On this page: Verify reading orderAdding and removing expansions | Applying expansions | Sharing settings

"U S A" is used in a sentence; a speech-bubble pointing to the "U S A" text reads "you-sa?"Abbreviations and acronyms are commonplace. For users who require screen-reading technology, however, acronyms and abbreviations can be very confusing. A screen reader encountering “USA,” for example, might pronounce it “you-sa”.

While current Section 508 regulations do not require any special treatment for acronyms it’s an industry best-practice to provide expansion text to ensure meaning is accurately conveyed.

In the Logical Structure Editor mode CommonLook PDF provides an efficient means of applying so-called “expansion text” to each instance of an abbreviation or acronym on a given page to ensure it’s read correctly by assistive technology.

Verify Reading Order First

It’s critical to verify correct reading order before using this feature. If text runs are in seperate tags, a parent tag is created (if it doesn’t exist already) and the replacement is placed in the Alt. If the tag contains other text, the alt would contain the other text as well.

Adding expansion text items

First, you’ll need to have CommonLook PDF open in either Logical Structure Editor or Verify and Remediate modes.

  1. Select the Page > Abbreviations and Acronyms menu item to display the Abbreviations and Acronyms dialog:
    Abbreviations and Acronyms dialog showing USA with expansion text "U S A", NASA with expansion text "na sa" and WH with expansion text: "White House".
  2. In the Abbreviation/Acronym field, enter an abbreviation or acronym as a single word without punctuation.
  3. Hit the tab key. CommonLook PDF adds spaces between each character and places the result in the Expansion field (for example, if “USA” is entered, “U S A” is generated for use by screen readers. Change the value if desired (e.g. to “United States”) if that’s how you prefer the acronym to be read.
  4. Once you are satisfied with the text that will replace the abbreviation or acronym, click Add. The abbreviation and its associated expansion text appears as a new item.
  5. When you are done adding expansion text, click Save.


This short video demonstrates the Expansion Text feature of CommonLook PDF to address abbreviations and acronyms:

Removing expansion text items

  1. Select the Page > Abbreviations and Acronyms menu item to display the Abbreviations and Acronyms dialog.
  2. Select an item from the list and click Remove. The matching expansion text entries are removed.
  3. To accept changes to your expansion text settings without applying them to the current page, click Save.
  4. To cancel your changes, click Cancel.

Applying expansion text settings to the current page

  1. Select the Page > Abbreviations and Acronyms menu item to display the Abbreviations and Acronyms dialog.
  2. To replace abbreviations and acronyms in the current page using expansion text, click the Replace button.
  3. To cancel and return to the Logical Structure Editor, click the Cancel button.

NOTE: Abbreviations cannot be applied across the entire document in a single operation, but must be applied page by page.

Displaying replacement results

CommonLook PDF lists in the “Fixed List” tab at the bottom of the Logical Structure Editor all elements that triggered a replacement based on these settings. The elements are highlighted at the lowest level (text runs or tags).

Saving settings

In many organizations a specific set of abbreviations or acronyms are in common use. To ensure these terms are replaced consistently, CommonLook PDF makes it easy for users to share abbreviation and acronyms settings.

CommonLook PDF stores the current set of abbreviations and acronyms in a configuration file using the XML format. To update this file with the tool’s current settings, click Save.

The xml file is stored in <CommonLook Configuration Directory>AbbrAcro.xml (it may be easiest to simply search for “AbbrAcro”).

NOTE: To edit the list directly users must have write access to this directory and file.

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