Optimizing Your PDFs for Web: A Definitive Guide

Optimizing Your PDFs for Web: A Definitive Guide

Are your website PDF files pushing 10MB? 100MB? Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to lower those numbers? We’re here to tell you there definitely is, and it will help improve your website speed along with user experience. Pair that with a brand-spankin’ new website designed for the modern age, and you’re all set!

How to reduce file size online

There are several options online that might help you reduce your PDF file sizes. Most of them are free with certain caveats; some of them offer a more technical approach, but that generally comes with a fee (either one time or subscription). Here are a few online tools that can help you reduce your PDF file sizes (and other image types, too):

  • Smallpdf: one of our favorites! Smallpdf is very easy to use with a drag-and-drop interface; just drop your file in the box and compression starts automatically. There is a limit to how many files you can compress with a free account. That limit is lifted when purchasing a Pro account, along with a few other bonuses such as faster compression. A Pro account on Smallpdf costs $12USD per month.
  • ILovePDF: this is another good one, it says so in their name! Their free service allows for unlimited files to compress, so that’s a good thing; we’ve noticed their quality using a free account isn’t quite equal quality to that of Smallpdf above. ILovePDF also offers Pro services, with two Pro tiers instead of just one. Their “Web” tier costs $6USD per month and their “Desktop+Web” tier costs $9USD per month. Another cool thing about ILovePDF is their mobile app if you find yourself needing to compress PDF files on the go!
  • PDF Compressor: this compression tool is pretty cut-and-dry and unlike the others, doesn’t offer any premium/Pro tiers – it’s completely free. Of course, with it being free they have to cut back on certain things, for example: “All data submitted/uploaded is deleted after 1 hour.” This service does not change the file’s DPI (dots per inch), and therefore a reduction in file size cannot be necessarily guaranteed.

Cost:
Ease of use:
Time:
Effectiveness:
   
    
    
 

 

How to reduce file size using premium services

There are a lot of articles out there that might tell you how to create smaller PDF files, but a lot of the time they can be very complicated and NOT user-friendly. We are about to present to you a quick and easy solution that works 99% of the time – this is the method we’ve been using for years and it frequently gives us even better results than Adobe’s own “Optimize PDF” tool. Are you ready? Let’s jump in!

Required software

For these methods, you’ll need access to Adobe Acrobat Pro. There are many different versions of this software as it’s been around for quite some time. We’ve been using Acrobat XI (we’ll be upgrading our Acrobat software soon, as is usually recommended with most software), but this method can definitely be used with newer versions such as Acrobat DC (Creative Cloud); it’s purely personal preference! Please note, this is a premium software and you will either need to purchase a license or purchase a subscription.

Method One (with images)

This method is so simple, it’s kind of surprising that you don’t see it talked about often. Follow the steps below (screenshots provided) and you’ll be on your way to ≤1MB PDF file sizes, with no noticeable loss in quality.

1. Open your PDF file in Acrobat.

You can click File > Open or use the handy Ctrl+O (Windows) / ⌘+O (Mac) keyboard shortcuts to open up the file.

Open file in Adobe Acrobat

2. Save the PDF as a PostScript (.ps) file.

What is a “PostScript” file? Simply put, it’s a graphic file that uses its own programming language. Pretty spiffy, right? This is most likely the reason the file type isn’t as widely used as other graphic file types such as JPG, PNG, or (of course) PDF. From fileinfo.com:

A PS file is an image saved in the PostScript page description language. It may contain vector graphics, raster graphics, and text. PS files can be printed directly by a PostScript printer (i.e., containing a Raster Image Processor) without being opened in an application.

Okay! Now that that’s up in the air, back to Acrobat: click File > Save As, and change the File Type dropdown menu to PostScript (*.ps).

3. Convert the PostScript version back to PDF.

Near the top, click the Create button, and then select PDF from File. Find the PostScript version you just saved, open that one, and make sure it all looks good (no noticeable loss in quality). Once you’ve given it the once-over, save it one last time as a PDF – we suggest adding something like “_web” or “_opt” at the end of the filename to denote it is an optimized version.

