Annotate (mark) student assignments in Acrobat PDF

When using Acrobat for electronic marking, students must either submit their work in PDF format (restrict the Submission File type to PDF when you create the assignment) or you can create the PDF from their original file. You can then use Acrobat to comment and mark up the PDF document. This guide assumes a basic knowledge of the Acrobat interface and workflow for creating PDF documents. If you are new to Acrobat, download the Introduction to Adobe Acrobat handout from the Using your computer page.

An example of an assignment marked in PDF is provided below.

This page provides step by step guides on how to:

Creating PDF files

You create a PDF by converting other documents and resources to Portable Document Format (PDF). Alternatively you may like to require students to submit in PDF format (restrict the Submission File type to PDF when you create the assignment).

Creating  PDFs with Acrobat

  1. In Acrobat, do one of the following:
    Choose File > Create PDF > From File.
    On the toolbar, click the Create button and choose From File.
  2. In the Open dialog box, select the file you want to convert to PDF. You can browse all file types or select a specific type in the Files Of Type menu.
  3. Click Open to convert the file to a PDF.
    Depending on the type of file being converted, the authoring application opens automatically or a progress dialog box appears. If the file is in an unsupported format, a message appears, telling you that the file cannot be converted to PDF.
  4. When the new PDF opens, Save the file ; then select a name and location for the PDF.


Filenames should start with the student's FAN and an underscore, eg abcd0001_assignment1.pdf

Creating PDFs with PDFMaker

In Office 2007/2010, Acrobat installs an Acrobat Tab.  

create pdf icon

Converting files to PDF

In windows explorer you can convert a file without opening any applications.

  1. Click on My Computer icon on your desktop and then navigate to where the file is saved
  2. Right-click on the file and select Convert to Adobe PDF
  3. In the Save Adobe PDF File As dialog box, enter a filename and location for the PDF, and click Save.

Using the commenting and markup tools

The commenting and markup functions in Acrobat are the core tools for electronic marking. These tools allow you to insert detailed comments, highlight, replace, insert, and delete text and use graphics to mark up documents. You can use these tools in various ways:

  • The commenting tools are useful for assessing high-level conceptual and procedural knowledge.
  • The text tools are useful for detailed spelling, grammar, and general writing evaluation.
  • The graphic markup tools are useful for evaluating student work that includes images or other non-text content.
  • Comments will appear in a balloon in the document margin and are anchored to a place in the document text.

Use a comment bank

To increase marking efficiency you could prepare common comments for re-use (e.g. a paragraph containing instructions about referencing) in a separate Word file. See some comment bank examples.

Comment & Markup toolbar

The Comment & Markup toolbar provides easy access to many of the tools you will need for marking documents.

To display the Comment & Markup toolbar,

Acrobat 10: click the Comment button

 10 icons

Change User Name/Identity

Before you begin adding comments to PDF files it is important to ensure that your comments are marked with your name. You will only need to do this once on each computer that you use.

  1. Got to Edit > Preferences > Commenting
  2. In the Marking Comment section at the bottom, un-tick the Always use Log-in Name for Author name

  3. Go to the Identity section

  4. Enter in your Name, email address and any other details
    enter your details
  5. Click OK.

  6. Now create a Sticky Note (refer below)

  7. In the Sticky Note select Options > Properties

  8. Select the general Tab

  9. Enter your name and select the Make Properties Default then OK.

  10. This will now make the name you entered the default for all future comments and editing.
    sticky note optionssticky note properties

Sticky note tool

Insert comments at specific locations by using the sticky note tool. Sticky notes are ideal for long or short comments that are general or overarching in their nature. For example, you might use a sticky note to critique a student’s overall theory in a research paper or to provide detailed comments on a collection of images from a semester-long photography portfolio. This is wherethe use of comment banks can save you time during the marking process.

Add a sticky note comment
  1. Do one of the following:
    In Acrobat, choose Comments > Add Sticky Note.
    Select the Sticky Note tool sticky note tool in the Comment & Markup toolbar, and either click where you want to place the note or drag to create a custom- sized note.
  2. Type text in the pop-up note (or copy and paste text from your comment bank). You can also use the Select tool select tool to copy and paste text from another document into the note.
    Note: If you close the pop-up note, your text remains.
  3. You can reposition the sticky note icon by dragging it to a new location.

sticky window

Edit a sticky note comment
  1. Click or double-click the note icon.
  2. Make changes, as needed:
    To resize the pop-up note, drag the lower-left or lower-right corner.
    To change the text formatting, choose View > Toolbars > Properties Bar, select the text, and then select the property you want in the toolbar. You can also change the colour of the sticky note in this toolbar.
  3. When you finish, click the minimize button in the upper- right corner of the pop-up note, or click outside the pop-up note.
  4. If you want to change the font size, default pop-up behaviour and other settings for creating and viewing comments, use the Commenting panel in the Preferences dialog box (Figure 5). To display the Commenting preferences, choose Edit > Preferences and then select the Commenting category.
Delete a sticky note comment
  1. Select the sticky note icon, and press Delete on your keyboard.
  2. Alternatively, double-click the note icon and choose Delete from the Options menu of the pop-up note.

