History Matters Archive


Using Adobe Reader

This tutorial describes the basic features of the Adobe Acrobat Reader. For more information, run the Adobe Reader in standalone mode (in Windows, select off the Start->Programs menu) and select Help.

PDF Files. Most pages on this web site are stored in two forms. The first form is GIF and JPEG images, surrounded by a "wrapper" page which gives you controls to change pages and return to the table of contents. The second form is Adobe Portable Document Format documents. The PDF pages are higher-resolution, contain searchable text, and can be flexibly viewed in the Adobe Reader viewer. This tool launches within the web browser window, and provides a rich toolbar of icons which let you control magnification, search for text, jump to bookmarked sections, save or print documents, and much more.

The Adobe Reader. Step one is to make sure you have the Adobe Reader, used to view PDF documents. Odds are it is already installed on your computer. The icon to the left takes you to the Adobe web site where you can download the latest version of the Reader for free. If you're not sure whether you have this viewer or not, click this link to test for the presence of the Adobe Reader. If you were taken to a test PDF document, congratulations. Now, read the rest of this section to learn more about using the Adobe Reader software.

This tutorial contain descriptions of the most important features of the Adobe Reader software, and presents tips especially useful when exploring the documents on this web site:

About Adobe Reader
Setting Zoom Level
Navigating Pages
Finding Text
Keyboard Shortcuts

About Adobe Reader

When you view a document, the Adobe Acrobat Reader launches within the browser. It adds an extra toolbar below the menu and toolbar of the browser itself.

The Adobe Reader may also be launched when selecting a PDF file to view from the search results tab.

In either case, the Adobe Reader displays above the document a variety of icons for navigating the pages of documents, changing viewing magnification, searching for text, printing pages, and otherwise making full use of these electronic records. The remaining sections of this tutorial cover the most important features of the software, and are well worth perusing before diving into the documents. The exact look of these icons varies among different versions of the Adobe software, so may not match exactly (these images were taken from Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.05).

Setting Zoom Level

Adobe Reader offers some options for adjusting the zoom level to suit your needs. Three “standard” magnifications are available as toolbar icons. Just click them anytime.

Actual Size - View page at actual size in inches (approximate).

Fit in Window - Fit entire current page in window.

Fit Width - View full width of page in window; scroll up and down (recommended).

Magnify - You may also use the magnifying glass icon to zoom in on a particular feature. Select the magnifier and then left-click on the page to zoom in. Right click to return to any desired magnification.

If you have trouble distinguishing the icons at first, simply hover the mouse over one and a tooltip will appear.

NOTE: Remember to maximize your browser window to full-screen to get the best possible view.

Navigating Pages

Navigating within a PDF document can be down with toolbar icons, the scroll bar, and common keystrokes such as Page Up and Page Down.

First Page, Previous Page, Next Page, Last Page - Use these icons to move forward and backward within the pages of a document.
Previous View, Next View - Use the left arrow (Previous View) to retrace your steps, and use the right arrow (Next View) to undo such retracing. These are similar to the browser's Back and Forward buttons.

You may also use common navigation tools such as the scroll bar and Page Up and Page Down keys.


Some of the larger documents feature bookmarks along the left-hand side of the window. Similar to a paper table of contents, these bookmark listings identify the major sections of the document. Unlike a paper table of contents, the entries may be clicked on to instantly navigate to that section of the document.

The Bookmark icon is used to toggle on and off the bookmark area on the left side of the Adobe Reader window. This is usually not necessary, as documents which feature bookmarks will launch with the bookmark area open. The icon is only necessary if you desire to turn the bookmarks off (to get more viewing room, for instance).

Some bookmark lists are multi-level. If a plus sign appears beside a bookmark, click it to expand it and see nested bookmarks. The plus sign turns to a minus sign; click that to un-expand the list.

Finding Text

It's easy to search for a word or phrase within the current PDF document. Just click the Find toolbar icon.

Then, type in the word or phrase you're looking for, set options as needed, and click Find.

The Find options are as follows:

Match Whole Word Only - If checked, only match whole words will be matched. For instance, after will not match afterword.

Match Case - If checked, upper- and lowercase letters must match exactly. For instance, march will not match March.

Find Backwards - If checked, search backwards in the document instead of forward.

You can find the next occurrence of the word or phrase by selecting the Find icon again and clicking Find, or simply by clicking the Find Again icon (next to the Find icon).

To conduct text searches across the entire Public Library collection, use the search page.


To print part or all of a PDF document, use the Print icon. For best results, use the one in the Adobe Reader toolbar, not the Web browser's Print button.

The standard print dialog will be displayed. This dialog allows you to print all pages, the current page, or a range of pages. The PDF documents on this web site are stored in a photocopy-like format, which can make pages fairly slow to print. Unless a document is short, or you really need a copy of the entire document, consider printing only a range of pages (using that option in the print dialog). You may also print from the individual scanned page images by selecting the "printable page" link and then using the browser's Print menu option.

NOTE: You can print this page using the browser's Print button.

Keyboard Shortcuts

There are keystroke commands for many common Reader functions. Common navigation keystrokes are listed below. PC meta-keys are listed here; substitute Command for Ctrl on the Macintosh.

Navigation shortcuts:

Page Up - move view back by a screen
Page Down - advance view by a screen
Ctrl+Page Up - move view back by a page
Ctrl+Page Down - advance view by a page
Ctrl+Shift+Page Up - move view to first page in document
Ctrl+Shift+Page Down - advance view to last page in doc