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Mark Up PDFs--Even While Your Coworkers Do--With Bluebeam Revu

Clare Brandt 2012-05-30

Full Review

Although Bluebeam Revu ($179) is a PDF markup and collaboration tool aimed at architects, designers, and engineers, its detailed collaboration functions make it a great program for any teams that need to comment on the same file--even at the same time.

Bluebeam Revu's engineering roots really show in its markup tools. Unlike other PDF markup applications, such as Adobe Acrobat Professional ($449) or the comparable Tracker PDF-XChange 5 Pro ($74), Bluebeam Revu imposes no limits on what you can scribble over your document. You can place text, shapes, clouds, or flags; highlight areas or text; delete areas; insert measurements; and mark up typos. On top of that, you can add your own customized markings to Bluebeam Revu Standard's Tool Chest, or download stamps that cover everything you could ever need to mark up your PDF, including appliances, ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) symbols, doors, electrical notations, estimation, flags, flowcharts, HVAC symbols, and landscaping elements.

However, since Bluebeam Revu has so many tools, a learning curve is involved. Some of the tools are a little clunky, and some work better than others. Getting rid of a mistake is also a bit tricky, unless you undo the error immediately. Depending on your team members, your group may need a lot of time to get up to speed with Bluebeam Revu's features and quirks.

One of the best features of Bluebeam Revu--and certainly a feature that makes Bluebeam worthy of its $179 price tag--is the option to send PDFs into the cloud and allow multiple users to access them from there. Up to 100 Bluebeam Revu users can access files up to 100MB and add their own edits up to 25MB. Bluebeam will also store up to 5GB of data free on its servers for your team to access and mark up at any time.

Another handy function is Bluebeam Stapler, a wizard tool that can collect multiple PDFs into one file and batch-convert PDFs into .bmp, .emf, .gif, .ico, .jpg, .pcl, .png, .ps, .psd, .tif, and .wmf files. Bluebeam Stapler can convert .dwg files into .dwf files as well.

The first item in Bluebeam Revu's feature list indicates that the program converts CAD files (.dwg and the like) into PDFs. Because of Autodesk's strict control over .dwg files, Bluebeam Revu cannot perform this function directly; with Bluebeam Revu installed, though, the Bluebeam PDF printer will show up as a plot option within your CAD applications. If you don't have any CAD programs running, you'll need Autodesk DWG TrueView (free) to open .dwg files and convert them to PDF. Since DWG TrueView also includes basic markup, measuring, and some tracking capabilities, you may want to try that freebie first to see if you even need to buy Bluebeam Revu.

Even if you don't have the native applications necessary for Bluebeam's plug-ins to work (AutoCAD, Microsoft Office, Navisworks Manage, Navisworks Simulate, Revit, and SolidWorks), the Bluebeam PDF printer works with all Windows and CAD applications installed on your PC, much as PDF-XChange 5 Pro does. And, like PDF-XChange 5 Pro, Bluebeam creates PDFs flawlessly, without hiccups and bugs, regardless of the application you are printing from.

If you're seeking collaboration software that won't break the bank--or your team's spirit--try Bluebeam Revu. You may need some additional training to get up to speed on all the features, and the group leader may have to rein in some overly creative colleagues who enjoy scribbling digitally, but Bluebeam Revu will help you get the job done more easily and more efficiently.

Note: The Download button takes you to the vendor's site, where you must register with an email address and other information to download the trial version of the software.

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