Text editing tools

Provide specific markup on sections of text by using the text-editing tools. The tools allow you to highlight, insert, underline, or cross out text digitally, much as you would edit on paper. Standard editing symbols correspond to the use of each tool so students can quickly determine the edits you have provided for their work. These tools are valuable for marking up problems with grammar, vocabulary, spelling, or sentence structure and for providing very specific comments on small portions of text.

Pop-up notes associated with the tools show the date and time of the edit and provide room for your comments. They can be minimized to avoid unnecessary clutter. Students can see your edits and notes by hovering over the editing symbol within the marked-up text or by double-clicking the editing symbol to reveal the pop-up note.

Highlight text
  1. Click the Highlight Text button in the Comment & Markup toolbar.

  2. Select the text you wish to highlight. The selected text is highlighted in yellow.
    edit your design ideas
  3. Double-click the highlighted text to reveal the pop-up note associated with the text. Type your comment into the pop-up note. You can also use the Select tool to copy and paste text from a PDF into the note.
    Note: If you close the pop-up note, your text remains.

  4. If you need to edit or delete the Highlight Text pop-up note, you can easily adapt the instructions for editing or deleting a sticky note in the Sticky Note tool section.

Replace Selected Text  Show places where text should be replaced and provide alternate text in a pop-up note.

Highlight Selected Text  Cause text to be highlighted yellow. Note: The Highlight Text tool is also available on the main Comment & Markup toolbar.

Add Note To Selected Text  Include a specific comment that is linked to highlighted text by a pop-up note.

Insert Text At Cursor Mark a spot where text needs to be inserted and provide that inserted text with the Insert text At Cursor tool.

Underline Selected Text  Underline to denote emphasis on a specific piece of text.

Cross Out Text for Deletion  Visually cross out the selected text.

Edit text (including replacing, add note, insert, underline & cross out)
  1. Click the Text Edits button in the Comment & Markup toolbar. Choose the Text Edits tool from the menu.
    Text Edits button
    Note: The first time you work with the text-editing tools, you will see a dialog box explaining each of the tools. You can select the Don’t Show Again dialog box if you wish to avoid this message in the future.

  2. Select the text you wish to replace in the document.

  3. Click the Text Edits button in the Comment & Markup toolbar. Choose the desired edit text tool. A pop-up note is created that is linked to the crossed-out text.

  4. Type the desired text into the pop-up note. You can also use the Select tool to copy and paste text from a PDF into the note.
    Edit your text
    Note: If you close the pop-up note, your text remains.

  5. If you need to edit or delete the text edit pop-up note, you can easily adapt the instructions for editing or deleting a sticky note.
    Note: The steps for using the Replacing Selected Text, Add Note To Selected Text, Insert Text At Cursor, Underline Selected Text, and Cross Out Text For Deletion tools are all the same.

Stamp tools

Stamp tools can make life a lot easier with common text or grade identifyers. There are some pre created stamps but for eMarking it is best to create your own.

To create a Comment stamp in Adobe Acrobat you first need to create an image of what you want the stamp to look like. Click here to download some samples. These are created in Word using the drawing tools. Each stamp must be on a separate page.

Once you have created your stamps you need to convert the Word document to PDF. In Word 2007 or 2010 go to File > Save As > in the Save As type box change this to PDF

Import them to Acrobat
  1. Open Adobe Acrobat
  2. Select the Comment bar
  3. Click on the stamp icon
  4. Select Custom Stamps then Create Custom Stamp
  5. Browse to where you saved the PDF stamp document you created
  6. This will now show a sample of the stamps. You will need to scroll down to see each stamp
  7. Select the stamp you want to add by displaying it in the window
  8. Under Category type Marking or some other description of the group you want to place your stamps into. If you have already created a group click the dropdown arrow and select the group
  9. Under Name type a name for the stamp
  10. Click OK
  11. Repeat step 3 and 4 but this time select Manage Stamps
  12. Click on Create and repeat steps 7 to 10 to create each new stamp
Share stamps with others
  1. Close Acrobat
  2. Open My Computer and navigate to:
    University computers - U:\Prefs\AppData\Adobe\Acrobat\[version number]\Stamps
    Windows 7 home computers - C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Acrobat\[version number]\Stamps
  3. In this folder will be a file (if you have more than one stamp group there will be multiple files) with a long weird name. Rename it to something logical and copy it to a location for sharing.
  4. Now have the people you want to share with, copy this file to the same location on their computer as per step 2.

