Acrobat X Customization Guide for Large Firms

Large law firms with more than fifty Acrobat users should take advantage of Adobe’s free deployment tools for Acrobat X. Many firms are upgrading to Acrobat X at this time, so I thought I would share a few tips which are specific for the legal industry.

Packaging Adobe Reader or Acrobat for your end-users isn’t difficult, but sometimes IT folks don’t know all of the settings or best practices.

In this article, I’ll discuss:

This article will walk you through the settings I recommend using the Acrobat X Customization Wizard.

The information is not intended as a replacement for the numerous documents Adobe makes available to enterprise IT administrators. Here are a few you should check out:

Acrobat Enterprise Toolkit Page

This page is the starting point for everything you need to deploy Acrobat X.

On this page you will find:

Enterprise Administration Guide

This 118-page guide is the main documentation for deploying Acrobat and covers AIP, SCCM/SCUP, GPO, bootstrapper, Citrix and other deployment options.

Preference Reference

The Preference Reference, a dictionary of registry level preferences containing over 300 keys. The application is updated on a monthly basis.

Training Videos for the Acrobat Customization Wizard

Adobe Technical Evangelist Joel Geraci offers videos on using the Customization Wizard.

SCUP Catalogs for Acrobat X and Reader X

SCCM/SCUP are Microsoft’s latest change and configuration management solution that replaces older methodologies such as SMS and GPO. Unlike these older technologies, SCCM provides features such as metering, asset intelligence, inventorying, and improved remote client administration.

Rick Borstein’s Acrobat X Deployment Webinar Recording

Step 1: Download your Software

If you are deploying Adobe Reader, make sure you download the Distributable Version of Adobe Reader. You can download it here:

For Acrobat X Standard or Acrobat X Pro, log into the Adobe Licensing website at to download your licenses.

Step 2: Download the Adobe Customization Wizard X

The Adobe Customization Wizard X is a free downloadable utility designed
to help IT professionals take greater control of enterprise-wide
deployments of Acrobat X and Adobe Reader X. With it you can
customize the Acrobat installer and application features prior to
deployment. Providing a graphical interface to the Windows Installer for
Acrobat, the Customization Wizard enables IT administrators to:

Click Here to download the Adobe Customization Wizard X

Step 3: Launch the Adobe Customization Wizard X and Begin Customizing

Choose File> Open Package and browse to the .msi file for Adobe Reader, Acrobat Standard or Acrobat Pro

You will see a number of categories on the left side of the window which correspond to various functions of the product. In the screen capture below, the options available for Acrobat Pro are listed. For Standard or Reader, you will see fewer options.

The recommendations below are my own and may not be applicable for every law firm.

Step 3A: Personalization Options

Enter your firm name and serial number. You may modify the installation path

Step 3b: Installation Options

In addition to the defaults, check “Remove Previous Versions of Adobe Reader”. We do not recommend having both Acrobat and Reader on the same system.

Step 3c: Features

This section allows you to choose which features will be installed. In the screen caputre below, I’ve expanded all of the options so you can see all of the options. Most law firms do not need to install LiveCycle Designer, an XML-based Forms Design tool and when installed requires about 350MB of disk space. Turning off installation of Designer can speed install time.

To elect NOT to install a feature, select the feature from the list at left, then set the initial state to “This feature will not be available”.

Step 3d: Files and Folders

The Files and Folders tab will help you distribute to your end-users:

In this section, you can move items from the local computer to the destination computer and also choose not to install some default items.

Two items I think will be of most interest here are Actions and Custom Stamps.


Law firms use Acrobat X Actions to automate multi-step processes. You can remove the default Actions which ship with Acrobat and replace them with your own.

You can find a number of useful Actions on the Adobe Actions Exchange. On this blog, I’ve also made available several Actions in the Actions Category.

_Recommended for law firms:

Remove PDF/A Information Action

Flatten Fields and Comments

Bookmark Report

Document Numbering

Removing the Default Actions

A) On the Destination Computer, open: Adobe>Adobe Acrobat 10.0>Acrobat>Sequence>ENU
B) Choose one of the default Actions in the list, right-click on it and choose Modify
C) Set the Action to Remove file and click OK.

Repeat for all Actions

Note: In the screen capture above, I am only showing the Destination computer. Make sure you open the correct section.

Adding your Firm’s Actions

To copy Actions installed on the local computer to the destination computer, follow these steps.

