Converting Depo Transcripts to PDF

A few months ago I attended the semi-annual conference of the Society for the Technical Advancement in Reporting (STAR). STAR is made up of owners/operators of court reporting agencies and others interested in using technology in court reporting.

Depo (deposition) transcripts are taken by stenographers and output as plain text files. The output format is referred to as Page File ASCII and employs page breaks to approximate the printed page. Maintaining pagination is important because the page and line numbers are inserted into the ASCII file itself. Unfortunately, Acrobat’s default settings don’t respect pagination of text files.

Fortunately, there is a relatively easy— although none too intuitive— workaround.

A bit of background…

Initially, I was stumped on how to fix the problem. If you investigate Acrobat’s Preferences in the “Convert to PDF” section and select Text files, there are no settings that can be changed.

In conversations with our product managers and engineers, I discovered that text conversion in Acrobat is actually handled by the web page conversion tools. With the help our our engineering team, I found it is possible to tweak the web page conversion settings so that depo text files can be accurately converted. Read on to find out how…

Tweak the Settings

Once you complete one conversion, the settings given below will be “sticky” for all future Acrobat sessions.

Follow the steps below:

  1. Go to File—>Create PDF—>From Web Page
  2. Click the Settings button
  3. Scroll down and select Plain Text in the list. Then, click the Settings button.
  4. Click the Fonts and Encoding tab
  5. Change the point size to 10 points. Then, click the Change button to change the typeface.
  6. Change the font to a mono spaced font like Courier
  7. Click OK and then OK again to get back to the conversion screen.
  8. Click the Browse button to locate depo text file…
  9. Click the Create button and Acrobat will create a properly paginated depo file for you!

Note, you must convert at least one file using the “Create PDF from Web Page” screen for the settings to stick.

Conversion Tips and Techniques

Now that the proper settings are in place, you can use Create PDF from File, or Create PDF from Multiple Files to convert depo text files.

If you have Acrobat Professional, you can even batch convert hundreds of files. Conversion performance is quite good, by the way, and file size is very reasonable. With my settings as indicated above, I converted a 47-page, 68K transcript to a 70K PDF.

If you plan to cite (copy part of the text from) the transcript, it may be worth tagging the document. This adds structure to the document so that you can copy text without grabbing the line numbers.

See my article on Understanding Tagged PDF to learn more.