Using Acrobat to make PDF compilations

Report on Senior Fellowship with the Instructional Technology Center

Peter J. Taylor
Critical & Creative Thinking Program
Graduate College of Education, UMass Boston

The project I proposed to undertake as an ITC Senior Fellow was to complete a web-based "Thinking for Change Fieldbook" combining entries from my own extensive website with the classroom activities of other faculty from the Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT) Program and of members of the Thinktank hosted by CCT for Community college teachers of critical thinking. (This Fieldbook is inspired by the format and content of Peter Senge et al's Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, which has led to a recent followup, Schools That Learn.)

The method came to favor as simplest (and thus feasible given typical time constraints at UMass Boston) may be of interest to other faculty members. I have now used it for a variety of compilations (listed below).


1. The entries for the compilations are in the form of webpages and word (.doc) or PDF (.pdf) files linked to webpages. I use the Adobe Acrobat plug-in to Word to save a .pdf version of any .doc files. (Sometimes I create an html file using Word, but Word does not preserve formatting well.)

2. I create a webpage that is a table of contents for the compilation.

3. I use "open web page" in Adobe acrobat, specifying "2 levels" (i.e., the level of the table of contents page and the level of any sites linked to it, but not any sites linked within those sites). (Options allow me to set margins and include/exclude headers and footer.) This generates a PDF file that combines all the webpages and pdf files that were linked to the table of contents page from step 2. (An error file lists all the links that Acrobat could not find.) This PDF file has its own table of contents built from the titles contained in the head section of the html files.

4. I use the command under "Locate web addresses" to make the links in the document active. (If the link is to a page incorporated in the document, the resulting active link moves you there; if it is to a page outside the document, it moves you there if you are on-line, just as a browser would.)

5. I upload the PDF document onto the server which allows viewers to browse the document as they would anything on the web with hyperlinks. It also give viewers a chance to download the document as a whole, so they can view it off line or print it out.

With this method in place, most of the work ahead is not technical, but a matter of compiling and editing the content to go into the documents. Perhaps in the future I will generate visually flashier pages that would go into the html, doc, or jpeg files that would be compiled in these PDF documents. (Indeed, PDF compilations would serve in place of a powerpoint presentation, having the virtue of being a more dynamically hyperlinked file.) My first priority, however, has been to use this method for compilations of text.


a. I refined this method working on the Handbook for the CCT Program (see for the table of contents page). Now I update individual pages when appropriate (so the on-line version is always the most up to date version of the handbook) and generate a new PDF version of the handbook in 5-10 minutes whenever new copies need to be printed and copied.

b. Now I am working on the Fieldbook, and have a prototype,, into which I will merge (incomplete version) and

This compilation may be of particular interest to fellows of the Instructional Technology Center. It contains "Guidelines about specific situations and specific ways in which specific technologies are of significant pedagogical benefit."

c. I have also created a PDF version of my on-line Practitioner's Portfolio, submitted for tenure review and (imperfectly) updated since then,, and a PDF version of the self-study for the CCT Program, prepared for the 7-year AQUAD review.