A) On Source computer, open USER>App Data>Roaming>Adobe>Acrobat>10.0>Sequences
B) On the Destination Computer, open: Adobe>Adobe Acrobat 10.0>Acrobat>Sequence>ENU
C) Drag the Action to the Destination computer

Note: This copies the Actions to a folder that the user cannot change.

Adding your Firm’s Custom Actions

To copy Stamps installed on the local computer to the destination computer, follow these steps.

A) On Source computer, open USER>App Data>Roaming>Adobe>Acrobat>10.0>Stamps
B) On the Destination Computer, open:
ProgramFilesFolder> Adobe> Acrobat 10.0> Acrobat> Plugins> Annotations> Stamps> ENU
C) Drag the Stamp to the Destination computer

Note: This copies the Stamp to a folder that the user cannot change.

Step 4: Custom Registry Keys

Although the Customization Wizard includes many popular settings, it does not offer access to all of the settings available inside Acrobat.

However, you can use the Customization Wizard can push down registry keys to control Acrobat settings which are not directly changeable using the graphical user interface of the wizard.

Adobe documents Acrobat registry keys in the Administrative Information Manager (download it!).

The recommended way to push down new registry key settings is to:

  1. Configure the source computer
  2. Copy the appropriate registry keys to the destination computer

My colleague Joel Geraci, Adobe Acrobat Technical Evangelist, shows you how to do this in his video Advanced Customization Wizard X on Adobe TV.

Step 5: Shortcuts

The Customization Wizard allows you to choose which shortcuts will be made available on the destination computer. To remove a Shortcut, right-click it and choose Remove. You can also move Shortcuts and create new folders for shortcuts in this panel.

Step 6: Server Locations

The Server Locations settings allow you to add server location
paths and redundancy. You can
add, rearrange, or remove locations. This feature sets the SOURCELIST property which is a semicolon-delimited list of
network or URL source paths to the installation package which is appended to
each user’s existing source list. The installer uses the first accessible
location it finds and only this source is used for the remainder of the

Step 7: Distiller

The Distiller section of Customization Wizard allows you to add, remove and set defaults for PDF Settings. PDF Settings are used when your users create PDF using the Adobe PDF Printer, through Acrobat or through contextual menus.

Important! Recently, the US Federal Courts have announced that they will be requiring PDF/A files, a specific flavor of PDF. I recommend that all law firms set their default PDF creation settings to a near PDF/A setting for easy conformance at filing time.You can download my Near PDF/A setting from my article Creating a “Near to PDF/A” PDF Setting” on this blog.

If your firm has in IP practice, you might consult also locate your firms USPTO PDF Settings and include those, too.

A) Click the Add button and locate the Near to PDF/A pdf setting or other settings file
B) Click on the_ Near to PDF/A_ setting which has been added to the list
C) Click Set as Default to make the setting the default setting for all PDF creation by Acrobat

Step 7: PDF Printer

The PDF Printer section offers some basic controls for PDF creation. Only one setting needs to be changed here. I recommend deselecting Add Document Information. Deselecting this option prevents Acrobat from bringing over Word metadata such as Title, Author, Keywords, etc., as well as any custom metadata fields.

Step 8: Security

The Security panel in the Customization Wizard allows you to configure a Trusted Identity Server. If you have an enterprise PKI infrastructure (most law firms do not), then you could configure settings here to allow your users to digitally sign and certify documents based on your LDAP.

PDF documents have interactive features such as forms and multimedia that blur the lines between documents and applications. Like a browser, you will want to control the way that Acrobat interacts with applications outside your firewall.

For example, Acrobat will warn users when they click a link in a PDF:

Since it is not uncommon for law firms to create PDFs with links to court rulings (LexisNexis, Thompson-West) or court sites, you might consider adding these domains as a privileged locations so they do not trigger the warning for users.

You can set that up as below:

Step 9: Digital Signature

I don’t know of any large law firm that is using Digital Signatures at an enterprise level, so I suggest you skip over this section.

Step 10: Rights Management Servers

Acrobat integrates with Adobe’s LiveCycle Rights Management server which offers server-based security. This extra level of control allows you to limit who can read documents, revoke rights to documents and a lot more. I only know of a couple of law firms which use it, but in this panel you can set up the integration between Acrobat as a client to the rights management server.

Step 11: Eula

You will want to suppress the display of the End User License Agreement for your users.

Step 12: Online Features

This area requires some special attention as some settings here (confusingly) also affect collaborative features that work behind your firewall. For example, if you disable all features, you can break Shared Review and Form Data Collection workflows that take place on your own servers.

