Tech Tuesday #15: Five Tricks for Working with PDFs

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Adobe PDFs, short for Portable Document Files, have been around for years. We all use them, but do we know everything they can do? And I don’t just mean everything they can do when you pay. I mean how we can use them in and out of Office, Canvas LMS, and even on the web to do some pretty cool tricks. I’m going to share five of those tricks with you today.

Five Tricks for Working with PDFs

  1. Let’s first of all talk about three things that PDFs can do surrounding Microsoft Word. Number one. Have you ever purchased a product, maybe from Teachers Pay Teachers, that you really wanted your kids to be able to interact with? Or you really wanted to be able to customize it in some way and make a slight tweak, but you couldn’t? Try using Word to convert the PDF back to its original Word state! This trick doesn’t always work, but I’ve found it to be pretty effective if the document was originally created in Word. First of all, open Word. Then, go to your File menu, and instead of just browsing for documents, because you would only see Word documents listed, drop down and change your file type to PDF. Now, browse to the PDF you want to open. You will get a message that says it is converting to Word. Be patient! If all goes well, you will have a completely editable copy of your document in Word. Worst-case scenario, it doesn’t work and you can just use PDF document on paper as it was.

suzylolley.com2.  Are you ready for the second tip? It’s easy to take a Word document and convert it to PDF.  All you have to do to make that happen is just go to your File menu and click Export. You’ll find that PDF is the default option. *A side note here to say that it’s generally preferred that you convert documents to PDFs before sharing so that parents can access them from anywhere without having to download any fancy software.

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3.  Once the document’s in PDF form, let’s say you don’t want anyone to be able to access it without special permission. You can go to your same export menu, but this time choose Options, the little button on the bottom right. When you click it, you will see a checkbox to add a password to the document. Whoever tries to open that document will be prompted for that password. Just a word of caution: if you’re going to use this trick and expect to have any security, it is not high-level security, but certainly don’t list your password on a sticky note and stick it on top of the computer:-)

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4.  Your fourth tip is good for when you want to give students access to a document created in PDF, but you only want to share parts of it. For instance, maybe there’s a teacher notes section at the beginning or a key at the end of the document that students don’t need. Most Windows machines contain a PDF printer. So, if I open a PDF and go to my print menu, I can select that printer and then choose certain pages to print. But what if my machine doesn’t have a virtual printer, or what if I need more options than just printing certain pages? Well I have a website for you. I want to give a shout out to my friend Jim Berry for sharing. It’s called PDF Candy. On this website, you will see more than twenty options that you can perform on a PDF. Want to convert the document to an image? No problem. Want to split or reorder the pages? No problem. I find this website especially helpful if I want to embed something on my blog or in my learning management system and have it appear as an image instead of just a link.

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5. The last tip here is especially dedicated to those who use the Canvas learning management system, but if your LMS has a similar trick, I would love to hear it in the comments. When teachers send out documents to parents, their most likely device for viewing those documents is a phone. I don’t know about your phone, but when I used to have an iPhone specifically, I had a hard time opening PDFs. I had to open a special program to launch them. Instead of that, what if you showed your parents an automatic preview of the document that they never had to download? Here’s how it works: On any canvas Rich Text Editor, upload your PDF file. You will see it as a simple link. Then, go up to the File menu and choose the link icon. You will highlight over the link, and choose the check box that says, “Auto-open the inline preview.” Voila! Parents can see the document without downloading it.

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I certainly don’t know every free thing you can do with PDFs. Do you have another trick? Share it in the comments below.

This post is inspired by a session I do every Tuesday on Facebook Live at 8 PM EST. Join me there next week. In the meantime, watch the video below to watch me demonstrate all the tips I share above.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

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