Geekoid Tip for “Information Providers” — How to be (more) user friendly. . . . .

For the past month I’ve been taking a free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course — this course is “Data Driven Journalism” and it’s highly recommended — very likely to be offered again in both English and Spanish), presented by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin.

I’ve learned a lot, but this tip might be especially significant for those of us who do reports that we want to format nicely on the one hand (so we publish them in PDF format), but where we ALSO want to give users the maximum access to and flexibility for potential users to extract, update, or correct the source documents in the future. For example, over the past five or six years, Island Resources has produced three island “Environmental Profiles” for islands in the British Virgin Islands. These reports include massive species lists of every plant or critter (well, every plant or critter in major defined groups). It takes a great deal of Judith Towle’s time and meticulous effort to get these tables to print neatly as PDFs. At the same time for dedicated birders or herpetologists it would be useful to be able to use these species lists as checklists for their own field activities or to cut and paste them into other works, but to do that efficiently they need access to the source .DOC/.DOCX or .XLS/.XLSX tables.

It turns out you can do that with Adobe Acrobat! There is a provision to attach source documents to a .PDF — and it’s simple to do . . . .

  • Generate your .PDF from any of the standard ways (SaveAs or PRINTing from Microsoft Office products is probably the most common way for most of us);
  • Open the new .PDF in Adobe Acrobat (note for US-based not-for-profit organizations — you can get a low-cost version of Acrobat from;
  • Click on the paperclip at the bottom of the left margin of the Adobe Acrobat window;
  • Either:

1) Click on ADD in the attachment window and browse to the appropriate source document; or

2) Drag the appropriate source document(s) to the attachments window.

ProPublica has produced a short video showing how at <>

and for more advanced ideas about how to use this (but NO HELP about how to actually do the four steps above), the Adobe web site has an interesting short blog by their chief scientist, Jim King at <>



PS — apologies to all who knew this all along . . . .

About Bruce

Work for sustainable development of small islands and the Chesapeake Bay; ex-Peace Corps (Volunteer and staff) in LA & Caribbean; cruised Caribbean on S/Y Meander for three years; like small tropical islands, French canals, Umbria, Tasmania, and NZ. Married 52 years to the late Kincey Burdett Potter (see President of the now-sunsetting Island Resources Foundation.
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