New and improved Adobe Reader
Anyone who needs to conduct legal research these days, no matter what his or her level of computer skills, needs to master the basic skills for the use of PDFs. “Portable Document Format” or PDF is a digital file format that has captured all the elements of a printed document as an electronic image that you can view, navigate, print, or forward to someone else. The technology has been around for years. It is currently found on most information websites including court and government websites. These sites use PDFs as a means to allow the storage, retrieval, and delivery of their information.
The California legislature allows for downloading of bills as PDFs. The federal government requires that you use the technology to obtain copies of Internal Revenue Service tax forms. The California Judicial Council website provides access to its forms as PDFs. The California courts’ website even has a page under their Self-Help section on how to complete on PDF “fillable” forms on-line on the website for printing and filing with the court.
The Alameda County Law Library is a public library. Everyone is welcome. Many of our patrons are not tech savvy. Some are down-right intimidated by the thought of using a computer. They may be coming to the library because they are involved in a legal matter for the first time. In addition to needing help with legal terminology such as “Judicial Council” or “pro per,” they need guidance on how to complete PDF forms, the use of which may be mandated by court rules. California county law libraries were established 125 years ago to insure access to the law. Nowadays that means insuring access to tech know-how and equipment.
The PDF software was developed by a company – Adobe. One of the company’s products is Reader. Reader can be downloaded for free to view, navigate, and deliver PDF documents. To create PDFs you need to subscribe, for a fee, to other Adobe Acrobat products. Reminds me of the old Bay Area saying for new California drivers – “The freeways are free, but the bridges ain’t.” (And not even all the lanes of the Bay Area freeways aren’t free anymore. But I digress…)
Over the past few months, Adobe has released major updates for Reader, changing the appearance and increasing the capabilities available for free with this software. The company has even changed the name for the product, now called Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. During the early stages of this product’s push out, some of us at ACLL found ourselves grumbling. The software did not always open correctly. It worked better with one browser than another. For a short time, it did not work on our public PCs. Then it did not work on anyone’s PCs. Documents would freeze when you tried to upload. Most critically – it did not work with the California courts’ forms website. The forms would not open. New updates to be uploaded arrived daily on devices. But it is free, how can you complain? Easily. Anyone using any legal information website these days has become dependent on Adobe Reader. California courts have required forms available only as PDFs. We knew it had to work eventually. After time, the bugs were fixed. Everything settled down and the advantages of Adobe’s Acrobat Reader DC became apparent.
Improved editing for California Judicial Council forms
The best part of these advances is that now anyone who uses the California Judicial Council forms can open a form on our public access computers, edit information, download and store the PDF to a flash drive and (drum roll, please) later re-open the file anywhere and continue to edit the document. Previously all the editing had to be done in one session on the courts’ website. Once a patron exited the courts’ website, all editing capabilities vanished if the user didn’t have personal access to Adobe Acrobat. He or she was stuck with a static document. This simple change has made a big difference to our patrons and their access to justice. Forms can be drafted, review by court Self-Help personnel, and then edited with the corrections.
Thanks, Adobe and California Judicial Council – or both.
The new Adobe Adobe Reader DC can be downloaded for free to your computer (watch out for the optional offers.)