Mobile PDF commenting workflow in FrameMaker 12

For the 2014 STC Summit (the annual Society for Technical Communication national conference) Adobe asked me to do a presentation on the FrameMaker mobile PDF review workflow available in FrameMaker 12. I thought to myself, “Hmm, marking up a PDF on a phone/tablet, then transposing those edits back into a FrameMaker file…Even if you could do it, I’m sure it would be a headache”.

Well, it turns out I was wrong! In fact, I’ve embedded a video to prove it at the end of this post.

FrameMaker has for many versions had the ability to import PDF comments back into the source file as conditional text. Then, using the Track Text Edits toolbar, a user can quickly review, accept, or reject the comments. This process saves an amazing amount of time, and I’ve used it to save perhaps 66% of the time required to transpose SME (subject matter expert) edits back into the FrameMaker source files.

With FrameMaker 12 there are two major improvements to this workflow:

  1. You can continue editing the FrameMaker source, even during the PDF review itself. In other words, you can import the comments into a file that’s been modified after the PDF was created.
  2. The review options have been expanded to include review via the mobile Adobe Reader app.

So let’s review what you need to do to put this into place:

Setting up a FrameMaker 12 PDF Mobile Review

FrameMaker PDF settings

  • Create a tagged PDF, and include all possible tags. This improves the placement of comments, especially if the FrameMaker source is edited during the review period
  • Follow best practices for producing PDF in FrameMaker, including:
    • Use the Adobe PDF print driver
    • Create CMYK PDF
    • Deselect the Rely on document fonts option
  • See my FrameMaker PDF snags and solutions post for details on these items.

Mobile device settings

Download and install the free Adobe Reader app on your device. Here are Adobe links to the reader for your specific mobile OS .

Getting the PDF to your mobile device

I’ve found three easy ways to access the PDF on my phone:

  • Save the PDF to DropBox or other cloud-based sharing services. FrameMaker 12 supports DropBox and other services natively.

    FrameMaker 12 Dropbox preferences

    FrameMaker 12 Dropbox preferences

  • Send the PDF via email, and use the email reader to open the file. While this works for testing and for small files, email isn’t optimal for large files, and I don’t highly recommend this method
  • Send the file via AirDrop. Apple’s Yosemite OS and iOS support AirDrop between Mac to mobile devices. Since that’s my environment, I can make use of this feature.

Opening the PDF file on iOS device

Interestingly, as of December 2014, this is perhaps the trickiest part of the process! When opening the PDF file on mobile via DropBox, your file may not open directly into Adobe Reader. If it opens instead into the DropBox preview, perform the following steps:

Select Share 

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Select Open with

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Select Open in Adobe Reader

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On other devices, or when transferring without using DropBox, you’re likely to have a different (and more direct) path. I also strongly suspect that DropBox will change their PDF handling soon.

Adding comments to the PDF

Once you’ve opened the file in Adobe Reader, select the Comments tool in the top bar.

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You now have the ability to add comments to the PDF and save back to the PDF. I recommend using the Insert, Delete, and Sticky Note tools, as they are (for me) the most intuitive tools supported by FrameMaker

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Importing Comments to the FrameMaker Source

With the modified PDF on hand, choose the File > Import > PDF Comments menu option. Read through the guidelines provided for working with PDF comments, and locate your file and choose the appropriate import options for your PDF.

Locate and approve comments

Here’s the fun part!

If not visible, choose the View > Toolbars > Track Text Edits menu option to display your Text Edit tools.TextEdits

While there are many useful options, I find the Find Next, the Approve and find next, and the Reject and find next to be the most useful options.

Some comments, like Sticky Notes, may come in as markers, without related text or visual indicators. Keep your Marker pod open so that you can see the content of those markers when reviewing comments. While not as intuitive as the comments processed into conditional text, the marker text can still be copied and pasted if needed out of the Marker dialog.

Here’s a video showing the entire process:

About the author

Matt Sullivan is the founder of Tech Comm Tools, and is an Adobe Certified Instructor for each of the applications in the Adobe Technical Communication Suite. He teaches live online and in-person FrameMaker and other Adobe software classes for many different groups.

Matt also teaches classes on Tech Comm Video  and classes on Social Branding for the Society for Technical Communication and other groups.

Contact him at for more information.

To view any of the free recordings of his Adobe-sponsored webinars see and search (Command/Control+F) for Matt Sullivan.

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