CommonLook PDF User GuideWelcome to CommonLook PDF Accessibility

CommonLook PDF is a software application and plugin to Adobe Acrobat Professional and Standard which simplifies the remediation of PDF files so that they’re accessible to people with disabilities. As more and more individuals and organizations strive to be more socially responsible and to comply with various accessibility standards and disability laws and regulations, CommonLook PDF serves as an essential tool in that pursuit. This is true primarily for two reasons:

  1. CommonLook PDF greatly reduces the time and effort required to turn an inaccessible PDF file into one that can be used by persons with disabilities such as blindness, low vision, and limited mobility.
  2. CommonLook PDF measures the compliance of PDF files against the checkpoints set forth by a number of authoritative accessibility standards such as Section 508, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), WCAG 2.1, PDF/UA (ISO 14289), and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). By validating against the primary globally recognized standards established for document and PDF content accessibility, CommonLook PDF provides you with the means of ensuring your content can be produced in a manner that is likely to be acceptable to the regulatory jurisdiction governing your content.

Follow this link for a complete list of the features available in CommonLook PDF.

Remediator’s Tip:  Using CommonLook PDF to fix your PDFs will not change the physical appearance of the document!

Before We Begin…

This documentation and the accompanying Quick Start Guide describes and introduces users to the interface and some of the functionality available in CommonLook PDF.  It is not intended as a complete user’s manual nor is it designed to be used as, or in place of, formal training.  PDF remediation in and of itself, along with knowledge of the various accessibility standards and of CommonLook PDF, is far too long, complex, and technical to be covered in this User’s Guide.  For more in-depth and comprehensive instruction, please contact your account executive to discuss training options.

A “Quick Start” for Learning CommonLook PDF

To help get you started using CommonLook PDF we recommend the Quick Start Guide.  Download the sample PDF and follow the Instructions to develop a foundation upon which you can continue to build.  While the sample PDF may seem relatively simple, you’ll gain experience with heading levels, lists, tables, figures, artifacts, reading order including text in multiple columns, and more – all of which are often experienced in larger “real world” files.  The Quick Start Guide uses a step by step approach to identifying and locating the various issues in the sample file and how to fix them.

Getting Started – How to Open CommonLook PDF

  1. Open a tagged PDF document in Adobe Acrobat (Standard, Professional, or DC).
  2. In the Acrobat toolbar, choose Plug-Ins, then CommonLook, and select CommonLook PDF.

The Plug-ins menu in Adobe Acrobat expanded to show the option for CommonLook and CommonLook PDF.

If the PDF isn’t tagged, an error message, like the one pictured below, will appear, stating that the document is untagged and asking you to add tags in Acrobat before opening CommonLook.

The error message from CommonLook stating that the document is untagged and asking you to add tags in Acrobat before using CommonLook.

Using the Concurrent Licensing Model – If CommonLook Won’t Open and the Document Has Tags

When opening CommonLook PDF, the software will “ping” the server to see if there are any available “seats” for the licensing key.  If there are “seats” available, CommonLook will open.  If there aren’t any “seats” available then an error message, like the one below, will be displayed, telling you CommonLook is unable to connect to the server and requesting that you try again later.

An Important Note About Protected Mode in Acrobat:

Due to a somewhat recent update and new setting in Adobe Acrobat, there is now a potential issue with running CommonLook PDF.

The Protected Mode feature in Acrobat is still in “Preview” mode (i.e., it is not an officially released feature) and still has some issues which we have been working with Adobe to identify and resolve. In response to these issues, Protected Mode is no longer enabled by default in Acrobat. We expect that Adobe will resolve these issues prior to the official release of Protected Mode.

To address this, please turn Protected Mode off by following these steps:

  1. In Acrobat, navigate to Edit (in the toolbar)
  2. Choose Preferences
  3. In the left side of the Preferences dialog box, select Security (Enhanced)
  4. In the Sandbox Protections, uncheck “Enable Protected Mode at startup”
  5. In “Protected View,” choose the “Off” radio button.  (Please note the screenshot below if needed.)

If you cannot access Adobe without it crashing please uninstall Both CommonLook PDF and the CommonLook PDF Validator and then use the instructions above to disable the protected mode.

The Preferences dialog box in Acrobat. Security (Enhanced) is highlighted as are the Sandbox Protection options.

Toolbars, Tabs, and Ribbons

When opening CommonLook PDF, you’ll find the Quick Access Toolbar, Tabs, and the Ribbon (with tagging tools organized in Groups on the Ribbon).  Page 2 of this manual will explain the purpose and/or function of each button in the Quick Access Toolbar, Tabs, and Ribbon.  Follow this link for Page 2 – The Toolbar and Ribbon.

The toolbar and tabs in CommonLook PDF

The Workspace

Below the Ribbon, in the center of the screen, the Physical View of the document is displayed.  The Physical View is what a person would be holding onto if the document was printed out.  In addition, a variety of Panels are available to assist in remediating the document.  These panels, explained in more detail on subsequent pages (as well as in the Quick Start Guide), can be opened, closed, hidden, and/or moved as needed.

The CommonLook PDF user interface.