6 Approaches to Time Stamping PDF Files Using Adobe Acrobat 9*

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
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How do I add a time and/or date stamp to my scanned documents?

ScanSnap and Adobe Acrobat 9 users ask this often and I’m always compelled to answer “it depends,” as there are a number of methods for time or date stamping PDF files in Acrobat 9. Options are good, right?  Here are a few ways to do it; you decide which one meets your needs!

1. Use the Typewriter Tool
I recently showed this to a group of college students: they asked me what a typewriter was. How times have changed (I am not that old!) The Typewriter Tool is one of those tools in Acrobat that is very straightforward and users just love. It does what it says on the tin: it is a virtual typewriter that lets you click and add one or more lines of text, such as the time and date, to a PDF file as a text stamp. To access it, go to the Tools menu in Acrobat 9. It also has its own toolbar, where you can set some basic properties for the text. With this method you can add any text to the page. If you click away from the text and then use the hand or select tool, you will notice that you can move the text area around.

6 Approaches to Time Stamping PDF Files Using Adobe Acrobat 9*_typewriter

2. Add New Text to the PDF File
Acrobat 9 includes the ability to edit existing text in a PDF file using the Touchup Text Tool (as long as the font used is installed on your computer too). What you may not realize is that you can also use this tool to add a new block of text to the PDF page, again, using a font that is installed on your system.

To add text, select the “Touchup Text Tool” from the Tools > Advanced Editing menu. Then hold down the Ctrl key and click on the page where you would like to start to add the time and date. Choose a font and writing mode, and then click OK. If you need to edit the text formatting, select the new text, then right-click and choose “Properties.”

How is this different from the Typewriter Tool? The text you add using the Typewriter Tool is added as a comment, and is treated as such in Acrobat (look in the “Comments Navigation Panel” and you will see it there). The Touchup Text Tool method physically adds text to the PDF itself, making it less likely to be changed.

3. Create a Custom Dynamic Stamp
We have already talked about adding a time and date stamp using a comment (that was the Typewriter Tool, in case you jumped ahead). But that approach requires you to manually add the time and/or date. If you want to have Acrobat do that for you, you can use a Custom Dynamic Stamp. Acrobat includes some built-in ones for you to try and test. Open the “Comment & Markup Toolbar” (Comments > Show Comment & Markup Toolbar) if it isn’t visible already, and then click the small arrow next to the Stamp Tool. From the pop-up menu that appears, hover over Dynamic and then you will see a selection of stamps that have your name and the current time and date added to it.

6 Approaches to Time Stamping PDF Files Using Adobe Acrobat 9*_custom stamp

You could use one of these if you wish, or create your own stamp that shows only the current time and date, for example. Doing so requires that you are comfortable with adding form fields, and entering commands using JavaScript. But you do not have to be a scripting guru to use this. There are a number of great tutorials that explain how to create these. Some of the instructions were written for earlier versions of Acrobat. But do not worry; they still apply to version 9.

http://www.acrobatusers.com/tutorials/2007/02/custom_dynamic_stamp
http://www.acrobatusers.com/tutorials/2007/02/dynamic_stamp_secrets
http://www.adobe.com/devnet/livecycle/articles/lc_custom_stamp_tip.pdf
http://images.questex.com/Cadalyst/Insider/2007/0807_AECinsider_final.html

4. Add a Header or Footer
If you just need to add the current date (not the time, though) to one or more PDF files, the Document > Add Header/Footer command is a great way to do so (and yes, you can run this command on multiple files). The dialog box that appears for this is quite self-explanatory, and is well documented in the Acrobat 9 Online Help. Just remember to set the date format before adding the date to the header or footer areas of the page(s).

Another benefit of adding a date stamp this way is that you can update and delete the header and footer information later; Acrobat 9 keeps it all editable.

6 Approaches to Time Stamping PDF Files Using Adobe Acrobat 9*_header footer

5. Digitally Sign the PDF Document
One of the most effective ways to time or date stamp PDF files is to add a digital signature to the file.  Not only will this add a time and date stamp to the PDF file for when it was signed, but you can reap all the other benefits of digital signatures, such as authentication.

Acrobat 9 can also use the time and date from a trusted time stamp server when the document is digitally signed. It also makes the document very hard to modify, and the time and date even harder to falsify. If you want to find out more, read this introductory article on digital signatures with Adobe Acrobat 9 that I recently wrote for the ScanSnap Community.

6. Try an Acrobat Stamping Plug-In
Acrobat has an extensive community of developers and integrators who have created plug-ins for the product that extend its functions. One of those plug-ins is called StampPDF Plug-In for Adobe Acrobat by Appligent Document Solutions. If you are willing to spend some additional money to add specific and powerful capabilities to your digital toolbox, including automated time and date stamping, this is worth trying out. Appligent Document Solutions also provide a free 30-day trial version that you can download from their site. An online search will also get you to other Acrobat plug-ins that may be of interest to you.

I hope these suggestions for time or date stamping PDF files in Acrobat 9 will help you bring those old paper workflows into the digital world, and keep them there. If you have any follow-up questions, please submit them here.

Ali Hanyaloglu
Product Evangelist for Acrobat
Adobe Systems Incorporated

*Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard is included with the ScanSnap S1500 scanner

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