4. You’re done!

When we said this was going to be a really easy method, we meant it! Enjoy the drastically reduced file size, in turn speeding up your website load times. Here is a comparison between an unoptimized PDF and one we optimized using this method:

What a difference!!!

Cost:
Ease of use:
Time:
Effectiveness:
 
  
   
    

 

Method Two (with images)

This is the more well-known method that most people will use – Optimize PDF (aka Save for Web). This method is arguably more simple that Method One, but it doesn’t typically give quite the same results.

1. Open your PDF file in Acrobat.

You can click File > Open or use the handy Ctrl+O (Windows) / ⌘+O (Mac) keyboard shortcuts to open up the file.

Open file in Adobe Acrobat

2. Click File, then Save As Other.

You technically have two options here; you can either select Optimized PDF or Reduced Size PDF. Using the Optimize method will allow for much more control of different file aspects such as downsampling, font embeds, and compression among others. Using the Reduced Size option typically cuts the file size in half; if you have a large file, that might not be enough.

3. Click OK and choose a relevant file name.

As above, simply save the PDF using your desired file name – something with “_web” or “_opt” at the end is ideal and lets you know it’s the version you’ll want to use on your website.


Cost:
Ease of use:
Time:
Effectiveness:
 
   
    
   

 

Using WordPress plugins

Since we exclusively build our websites on WordPress, we’ve also gotten into the habit of installing image compression plugins. We mostly stick with one, but the benefit of using a plugin is there are so many to choose from that offer different capabilities. Some are all-in-one and some focus on unique strengths you might not find in others, or may come with a price. Just below we’ve listed some of our favorites, some we’ve tried and enjoyed, and some that are highly recommended in the WordPress community.

  • Imagify: we’ll start with our favorite! We love Imagify simply because it’s small, and it does its job well. This plugin starts free, but if you find yourself needing more bandwidth, they offer extremely affordable monthly plans. One of our more favorite features? Auto-optimization on upload – that’s right, as soon as you upload an image file in WordPress, Imagify automatically optimizes it according to your default settings. Another feature we love and can’t live without? PDF optimization. Not many optimization plugins offer this, so for us and our clients that upload a lot of PDFs, it’s a no-brainer. Okay… can we tell you about just ONE more awesome feature? Say you optimized your image too much (it happens) and it looks weird; just restore your media files to their original version if you need to, simple!
  • Smush: undoubtedly the most popular compression plugin, which is definitely deserved! Smush is an all-in-one plugin that offers a multitude of services, such as Lazy Load – defer offscreen images with the flip of a switch; Image Resizing – set a max width and height and large images will scale down as they are being compressed; Incorrect Image Size Detection – quickly locate images that are slowing down your site; No Monthly Limits – optimize all of your images up to 5MB in size free forever (no daily, monthly, or annual caps).
  • ShortPixel: this last one has a heavy focus on PDF compression, although it also offers image optimization. A nice feature with ShortPixel is that it allows you to test the compression before actually going through with it, though it also gives you the option to restore images you’ve compressed. Our favorite feature about them, however, is that they offer free optimization credits for non-profits along with referral bonuses if you refer new users to their plugin!

Cost:
Ease of use:
Time:
Effectiveness:
  
   
    
  

 

Why does the file size matter?

Large file sizes can affect user experience as they take a long time to load and put unnecessary stress on the server. Additionally, on a computer screen, most people will not get any benefit from the full size version, so it’s really just wasting space on the server and slowing load times. If you’re currently experiencing slow website load times, it could be something as simple as reducing your file sizes. It could also be your hosting provider – a good host is VERY important for website speed. IntoClicks offers Managed WordPress Hosting on our blazing-fast VPS servers powered by Google Cloud!

Contact us today if you have any questions about your website. We can help – we’re IntoClicks.

Never miss an update!

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Are You Ready to Make Your Business Better?