Apr 26

pdf annotation1

At some point, you may be required to annotate a PDF with comments, notes or suggested changes and share it, or return it to someone – certainly as a proofreader working with digital media, you’ll have to do this. If you and your colleagues all use Adobe Acrobat Reader you’ll have no problem. But not everyone likes Acrobat Reader as it’s slow, blotted and is known to suffer from malware vulnerabilities. So what happens if you or you colleagues want to share an annotated PDF and you use one of the other popular free PDF viewers like Foxit Reader, Nitro PDF Reader or PDF-XChange Viewer. Can you view annotations or notes created in another PDF reader and importantly can you move those notes if necessary to read the underlying text which can often become obscured by the annotation boxes? Can you assume that your annotations will be viewable, movable and indeed editable in another reader? I had a look at these four PDF readers: I created annotations in each of the four PDF viewers, then tried opening the PDF and viewing, moving and editing that annotation in the others.

What I found was that Acrobat Reader (Sticky Note tool), Foxit (Note Tool) and Nitro (Sticky Note tool) are all compatible. Any note created in one reader could be dragged, minimised, viewed on mouse-over or edited in the others. Interestingly, Foxit Reader also had a selection of other annotation tools (underline, replace, insert, strikeout, etc) all of which were compatible in the other readers and these annotation boxes could be moved easily and edited in them all.

PDF-XChange Viewer is a little different with other annotation options. It’s my PDF viewer of choice and I’ve blogged about it before. With it, you can annotate with the Callout Tool and Text Box Tool as well as the Sticky Note Tool. Examples are shown below.

pdf annotation2

Sticky notes were no problem and could be dragged, minimised, viewed on mouse-over or edited in the other PDF viewers but the Callout boxes and Text Boxes (shown above in red) could only be moved or edited by someone else using PDF-XChange Viewer and so will obscure underlying text when opened in another viewer. I was using the latest version of PDF-XChange Viewer (version 2.5.194). When I used Acrobat Reader to open a PDF annotated by PDF-XChange Viewer, clicking on the Callout boxes or Text boxes would highlight the box handles but I could not move the boxes and so they obscured the underlying text. I did find that Foxit Reader would move the Text box created in PDF-XChange Viewer but if I resized it or moved the Callout box, the text fill would blank out.

So to summarise, if you have to share, send or return an annotated PDF, it looks like the Sticky Note/Note Tool is compatible in all four viewers including Acrobat Reader. Any note can be dragged, minimised, viewed on mouse-over or edited in the other readers. And Foxit Reader has a nice selection of compatible annotation tools. But if you’re using PDF-XChange Viewer, unless you know the other party has PDF-XChange Viewer, it’s best not to use the Callout boxes or Text box tools as the underlying text will be obscured and may be unreadable by the other party if they’re using another viewer.

Incidentally, the PDF used here for illustration is How to Use Jump-Leads. Follow the link for more information.

How do you annotate PDFs? Have you run into problems sharing them? Drop a comment below.

Apr 25

File management in the default setup of Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition is not intuitive, at least not to me. I recently had to copy files from a USB stick to my netbook hard disk and found this quite difficult as it seems impossible to pull up a two pane file manager directly and drag the files across – or at least I couldn’t find an obvious way to do it.

Here’s what’s involved:

1. Plug in USB stick. It appears on the Unity side bar and Nautilus opens a window on the desktop. I can see the folders and files on the stick but I can’t get to the home folder on the hard drive and drag the files across – at least not intuitively.


2. Open Files & Folders in the Unity sidebar. But this opens full screen and doesn’t show the pen drive so I still can’t drag the files from the USB stick.


3. Find the Documents folder, then click on the folder symbol at the top right of the screen, as shown above. Finally I have a Nautilus window of the Document folder alongside the Nautilus window of the USB drive.


4. Navigate to the file I want on the USB stick and drag it to the Documents folder on the hard disk.

Out with the old

Perhaps someone can tell me a quicker or easier way to manage files in Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition but this is the only way I could see to do it. And I’m not alone as Expert Reviews also found the whole process a little strange. If there is an easier way, it’s certainly not obvious or intuitive for a Ubuntu beginner.

