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Large PDF files from Office applications

Acrobat Settings
If you're getting suspiciously large PDF files from your Office documents, look at your Distiller or Acrobat conversion settings first:

If you're using the Acrobat toolbar installed in your Office application (these instructions are for Acrobat 5; other versions will be similar):

  • Choose Acrobat, Change Conversion Settings.
  • On the Office tab of the settings dialog box, remove checkmarks for any features you don't specifically need. Tags in particular can contribute to PDF size, but if accessibility is an issue, don't remove this checkmark.
  • On the Settings tab, select the Screen conversion setting. This automatically selects a whole set of more detailed settings that optimizes your PDF for on-screen use; generally, this will produce a smaller PDF than the other settings. You can later go back and fine-tune the specific settings to your needs and create your own saved set of settings. For more information on the other settings, see below.

If you're printing to Distiller (or Adobe PDF) directly rather than using the Adobe-supplied PDFMaker toolbar:

  • Click Start, Settings and locate the icon for the Distiller or Adobe PDF printer driver.
  • Right-click the icon and choose Printing Preferences
  • In the Printing Preferences dialog box, click the Adobe PDF Settings tab
  • In the Conversion Settings listbox, choose "Screen".
  • Click OK and try making PDF again.

If the PDF is still too large, go back to the same dialog box, then:

  • Click "Edit Conversion Settings" beneath the list box where you chose "Screen"
  • On the General tab of the Job Options dialog box, make sure there's no check next to "Embed Thumbnails"; you may wish to try a lower DPI setting if it's over 600
  • On the Compression tab, ensure that all of the settings are checkmarked; try JPG rather than ZIP compression for color and grayscale images; try a lower quality settting
  • On the Fonts tab, if exact fonts are not important to your document, choose settings that will result in NO font embedding
  • Click Save As and give your new Job Options settings a name. You'll be able to choose them quickly in the future from the Adobe PDF Settings tab of the Printing Preferences dialog box.
  • Click OK and try making PDF again

Your Document
Check to see whether the document uses the following features, all of which can contribute to large PDF sizes:

  • Images with transparency applied, either to the original image or in Office using the Transparency tool on the Picture toolbar
  • Semi-transparent fills
  • Textured fills - which may also make PDFs and/or printouts in which the texture "tiles" don't quite match up
  • Gradient transparency fills (these won't print correctly in any case, so you'll have to remove them)
  • Unicode fonts; these can be huge and should not be embedded in your PDF if you want small files. See the Acrobat settings above.

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