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Using Acrobat in Writing Classes: Creating 

Creating Your Own Acrobat Documents

Besides using existing PDF documents, faculty and students can create and distribute their own materials. It is a method of electronically distributing syllabi, notes, sample documents, and student examples. 

Creating Simple PDF Files

 Faculty can create PDF documents to distribute the following:

  • Annotated versions of PDF documents from the Web

  • Checklists

  • Course notes 

  • Course reserves

  • Presentations

  • Program information

  • Sample student work

  • Syllabi

  • Writing center handouts

If you use Microsoft Office, Acrobat installs a PDF Writer icon  in the application. Clicking the icon launches PDFWriter, which creates a PDF file. PDFWriter is less powerful than Acrobat Distiller but adequate for simple documents.  You do have several output options. For example, headings you have used in Word can be converted automatically to bookmarks in the PDF document.

If you do not want to enhance the document in any way, it’s that simple to create a PDF file. See a  sample process paper.

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Enhancing PDF Files

If you want to enhance your documents, Acrobat has several tools that are simple to use. You can do some basic text editing, insert and delete pages, and create bookmarks and thumbnails that can be used for navigation. You can also annotate our own or other PDF files. See a  sample paper with comments.

As the dialog box shows, you can also set defaults on how the document and toolbars will appear when opened.  

You can also enhance the document by adding links. You simply use the Link Tool  to draw a box around an area. 

The resulting dialog box allows you to select the action that results when the link is clicked. The link may jump to another location, Web address, or play a multimedia file.  

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Saving Assignments

Students can submit their assignments in PDF format, thus saving printing costs. Faculty can then keep an electronic archive of sample student work. Because PDF files are relatively small, they are ideal to send as e-mail attachments. Students can also convert their class work to an electronic portfolio and distribute their resumes on CD-ROM or a Web site.  

Creating PDF Files From Image Collections and Scanned Documents

You can convert an entire image collection to PDF and display one image at a time like a slideshow. 

Scanned documents can also be converted directly to PDF format.  For example, if you have print versions of student work, you can scan them and use them as examples of both good and bad writing techniques.

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Creating Presentations

You can convert PowerPoint slideshows to PDF format and display them full screen like any presentation. You can set a background color, hide the toolbars, and set other options.  Because Acrobat Reader lets you change the magnification level, you can enlarge the document so students can easily view it.  

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Downloading Web Sites

One of the most useful features of Acrobat is the ability to download Web sites for off line viewing during class. Using this technique, you can convert useful Web resources to PDF files. You can also save useful reference materials, such as grammar and writing guidelines or tutorials. For example, the following is a downloaded PDF version of the Purdue OWL Punctuation, Grammar, and Writing tips.

This feature is also useful in courses that use Web sites as examples. Students can view the sites without having Internet access and becoming distracted by surfing other sites. The following is a browser tutorial saved in Adobe Acrobat. It is a 33-page document, and all the original links work if the destination pages are downloaded.  

You can also use Acrobat to annotate student assignments. This feature is especially useful for distance learning courses and for assignments involving writing Web pages. You can download each student's site, save it in PDF format, then annotate it. The following example shows an annotated Web site. Annotations appear as note icons that the student can click to read.

As the dialog box shows, saving a Web site in PDF is simple. After you specify the Web address, you specify how many “levels” of the site you want to download. Each time you click a link on the page you’ve downloaded, the destination of the link downloads. You continue this process until you’ve downloaded and saved all the pages you want. You have to be careful, however, not to download an entire site, which can potentially be quite large and take hours.  


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