Everything You Ever Knew About PDF Is Wrong
Adobe Systems' Dov Isaacs advocates creation of 'super hero' PDFs
20 November 2001
By Carl Young, DigiPub Solutions Corp.
One question invariably comes up during my Adobe Acrobat training classes:
"How do I create a PDF file that does everything?"
What the questioner wants is a file as skinny as Ally McBeal, for fast
download times; as strong as Arnold Schwarzenegger, for reliable
output by the third shift at a copy shop; and as dazzling on-screen
as The Matrix.
Don't hold your breath, I've said. Produce two files: One for print
with little compression applied to the graphics, and another with
highly compressed graphics for Web downloads. Don't try to produce
one file that does it all, I've advised. I've seen other PDF
authorities give the same answer at Power Panel discussions at PDF
2001 Conference West.
During one of the keynotes at the November 2001 PDF Conference, Dov
Isaacs, a principal scientist at Adobe and frequent contributor to
many PDF-related newsgroups, demonstrated a "super hero" PDF files
that does it all-and has me questioning my "make two files" advice.
Do you think "super hero" is too strong a word to describe this file?
OK, then you create a PDF like this:
... and is 1.14 MB in size.
- 84 slides from PowerPoint
- Color graphics on every page
- 30 font faces subset embedded
- 17 line art drawings
- 30 screen shots
- 28 bitmaps (in addition to the screen shots)
- Four languages
- Looks great on-screen
- Prints like a champ
Yes, that's right, 1.14 MB, as in small
enough to fit on a single floppy disk.
Now do you think "super hero" fits? I surely do.
So how did Dov accomplish this amazing feat? He explains in his
presentation, "Reliable PDF Creation in the Enterprise." [PDF: 1.1 MB] Dov says that
regular mortals can create these "super hero" PDFs by paying
attention to a number of details.
Here are a few highlights:
Garbage In, Garbage Out (Page 17)
- Keep Text as Text, and Don't Convert Text to Outlines
- Use vector
images (line art) over raster images (bitmaps, such as photographs or
screen shots). Use PostScript Type 1 or TrueType fonts, but avoid
hacked fonts of any kind. Because vector art is composed of lines and
polygons, it compresses very easily. Remember that raster images will
lose data, and therefore quality, any time they are scaled,
downsampled, interpolated or rotated to any angle except 90 degree
increments. Avoid gradient fills in PowerPoint like the plague.
- Learn to Use Your Paint and Draw Programs Properly
- Scan at
an appropriate resolution, not to the maximum level of your scanner.
Downsample before you save the image the first time, not later. Don't
interpolate to a higher resolution. Try saving as EPS to preserve
color. Transform images at the end of your workflow to avoid data
loss and image degradation.
- Export PDFs Directly from Some Applications
- The latest versions of
Adobe InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator produce excellent PDFs
directly. Avoid what appears to be the direct method (save as) from
FrameMaker 5.5 and 6. Test direct output from non-Adobe applications
before making those part of your regular production process.
- Always Use Distiller Instead of PDF Writer
- Distiller uses PostScript
to create PDFs, but PDFWriter uses the Windows printing system, and
generally produces inferior results.
- Try Customizing Your PDF Creation Setup
- On pages 44 to 71 Dov has
suggestions for setting up drivers and Distiller settings for various
operating systems. Pay close attention to the "Isaacs" and "Isaacs
150" Distiller settings listed on the charts on pages 68 to 71.
- Try Some Third-party Products for Post-PDF Creation Refinement
74 to 79)
- Many users think third-party products are just for
prepress or other high-end printing functions, but Dov suggests
several are very useful in enterprise environments. He recommends
Quite a Box of Tricks, Quite Imposing and Quite Imposing Plus,
EnFocus PitStop, CrackerJack from Lantana and others for image
resizing, correcting color, imposition and other tasks.
Ready to give it a try? Just follow Dov's
recommendations: Replace those photos with line art, tweak your
driver and Distiller settings and create our own "super hero" PDFs.
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About Carl Young and the PDF Conference
Carl Young is the founder and producer of PDF Conference. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next PDF Conference is scheduled for June 3 - 5, 2001 in Washington, D.C.