I’m used to working with file managers. I’ve been using them since the late 1980s when I had PC Tools as my file manager in MS-DOS (before Windows). I’ve blogged about xplorer2, my current file manager of choice in Windows 7. For me, the file manager is a fundamental utility that I often use during the day and I just couldn’t put up with offering in Ubuntu Netbook Edition. I need a two column manager so I looked around for a decent replacement – one that showed a tree view of folders and drives in the left side and files on the right side and with the dual pane folder option. In the past, I had brief looks at a few including Thunar and Midnight Commander but I think I’ve now found the manager I want in Dolphin.

In with the new

Dolphin is a file manager for KDE (K desktop environment). I found that installation in Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition was a breeze and even the necessary KDE libraries installed without a problem. Initially Dolphin will open showing Places (Home, Network, Root, Trash) in the left panel. To get a tree view of folders, go to View, Panels and click Folders. If it opens on the right side of the screen, you can drag the folder window across to the left side if that’s where you want it. You may now see tabs at the bottom where you can select Places or Folders. You can remove Places altogether by going to View, Panels and deselecting Places – or use F9 to toggle Places.

To fine tune your set-up, go to Settings, Configure Dolphin and try out different things. For example, in Startup, set your start up folder. I would have liked the option for Dolphin to close and reopen in the folder I was last working in (as in xplorer2) but couldn’t find that option. Also, if you’ve come from Windows you’ll need to go to Navigation and make sure Double click to open files and folders is selected.

So now plugging in my USB stick, I can access it on the Places panel or more helpfully, on the Folders panel through the folder media. I can now open the folder I want and drag the files across to the hard drive much more easily. There’s also a button at the top to split the files panel if you find that easier.


I did have a problem opening a terminal window (Shift-F4). This should open at the bottom of the screen in the current folder. Just got an error Could not launch the terminal client. KDEInit could not launch konsole. Tried googling for a solution but got nowhere. I’ll just have to use Ctrl-Alt-t if I need the command line. Finally, I decided that I wanted to add Dolphin to the Unity launcher on the left side so I right clicked the icon and clicked on Keep in launcher. However, I found that it would only appear in the Launcher after a reboot.

So that’s my first taste of running a KDE app in Ubuntu and I’m impressed. I might just try Kubuntu on my netbook now.

Apr 14
My top 5 tech bloggers
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Tech blogs | icon4 April 14, 2011| icon33 Comments »

hands on keyboard

After several years of reading RSS blog feeds, you get a feel for the authors whose posts you most look forward to reading and who rarely disappoint. I’ve picked out 5 tech bloggers who you might want to follow. I could easily have picked out 10 more but I’ll leave that for another day.

David Pierce

David writes at his blog Digitizd and covers topics from web tools and organization to writing. He aims to help you make the most of technology but yet is never too technical, always thought provoking and always a good read.

Matthew Guay

Trying to make tech simpler, Matthew blogs at Techinch but can also be found at Web.AppStorm, How-To Geek and Digital Inspiration, all excellent tech blogs. Covering mainly web apps and software, like David, he’s never too technical and always willing to help out with questions in the blog comments.

Lee Mathews

One of my favourite bloggers, Lee has put me in touch with many really useful web apps and software over the years. If Lee blogs about it, it’s generally worth trying. He got me started with LastPass some years ago and Chrome more recently. Lee used to blog at DownloadSquad but unfortunately, this site folded earlier this week much to my great dismay. In the meantime, you can follow him on Twitter. I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s actively blogging again and when he does I’ll update this post.

Rich Menga

Rich blogs at PC Mech and covers PC hardware, software and the internet. I find his posts on PC hardware, routers, networking, etc particularly useful and well written. He clearly know his stuff.

JL Beeken

JL blogs at JLog with the strapline ‘Simple computer technology for genealogists’ – but don’t let this put you off. I’m not interested in genealogy but find many of his posts incredibly useful and insightful. JL covers photo management and tagging, file organization, and backup among other things. Here’s a great recent post A Simple Backup Plan explaining file backup using the free utility Syncback.

So if you’ve enjoyed reading posts on my blog, I encourage you to look at these five tech bloggers – you’ll probably like them too. And of course if you really enjoy reading a particular blogger, I’d love to know in the comments.

Image credit: Gregory Szarkiewicz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apr 4

I’ve been using the web based to-do app Doris for about a year now and quite like it. There’s also a Desktop version now and an iPhone app but regrettably the developers just haven’t kept pace – no Android app as yet.

I was listening to a recent CNET to the rescue podcast and Rafe Needleman mentioned Wunderlist, an awesome to-do app so I thought I’d take a look.


