat 9 has come a long way from its earlier versions. In Acrobat 9, differences between two versions of a document are highlighted and commented.

Compare shows differences in text and images based on three different document structures programmed into the feature. To do a comparison, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Document > Compare Documents to open the Compare Documents dialog box.
  2. Click Choose for each of the Compare (older document) and To (newer document) fields, and locate and select the files you want to use. Click the Document pop-up menu to choose any open files for either document option.
  3. For both documents, type a page number in the First Page and Last Page fields to change the comparisons (if necessary). The fields list the page numbers for the first and last pages of the documents automatically.
  4. Select a Document Description option (read about the options in the sidebar "Matching Descriptions").
  5. Click OK to close the dialog box and compare the files. Acrobat processes the files and generates a list of the changes. The contents are displayed in the Compare navigation pane, new in Acrobat 9 (see Figure 1).
  6. Save the file for future reference.
Figure 1

Figure 1 Manage the views and displays of the compared documents in the Compare pane.

There are several tasks you can take on in the Compare feature:

  • Another page is added before the document pages that lists the names of the files, whether differences were found, and a key to the report. You can click links on this Summary page to view either the newer or older document, as well as show the first change in the report.
  • Click a page thumbnail to show that page in the Document pane (see Figure 2).
    Figure 2

    Figure 2 Evaluate and examine changes in the compared files.

  • Choose Show Color Legend to display the colors used for different types of comparisons as an overlay in the Document pane.
  • To show each of the documents in its own window, choose Options > Show Documents Tiled or Options > Show Documents Side by Side.
  • To synchronize the pages while showing both documents in their own windows, choose Options > Synchronize Pages.
  • To change the size of the page thumbnails, choose Options > Thumbnail Size and select the desired setting.
  • Drag the splitter bar at the bottom of the Compare pane upward to show thumbnails of the old document's pages. Click a thumbnail to open the page in a new window.

Customizing the Comparison

The new Compare tools in Acrobat 9 offer a lot of customization. If you want to personalize the layout, click Show Options in the Compare pane to toggle the choices. You can choose among the following options:

  • Specify types of changes to show, such as text, images, formatting, and backgrounds.
  • Select a color scheme to use for displaying the report.
  • Drag an Opacity slider to set how transparent/opaque the overlying comments are.

Once you've made your choices, click Hide Options to toggle the options closed. Your choices can be viewed in the Compare pane's Options menu.

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