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.org (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, Acrobatusers.com has loads of information on using the PDF Optimizer and Acrobat’s Batch Processing component here.