Get rid of that bloat (in your PDF)

I don’t know about you but if you’re like me we could all use a little shaping up. All the good food and drink at Super Bowl parties and Mardi Gras makes me feel a bit bloated and I could definitely shed a few pounds. Unfortunately it won’t be that easy. The treadmill awaits! So lets quickly change the subject.

Lets talk about BDS or Bloated Document Syndrome and PDF. We’ve all experienced this. A PDF approaching 10s of megabytes only to open up to reveal a couple of pages of text and graphics. Why? you may ask. Isn’t PDF supposed to be efficient? Well in theory yes, and there are many reasons why this can occur. Fortunately, Acrobat has a much easier way to shed those excess bits and bytes

Lets start with the the most probable cause – third party or “free” PDF creators. The PDF specification is available to any developer as it is now owned by the ISO organization (ISO 32000-1 as of July 2008). As a result anyone can create software for creating and managing PDF files. Its not that easy to develop good software and one of the most obvious signs of this is when a PDF is created that is suffering from BDS.

But what do you do if you have received a PDF or have created one that seems extremely large. In developing course materials, submitting papers, or sharing documents, the last thing you want to do is clog up e-mail and bandwidth with oversized files. No matter how you share and distribute documents, the PDF Optimizer in Acrobat 9 Pro is well worth a look.

Get Rid of the Carbs

When you encounter a PDF that seems to big for its own good, its time for the PDF optimizer. Working with a group of New York City DOE trainers around the holidays, Ellen Phillips and her fellow trainers described it as " better than weight watchers". Lets see why.

To get started:

Open a PDF and you will find the PDF Optimizer under the Advanced menu

On the left side of the dialog box are the different parameters you can modify. Each set of parameters contains many individual attributes that you can work with.

Leave everything as it is for now and click Audit Space Usage

The optimizer will reveal the anatomy of the PDF components that make up your PDF file. Typically the bloat is made up of images that need may need to be downsampled to reduce file size. You will be surprised at how many PDF documents contain images that are of a higher resolution than necessary. The default settings are a good place to start and will be fine for most normal printing purposes. Be sure to save each version under a different name in case you got the wrong result.

Another good place to investigate is the Document Overhead. Some files converted to PDF leave a tremendous amount of document overhead that may not be necessary for your intended purpose. Try checking the Discard Private Data box to see the effect.

When you have applied your changes, run the Audit again or go to File > Properties to check the file size of your document. You can continue to experiment with the other options until you have the just the right size to fit your need. Once  you have a useful setting, be sure to click Save so you can call it up from the Settings pull-down menu when you need it again.

PDF on a Diet

Well losing weight in the digital world is pretty painless. One of the great mantras at Adobe when creating any type of file is "create once and re-purpose often". With the PDF Optimizer in Acrobat 9 you can easily re-purpose your documents when appropriate. When it comes to Puff documents, you can have many slimmed down versions of your PDF; one for high quality printing, one for the Web, one with or without links and bookmarks… the options are endless.

Your colleagues and students will appreciate the new "slimming" experience

If you are looking for a great resource, has loads of information on using the PDF Optimizer and Acrobat’s Batch Processing component here.

9 Responses to Get rid of that bloat (in your PDF)

  1. Nik W says:

    Good article. It helped me resolve an issue with file size from a PDF created in inDesign.

    I was able to establish that when you export from inDesign it retains a bunch of crap. By ticking ‘Discard document info and metadata’ I was able to dramatically reduce the size of my file.

    Definitely recommend using the ‘Audit space usage’ button as a starting point.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Wow! Checking the Discard Private Data box turned my 15.79MB file into a 1.15MB file. Amazing and thanks!

  3. Scott S says:

    All I can say is “wish I’d found out this tip sooner!”.

    Decided to research this after being frustrated for the 400th time over too big PDFs. Have struggled with PDFs from others that were always unusually large, probably as a result of those third party or “free” PDF creators you mentioned.

    I’ve got a feeling MS Word also may have played a part somewhere along the line as some of the 16MB+ documents with 10 or so pages and few images just should not have been as large as they were.

    “Audit Space Usage” indicated an errant graphic which should have been small was actually larger than it needed to be, and was surprised at 78% was from Document Overhead!!

    Ended up discarding “Private Data” and a few of the other options I didn’t need and got the PDF down to a more reasonable file size.

    Thanks for the brilliant bit of info … it’s now on a sticky note permanently stuck near my workstation.

  4. Bugbear says:

    Now if only Adobe would apply the same principle to their application. I mean Adobe Pro 9 is >1GB…for a frikking text file editor.

    Why so much bloat?

    • says:

      Acrobat is much more than a Text Editor. It is a PDF assembly and enhancement tool. Ths allows for the creation of Dynamic PDF, not just Static PDF “print documents”. In addition, both Adobe Reader and Acrobat Pro give you the ability to initiate and/or participate in collaborative workflows. This requires more application file size. Try downloading the latest Reader for Acrobat X. It is much faster and secure.

  5. Rcms123 says:

    ‘Discard Private Data’! Brilliant! 10MB to 976KB. You’ve saved my life.

  6. Karen says:

    I’ve tried the PDF Optimizer with several settings and just can’t get my file down in size. In fact, the last try made it even larger. I’m working with a 13.5mb file (construction plans 24×36) and trying to get it small enough to e-mail with a 10mb size limit. Very frustrating. I’ve also tried printing to a PDF, but I get an error message when I do that saying the file cannot be created.

    • says:

      Try saving your PDF as a PS file and then use the Acrobat Distiller application to re-create the PDF. In Distiller choose the “Smallest File Size” setting.

  7. Grateful Joe says:

    THANK YOU SIR! Clearing “Private data from other applications” greatly reduced Illustrator pdf. Think 800 MB to 8 MB.