Acrobats from Flickr user HassiMany of us are familiar with PDF documents, so much so that Adobe is almost synonymous with the ubiquitous "portable document format" files. Aside from reading PDF files using the basic Adobe Reader or other free software on your computer or smartphone, the full version of Acrobat Pro is available as a donation at TechSoup to eligible organizations. Learn more about other donated products through TechSoup by subscribing to our newsletters

So what's so great about Acrobat Pro? There are many differences between the free Reader version and the Pro version of Acrobat, but here are some key benefits and use-cases for nonprofits and libraries:

  • PDF Creation. The primary benefit of the Pro version is that you can create PDF files from any application that can print, or natively from Microsoft Office. This facilitates information-sharing on any platforms that might be used by your stakeholders, as PDFs are one of the most widely used file formats. Files are often smaller in size so uploading and downloading them takes less time.
  • Convert to Word. Conversely, you may get PDFs from partners and allies where there's information that can be used, like for a grant report for example. The Pro version lets you bring that content over easily, requiring less work than if you had to copy and paste to create a new document (and that's if the security settings will even allow it).
  • Portfolios Functionality. PDFs can also be a container of different file formats, allowing the user to embed pictures, PDFs, and even Flash files to create a professional document to showcase your different types of work.

    For an electronic annual report you may want to use the portfolios function to include pictures from an event, spreadsheets and charts for your financials, and multimedia for some client testimonials. Portfolios allow you to create such a package without having to convert the files first.
  • Security. If you didn't want someone to be able to copy and paste from the PDF, you can secure that when you create the file using Acrobat Pro. For a higher level of security, you may choose to encrypt the file with its built-in security features. You can also sign documents with digital signatures to acknowledge readership and approvals. If you are regulated by HIPAA, then the security features in the Pro version may help fulfill "Technical Safeguards" under the HIPAA requirements.
  • Scan to PDF and OCR.  If you have mounds of paperwork that needs to be archived, the Pro version would allow you to scan to PDF and at the same time use optical character recognition (OCR) so that the text in those files are searchable. For many of us whose organizations started before today's technologies, this can be a helpful bridge to digitally store work you've done in the past and be able to easily search through it in the future.
  • Forms Creation. As it's tax time in the U.S. many of us are probably all too familiar with PDF forms. You can create clean and professional forms for events, employment records, and client intake; draft surveys for your program work; or easily digitize things like performance evaluations. While web forms and surveys are also popular there may be programmatic or privacy reasons why hard-file forms are more suitable. Adobe Acrobat can convert Word or Excel documents into fillable forms, and the Form Tracker functionality allows you to conveniently collect data and export for further analysis.

What are your favorite tricks and tools when using Acrobat Pro at your organization? Share and discuss your favorites in our forums!

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Photo: Acrobats by Hassi