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Issue #39: April 17, 2008

Q:  A friend of mine is trying to update her resume, but it’s a .pdf and we cannot figure out how to get it out of pdf so she can make some changes.  How can we change it into a Word document, or something that she can edit?

– Melissa L.
Crestview, FL

A: Portable Document Format, or .pdf files are files created with Adobe Acrobat.  Most people don’t have Acrobat itself, they have Acrobat READER, which allows you to view .PDF files, but not edit them.  Whoever created the .pdf file for her should be able to either edit it, or provide her with a copy in another format.  If for some reason that’s not possible, there are a couple of ways for her to do it herself.  For one, there are free tools available that can read .pdf files and write them in other formats.  For some examples, do a Google search on “edit .PDF files”.  If she just can’t get at the file contents electronically, she could print it out and do an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) of it.  OCR is the process of a computer program analyzing the scanned image of a document and converting it back into text, which then gets imported into a word processor for editing.  Most scanners and all-in-one machines come with OCR software.  The results aren’t perfect, but it often beats typing large documents in from scratch.  Since this is a resume, she might want to just consider completely re-typing it anyway, since OCR’d documents tend to require lots of reformatting and careful spell checking.  OCR software looks for the basic shapes of letters, and is easily confused by similar shapes such as S and 5 (five), l and 1 (one) etc.

Q: Whenever I get on the Internet, messages pop up that say “This website wants to install “Adobe Active X control” or “Adobe flash player”.”  What is this stuff?  How do I know they are safe?  How do I uninstall them?  Why do I need them or don’t I?

– Mary G.
Mary Esther, FL

A: Great question, Mary!  Seems like Windows expects everyone to be a computer scientist, doesn’t it?  What you’re talking about is the Adobe Flash Player browser plug-in.  Flash is a common animation format used by many web authors to enhance your browsing experience.  The author creates what are called Flash Animations, which can be anything from mini-movies, to advertisements, to games.  For these to run in your browser, you must download and install the Flash player, which, yes, is perfectly safe, and can be removed via your system’s Control Panel.  Now, as for OTHER ActiveX controls or plug-ins, BE VERY CAREFUL what you install on your computer!  ActiveX is becoming a very common vehicle for propagating malware.  Your best bet is to only download from trusted sources (like Adobe Systems), or ask your friendly neighborhood computer geek before installing anything you’re not sure about.

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