Adobe Acrobat Pro DC: Highlight tool changes from freehand to text select.

New Here ,
Mar 23, 2017 Mar 23, 2017

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I need to backcheck some pdf drawings and to do so, i highlight my original markup if its been picked up. While doing this, ive noticed there are two forms of the highlight tool. Both come from the same tool button the "highlight tool". One form is a circular cursor that does freehand highlighting. The other is a vertical bar like a capitol letter "I" that only highlights text. I cant determine why, but the version of the tool that i get to use varies between pdf's. Is there a way to set the freehand tool as default?

Thank you for the help!

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Comment review and collaborate PDF, Windows

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correct answers 1 Correct Answer

New Here , May 12, 2018 May 12, 2018
You probably have worked this out by now, it took me a while to figure it out as well. If it is a scanned pdf then you need to do/run a text recognition/image recognition on the page (or you can also choose the entire document).  Once you do that it recognizes the individual sentences and then the text cursor appears.  I use the Comment tool, select with the text cursor then click on the highlighter symbol to highlight the selected text.

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Most Valuable Participant ,
Mar 23, 2017 Mar 23, 2017

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When you hover with the mouse above text it will automatically switch to the text selection mode. If you want it to always be in "free form" mode hold down Ctrl while using it.

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New Here ,
Mar 23, 2017 Mar 23, 2017

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This is a scanned document, so there is no text. Also i tried holding control when highlighting and it did not make it the freehand highlight tool.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jun 06, 2017 Jun 06, 2017

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Are you on Mac or PC? I tried using that trick, but I can't get it to stay in freeform mode. I am on a mac.

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New Here ,
Jun 07, 2017 Jun 07, 2017

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I am on PC running windows 10.

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New Here ,
Mar 23, 2017 Mar 23, 2017

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Also, I am sure someone will provide this workaround. I am aware that i can change the drawing freehand tool to mimic a highlighter. I would just prefer to have the freehand highlighter instead of a workaround.

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Most Valuable Participant ,
Mar 23, 2017 Mar 23, 2017

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If there's no text in the file then the text selection option will never appear... Maybe someone ran Text Recognition on it at some point?

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New Here ,
Mar 23, 2017 Mar 23, 2017

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I think my issue just might be an outdated software. Is this correct?

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Most Valuable Participant ,
Mar 23, 2017 Mar 23, 2017

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Could be... It's usually a good idea to have the latest version installed.

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New Here ,
Mar 23, 2017 Mar 23, 2017

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Tell that to our IT... Well ill see if i can get them to push an update out. Thanks again for the help.

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New Here ,
Apr 25, 2017 Apr 25, 2017

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I have Adobe pro dc. I received a pdf file of 200+ pages. I want to highlight some entries. All I can find is the freehand O shaped icon that makes it look like a 5 year old or a drunk highlighted it. So how to I mark text and then color it?

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Apr 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017

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Use Tools > Enhance Scans

Then you can select text and highlight it.

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New Here ,
Jun 01, 2017 Jun 01, 2017

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Nope that don't work either. No it seems to be only on this document I downloaded. It is OCR, I have edited and saved as a different file. I optimized it stil only the O and the selection tool the cross

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New Here ,
Mar 19, 2018 Mar 19, 2018

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Right click on the highlighter pen.  Click on Show Properties.  Click on keep tool selected.

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New Here ,
Mar 26, 2018 Mar 26, 2018

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Nope it still creates an Oval rather than just highlighting the area/text you select. Any other ideas?

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Adobe Employee ,
Apr 06, 2018 Apr 06, 2018

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Hello Stephanieh,

Sorry for the delayed response and inconvenience caused. Would you mind sharing a screenshot of the Oval shape highlighter? To share the screenshot, refer to https://forums.adobe.com/docs/DOC-7043#jive_content_id_How_do_I_attach_a_screenshot

Have you tried with another PDF file or is it specific to this PDF file?

Also, check for any pending updates of Acrobat from help>check for updates, reboot the machine after installing the updates and see if this brings any difference.

Also, what is the dot version of Acrobat installed on your computer? To identify refer to Identify the product and its version for Acrobat and Reader DC

Let us know how it goes and share your findings.


Regards,Anand Sri.

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New Here ,
Aug 08, 2019 Aug 08, 2019

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Anand Sri - I'm having the same text highlighting problem you addressed here. I want to keep the highlighter tool as a text highlighter NOT freeform. I didn't see you give a specific answer, though. Help?

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New Here ,
May 12, 2018 May 12, 2018

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You probably have worked this out by now, it took me a while to figure it out as well. If it is a scanned pdf then you need to do/run a text recognition/image recognition on the page (or you can also choose the entire document).  Once you do that it recognizes the individual sentences and then the text cursor appears.  I use the Comment tool, select with the text cursor then click on the highlighter symbol to highlight the selected text.

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New Here ,
Mar 18, 2020 Mar 18, 2020

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I know this post is quite old, but since I was still wondering the same and it looks like the marked answer doesn't quite address the question, here is what I found:

Instead of using Highlight tool, use the Pen tool, adjust color and opacity and it would work as a highlight and it is definitely free form and has nothing to do with if the PDF has recoginized text, images or etc.

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New Here ,
Sep 22, 2020 Sep 22, 2020

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Same issue. This cannot possibly be an upgrade.  It's a definite downgrade.  In recent documents, I was able to nicely highlight in a straight, block pattern and now it has changed to a circle highlighter that is anything but uniform... it's a disaster.  Also, underlining, which worked along with the old highlighter, no longer functions.  

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New Here ,
Oct 13, 2020 Oct 13, 2020

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I'm a long-time Acrobat Pro DC user and have the same problem highlighting text as described by Marcus5C7F

on 9/22/2020.  For me, this is a major disappointment!

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Community Beginner ,
Feb 11, 2021 Feb 11, 2021

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I finally gave up and decided to do a workaround. 

Click the "draw a rectangle" icon. 

Right click to change the Properties.

Choose your highlight color.

Click the dropdown for borders and choose "no line" (unless you want a border around your highlighted area)

Click the dropdown (looks like a checkered flag) and change the opacity to 40%. 

You can also select "Keep tool selected" if you want to highlight several areas within the document. 

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New Here ,
Mar 22, 2021 Mar 22, 2021

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thank you for posting your solution! 

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New Here ,
May 03, 2021 May 03, 2021

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This is not at all the correct answer. He/She orginally asked how to make it freehand, INSTEAD of only on text. No one cares about making it highlight only text. This post reply has helped no one. Answer this: How do I make the highlighter freehand?

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