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FAQ: Proofing PDF files

How do I get a copy of Adobe Reader or Acrobat Reader so I can view PDF files?

Go to Adobe's web site at and download the free Reader for your platform.

What should I do with the PDF file?

1. If you have the full version of Acrobat, find the option for "Use local fonts" in the View menu, and make sure that this option is NOT checked. This option is not available with the free Acrobat Reader, so if you are using the free Acrobat Reader you can skip this step.

2. Look through the PDF file on screen and make sure everything looks ok on screen. This step is not as important as checking the printouts; it is just an easy way to look through the document quickly to see if you notice any obvious mistakes.

3. Print out the PDF file, and go through this printout line by line to make sure everything looks ok. It is possible for mistakes to appear on the printout that did not appear on screen, so check the printout carefully. Also compare the version you printed to the printout that was mailed to you.

What sorts of problems should I be looking for?

If you supplied a PostScript or PDF file: Check figures to make sure that the details are still clear and that no edges have been cut off. Check all characters in specialty fonts to make sure that they still look like the right characters, since fonts occasionally change in the process of generating a PDF file. Check that all accents and diacritics print out correctly. Check that there are no letters or words with spacing that makes them hard to read, such as overlapping letters.

If you supplied a word processor file of any sort: Check all of the above. Also check that all text is still present, since file conversions sometimes lose sentences or paragraphs. Check that figures and tables are still placed reasonably close to where they are mentioned in the text, since these must sometimes be moved to accommodate page breaks. Check that all footnotes and references are still present.

What sorts of problems should I ignore?

Ignore changes in shading of a figure or table, as long as the figure or table is still clear. Ignore all typos or mistakes that were in the original file you provided.

Can I correct a mistake that was in my original file?

No, those cannot be corrected at this stage. Once the PDF file is being proofed, any changes mean starting over on creating, testing, and proofing the PDF file.

When do you need me to either ok the file or report problems, and who should I contact?

The answer is different for every project. Please check the cover letter that came with your printout and PDF file to find out the deadline and correct contact person.

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