A) Disable Updates – You will be using other methods to push down updates
B) Disable registration for Acrobat –
C) Disable Digital Editions, Adobe’s eBook help
D) Disable Product Improvement Program – Sends anonymous usage data to Adobe
E) Disable viewing of Ads in PDFs
F) Disable Live Collaboration (Remote control of PDFs)
G) Disable uploading documents to Adobe’s cloud-based file sharing service

Step 13: Comments and Forms

This section allows you to pre-populate servers for your end-users who want to take advantage of collaborative review and forms data collection. I don’t see law firms using these features in high volume, so I think you could skip setting that up.

Acrobat offers an auto-complete feature (like browsers) to make filling out forms easier for individuals. However, paralegals and legal secretaries do fill out a lot of PDF forms on behalf of clients. While the default for auto-complete is Off in Acrobat, some law firms worry that a user might turn it on which could lead to mistakes or (at worst) an accidental disclosure.

Step 14: File Attachments

This area is security-related and governs which types of files cannot be embedded in a PDF. There are about 70 different file types that are on the forbidden list including ZIP, EXE, COM, BAT, etc.

If your firm uses Acrobat’s email archiving feature for quick and dirty EDD (electronic data discovery), not that this means that ZIP file attachments will be skipped when harvesting email. If getting those zips is important to you, you could enable ZIP files, but I urge you to leave this section as-is as embedded zips are a security risk.

Step 15: Headers, Footers and Watermarks

I recommend pushing down default settings for Header/Footers and Watermarks. By making default settings available, you won’t have to coach new users on how to use these features.

You might ask the trainers in your organization what types of Headers/Footers and watermarks are used most often, but I’ve taken a stab at creating a few for you.

Download a Zip file containing my sample Headers/Footers, Watermarks and Redaction Overlay Codes

Header/Footer Examples

Watermark Examples

Adding watermarks to documents is another task that users frequently do. Out of the box, Acrobat does not provide any, but you can pre-populate these, too. I’ve include two samples below for you:

Of course, if you make your own in Acrobat, you’ll need to find them so you can push them down.

Download a Zip file containing my sample Headers/Footers, Watermarks and Redaction Overlay Codes

The settings are stored as XML files in the following location:

XP C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\Adobe\Acrobat\10.0\Preferences\HeaderFooter
Win7 C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\ Acrobat\10.0\Preferences\HeaderFooter

Once you’ve found the watermarks, you can add them easily:

Step 16: Redaction

Redaction is the permanent deletion of sensitive content. Acrobat X supports Redaction overlay codes which allows your users to place text on to of the redacted content:
Users apply the overlay codes by right-clicking on a redaction mark:

You can create an populate the list of custom redaction codes that your firm needs.

Acrobat provides an interface to create and export these redaction code sets directly. See my article Creating and Using Custom Redaction Patterns for full details.

Download a Zip file containing my sample Headers/Footers, Watermarks and Redaction Overlay Codes

To add the custom code set to your Acrobat install:
A) Unless you are a government agency, you probably don’t need the US Privacy Act or US FOIA codes. You can delete them.
B) Click the Add button to import your custom doe set.

Remaining Sections

You can ignore the Portfolio Navigator, Launch other Applications and Direct Editor sections. If you do use a custom Portfolio Navigator, push it down using the Files and Folders instead.

Get Ready to Package

Generate a transform file

A transform (.mst) file contains your modifications and any
files added to the project (.msi) file. The Wizard updates the associated
transform file every time you save a project. You can generate a copy of an open
transform file and then apply it to another project.

To create a Transform file:

1. Choose Transform > Generate Transform.

2. In the Save dialog, browse to the
desired location.

3. Enter the transform file name in
the File name box.

4. Choose Save.

In order to apply the new transform file to another project,
you must open the new project and load the transform file.

Generating SMS-compliant packages

In order to
distribute your modified installation files (.msi, .mst, and Setup.ini) using Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS), you must create an .sms file and, optionally, specify a Management Information Format (.mif) file in the same directory as the project (.msi)

To do so:

1. Choose SMS > Create SMS file at save.

A check mark appears next to the command name when it is
selected. This option creates an .sms file in the same directory as the project
file the next time the project is saved. A Microsoft Systems Management Server
(.sms) file is a text file containing product information and installation

2. Choose SMS

Specify MIF file name.

A check mark appears next to the command name when it is
selected. A Management Information Format (.mif) file describes the installed
application and is preset in the Windows directory on the destination system.

3. Enter a name in the MIF Filename

4. Choose OK.