Markup tools

Acrobat provides a number of graphical markup tools that may be helpful if you are evaluating digital design portfolios or documents that contain multimedia content. With the cloud tool, line and shape tools, and pencil tool, you can include a text comment in a pop-up note associated with each use of the tool. Select the desired tool and drag to draw on the document and create the graphical markup.

Callout tool Create an arrow pointing to a specific location and a linking box into which you can type text.

Text Box tool Places a box on top of the document into which you can insert text.

Cloud tool  Click around an object or text to draw a cloud around it.

Line and shape tools  Draw an arrow, line, rectangle, or oval to highlight specific elements in a document.

Pencil tool  Draw freeform on a document.

Using audio commenting

Acrobat includes an audio commenting feature with which you can record audio comments from within Acrobat. Audio commenting adds a personal touch to electronic marking. You can provide encouragement or motivation through an audio comment that is often hard to convey in text. Also, audio comments may be easier and more effective when your comment is lengthy or you are explaining a difficult concept. The built-in microphones on most computers should be sufficient for recording audio comments.

Note: Audio commenting can quickly increase the size of your document file. Be aware of your student’s capabilities for sending and receiving large files and consider any restrictions when you plan your electronic marking strategy.

Add an audio comment
  1. Do one of the following:
     Sound Recorder
    In Acrobat, choose Comments > Comment & Markup Tools > Record Audio Comment.
    In Reader, choose Tools > Comment & Markup > Record Audio Comment.

  2. Your cursor changes to a speaker icon. Click to place the audio comment in a specific location in the document. The Sound Recorder appears.

  3. If you have already recorded audio in a separate application, you can click Browse to select the audio file. Otherwise, click the red record button to begin recording. Using your computer’s built-in microphone, record the audio comment you wish to make. Click the stop button when you finish. You can review your  audio comment by clicking the play button. Move the slider left and right to review portions of your audio comment. You can click the record button again to record additional comments. When you are satisfied with your audio comment, click OK.

  4. You may wish to make adjustments to the appearance of the audio comment. In the Sound Attachment Properties dialog box, you can change the icon style, colour, and opacity of the comment marker. Click OK.

  5. The audio comment icon  appears on the page at the desired location. To listen to the audio comment, double-click on the comment or right-click (Windows) / Ctrl-click (Mac OS) on the comment and select Play File from the audio comment menu.

  6. To delete the audio comment, right-click (Windows) / Ctrl-click (Mac OS) on the comment and select Delete from the audio comment menu.

Note: You cannot edit audio comments in Acrobat.

Inserting pages

You can insert PDF pages containing formal evaluation rubrics to make assessment methods and standards clear to students. Or, you may want to include additional resources for a student to use in revising the assessed work. Inserting additional pages is a convenient way of containing all the information associated with an assessment in one easy-to-distribute package.

Insert a page
  1. Do one of the following:
    Insert a page options
    Choose Document > Insert Pages.
    From the Pages Navigation Pane, click the Options button  and select Insert Pages. 

  2. Choose to Insert Pages From File. In the Select File To Insert dialog box, browse for the PDF file to insert in the document. Click Select.

  3. In the Insert Pages dialog box, choose the location and page number to insert the PDF into the document. Acrobat inserts the page at the desired location.
    Insert pages

Creating summary documents

When you have completed your commenting and markup of a document, you can create a summary document as a convenient container for all your comments. This feature may be useful for documents that have many comments or markups that are difficult to view simultaneously within the original document.

Create a comment summary document
  1. In Acrobat, choose Comments > Summarize Comments
    .Comments > Summarize Comments
    Note: The Summarize Comments feature is only available in Acrobat Pro.

  2. In the Summarize Options dialog box, choose from the following layouts and settings for your summary document:
           Document and comments with connector lines on separate pages
           Document and comments with connector lines on single pages
           Comments only
           Document and comments with sequence numbers on separate pages
    Click the Create PDF Comment Summary button.

  3. Acrobat automatically creates the summary document and opens it in a new window. Save the new summary document with the desired filename and location

Example assignment marked in PDF

» How do I...? OLD GLOSSARY