As well as downloadable programs for Windows and Mac, Wunderlist has a web app so you can have your to-do lists synced on Windows, Mac and Linux machines as well as Android phones, iPhone and iPad. You can also share your lists.  Here’s some basics on using Wunderlist. Create a new to-do list using the hotkey L or click Add List at the bottom right of the screen. If you don’t like the default wood panel background or the awesome leafy background I’ve chosen, you can choose from a number of others from a drop-down list and also toggle the side bar.  The other buttons along the bottom are pretty self-explanatory but play around with them to see their actions.  You can drag tasks up and down a list to reorder them and also drag them from list to list. Starring tasks brings them to the top of a list. You can also add notes to tasks to give more info about them and search for tasks in the search box at the top-right.

There are some very nice touches too. You can assign a date to a task which shows up near the right end of the task entry. This is updated to Tomorrow, Today, Yesterday as the task date approaches and passes. Double clicking on this date allows you to reschedule tasks. At the bottom of the screen, tasks due Tomorrow, Today or Overdue can be viewed by clicking the buttons. You can also add new tasks by emailing them to me@wunderlist.com, and can choose to be alerted via email when tasks are due. So even if you don’t have the latest mobile phone, you can keep up with your Wunderlist to-dos on the go.

A nice example of syncing a list to your mobile phone would be a shopping list. Just add items to your list wherever you are and call up the list on your Android or iPhone while shopping. Of course, you can also do this with other apps like Evernote.

As David Pierce points out in a recent post about Wunderlist, a recurring tasks feature would be a nice addition. I currently get around this by putting these in Google Calendar. These recurring tasks are pushed to Rainlendar my desktop calendar and so I can see them on the desktop of my PC.

I have Wunderlist loading in the left-most tab in Chrome so that it’s always displayed first when I open my browser. To do this in Chrome, after you’ve signed up for Wunderlist, drag that tab to the left-most position. Open the other URLs you want at browser start-up. Then click the spanner symbol at the right end of the tool bar, Click Options, and under the On startup section, select Open the following pages. Click the button Use current pages then check that Wunderlist is listed at the top and the other sites you want are listed below it.

So if you’re looking for an awesome  to-do list app or want to upgrade to a more feature filled one or one that syncs to your mobile device, I encourage you to try out Wunderlist and see what you think. It’s free at the moment. Let us know what you think of Wunderlist in the comments or tell us about your favourite task management program.

Apr 3
May I have your answer?
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Life | icon4 April 3, 2011| icon32 Comments »

We live in a 24/7 society. Emails demand to be answered straightaway if not sooner, even on the weekend.

I’m a freelance editor and received an email from a new client in China on Saturday afternoon asking if I could undertake and return work in 3 days. I’m already fully booked for the week ahead so I just responded that I couldn’t meet that deadline but that I’d be happy to quote again in future when the deadline wasn’t so tight. I then received a further, wait for it, 4 replies over Saturday and Sunday, starting with ‘How much time will it take you, please?’ and culminating with ‘May I have your answer?’ After that final one on Sunday afternoon, I responded that I was fully booked until the 14th April. I concluded the email with ‘I could edit your paper after that, but judging from your emails I think you want it back much quicker. I’m sorry I can’t help on this occasion.’ I’m awaiting a reply on that one.

The exchange brings up two points:

Just how urgent are work deadlines?

The client started by asking for a 3 day turnaround but his follow-up email indicated he might compromise a little. However, the number of emails I received from him over the weekend suggested that he really wanted the work done pretty urgently. I suspected from my end that a 1 week turnaround would be reasonable and I just couldn’t believe his deadlines were that inflexible. I really couldn’t fit his work in that week as I was fully booked and surely he couldn’t expect me to bump other clients down to fit him in.

What’s with all this weekend work emails?

I don’t know how things are done in China but mostly around here, people take some time off at the weekend to, for example, spend some time with the family. Is that unreasonable? If I’m not responding to your email, surely you can wait till Monday? Or have we reached the stage where an email response is required within a few hours, even on the weekend?

How do you treat weekend work emails? Do you keep checking your work emails over the weekend and respond within an hour or two or do you wait till Monday? Do you find some clients have unreasonable deadlines and like to push for completion when really there is no obvious urgency. I’d love to hear your comments.

Update: On Monday morning after that weekend, I had an email from the client asking me to go ahead on my timescale. He had been able to extend his deadline from the publisher and so my turnaround time was fine. So as I suspected, there was some flexibility there after all.

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