Adobe Acrobat: Reviewing Tips & Tricks

by Dawn Bjork, MCT, The Software Pro®
Microsoft Certified Trainer, Technology Speaker, Software Consultant

One of the longest standing features in Acrobat is the ability to add comments to a PDF document. In Acrobat, comments refer to nearly all notes and drawings you can place on PDF document pages to provide feedback to the document’s author or to write useful notes to yourself as you’re reviewing documents.


Commenting Tools

Acrobat provides several commenting and markup tools designed for different commenting tasks. Most comments include two parts: the markup or icon that shows on the page, and a text message that appears in a pop-up note when you select the comment.

The commenting and markup tools are found in the Comment pane on the right side of the document window. The tools in this pane are divided into two panels:

  • Annotations are comments that appear on the page as predefined icons. These include sticky notes, a text highlighter, virtual rubber stamps, and a nice collection of text annotation tools to strikethrough, underline, and more.
  • Drawing Markups are comments whose purpose is to draw something on the page, usually to bring attention to a particular element of the page. These include circles, arrows, and freeform drawings.

You can add comments to any PDF file unless security has been applied to the document to prohibit commenting. Security settings include the option to allow commenting and filling in form fields although the default is to prevent any changes when security is applied.

Commenting Shortcuts

Try these handy keyboard shortcuts with the commenting tools in Acrobat:

  • To add a sticky note: [Ctrl] + 6
  • To hide all comments: [Ctrl] + [Shift] + 8
  • To show all comments: [Ctrl] + 8
  • To print a document with a comments summary: [Ctrl] + T

Click here to download your own handout of Acrobat keyboard shortcuts.

Tricks with Drawing Tools

Create great looking drawings with these easy tricks:

  • To draw straight lines or arrows (vertical, horizontal, or 90 degree angle): hold [Shift] when drawing with the line or arrow tools.
  • To draw a perfect circle: hold [Shift] when drawing with the oval tool.
  • To draw a square: hold [Shift] when drawing with the rectangle tool.

Tips for Customizing Commenting Tools

Would you like to change the default appearance for the tools you use most frequently? Did you know there are 17 different kinds of sticky notes? Would you like to quickly add a comment from a toolbar? Try these tips to customize the look and behavior of your commenting choices:

  • To change your default preferences for comments: press [Ctrl] + K to open the Preferences dialog box or click Edit > Preferences. Select your choices from the Commenting category; these include font, author name, and pop-up behavior of comments.
  • To display the Properties Bar: press [Ctrl] + E or choose View > Show/Hide > Toolbar items > Properties Bar. This gives you a quick way to change the appearance of the selected item. Click More from the Properties Bar to dig into other options. You can also find properties when you right-click the comment icon from the Comments List or from your document.
  • To change the default properties for a specific commenting tool: right-click the icon in the Comment pane and left-click Tool Default Properties.
  • To view specific comments: the first row of options in the Comments List includes tools to find, sort, filter, and customize the list.
  • To add a commenting tool to the Quick Tools Toolbar: right-click the icon under the Comment pane and then pick Add to Quick Tools Toolbar.



Discover more Acrobat tips at my IAAP TEC16 session Adobe Acrobat Pro: Tips, Tricks, and Timesavers.

Dawn Bjork is The Software Pro® and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) as well as a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Master Instructor and certified Microsoft Office expert. Dawn shares smart and easy ways to increase your productivity through her work as a technology speaker, software trainer, computer consultant, and author of 9 books. Discover more software tips, tricks, and timesavers at


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