Acrobat Preferences: My Personal Favorites

One of the first things I do when exploring a new software application, is to look at the application preferences. I’ve talked to several software trainers that start every class they teach that way.

Adobe Acrobat has a plethora of preferences. The sheer number– 29 different types– can be a bit daunting, so I thought I would share a few of my favorites.

Have your own? Let me know!

Accessing Preferences

To change preferences:

In each of the Preferences areas below, I’ll discuss a few options to consider.

Startup Preferences

  1. Increase this number to 10 (from the default 5) to get quick access to documents from the File menu.
  2. Speeds viewing by placing the next page of the document in memory.
  3. Do you always want to know if the PDF you opened is secure? Enable this if you do.

General Preferences

  1. Deselect so that links to other PDFs don’t open in the same window.
  2. Off by default, turn this on if you want to save time by accessing Acrobat tools using letters on the keyboard.
    When enabled, you can type Z for the zoom tool, H for the hand tool, etc.You can quickly learn the “single key accelerators” by hovering over a tool:


  1. These are the defaults, and I’m generally happy with them, but I’m rapidly getting to the point (bifocals) where I am considering increasing the point size. Many folks prefer the Verdana font for readability.
  2. When I use the Highlight tool, I often want to point out an error in the text or offer a new version for consideration. This option copies the selected text into the note. If you have a tagged PDF, the copied text will reflow as you resize the note window. If you don’t know what tagging is, read my blog article on the topic.

Converting to PDF

When you open a TIFF file in Acrobat, it will be converted to a PDF. Setting your default to a different compression scheme can significantly reduce file size.

The default is the inefficient CCITT G4 method. This is odd since Acrobat employs the more efficient JBIG2 compression when scanning. JBIG2 compression has been available since Acrobat 5, by the way, so choosing it here can reduce file size 40 to 80%.

Edit the settings and choose JBIG2 Lossless or JBIG2 Lossy. Read my article on PDF Flavors which discusses the implication of compression and file size.

  1. If you use search often in Acrobat, you’ll want quick access to the Advanced Search options.
    – Advanced Search offers Boolean and Proximity searches and the ability to search Bookmarks and Comments
    – You’ll want to use Advanced Search to review large sets of discovery documents.
    – When checked, you won’t have to switch from basic search to advanced in the Search Panel.
  2. The Proximity word range determines when Acrobat will score a “hit” on two words you want to find near each other. The default is the almost ridiculous 900 words! Set this to something small and then expand to add more results as needed.


If you don’t want Acrobat to automatically check for updates, you should check this option.

I occasionally get asked how to turn off updates, so I thought I would mention it here.

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