How to Reduce a PDF File Size

Often, PDFs are the best file format for sending documents that you don't want a recipient to edit. There's just something more professional about PDFs than the average Word file. You can encrypt a PDF with password protection, make the file read-only, and enable other settings so that important content is preserved. However, they also tend to take up more hard drive space. Learning how to reduce a PDF file size can help to eliminate some bloat and ensure that your file is shareable via email. Even with color graphics and elaborate fonts, you can still optimize a large PDF for web use. Below, we've outlined five different approaches for shrinking a PDF. 

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Using Acrobat's "Reduced Size" Feature

  1. If your have the full version of Adobe Acrobat, learning how to reduce a PDF file size is easy. First, start Acrobat and then open the desired PDF file

  2. Next, select "Save As" from the File menu, and then "Reduced Size PDF". This will ensure that your original PDF is left intact, while also creating a smaller version.

  3. You should see a new dialog box, allowing you to specify which versions of Acrobat you want the new file to be compatible with. Newer versions can create smaller files, but they won't be backwards compatible. 

  4. From here, you can either choose "OK" or "Apply to Multiple". The latter allows you to apply the same reduction settings to additional PDF files.

Using Preview (Mac)

  1. To the uninitiated, Preview is just a basic program for viewing images and PDFs. However, you can also use it to resize files with ease. First, right click the desired PDF and choose Preview from the "Open With" option. We recommend creating a copy of your PDF before making any changes, just in case. 

  2. Next, click "Export" from the File menu. A new dialog box will appear with a section called "Quartz Filter". Click the dropdown arrow, choose "Reduce File Size", and then hit "Save". Before sending out your compressed PDF, we recommend looking at the result to make sure that it didn't drop too much in quality.  

Using a PDF Converter 

  1. There are a number of conversion programs available online, and many are free to download. PrimoPDF is one of the most popular options, with the ability to create new PDFs and shrink down existing files. Once you've installed a converter, open your desired PDF.

  2. Next, select "Print" from the File menu and choose PrimoPDF (or whatever converter you're using) as the printing device. From here, you can edit the file size by clicking "Properties". The smallest option is "Screen Quality", which is just large enough for viewing on a computer screen. 

  3. Make sure you select a lower quality sizing option than the original PDF, or your file will end up larger than before. If you're happy with the new version, click "Print" and then choose where you'd like to save the smaller file. 

Using File Compression

  1. You can keep your PDF intact by compressing it into a ZIP file. Windows and OS X both have built-in compression features, which are typically used to bundle multiple files together in a more compact fashion. However, you can also use the same feature with just one file. 

  2. On Windows, first you'll need to create a folder and paste your PDF inside. Then, give your folder a name that matches the PDF. Right click on your folder and select "Send to "Compressed (zipped) folder", which is found within the "Send to" section. This will create a new ZIP file in the same location as your folder.   

  3. Meanwhile, Mac users can right-click on any PDF and select "Compress [file]" to create a new ZIP version. 

Using Online Services
When in doubt, use the Internet. There are a few websites dedicated to PDF compression, including PDFCompress! and SmallPDF. They allow you to quickly upload a PDF to their server and receive a much smaller file in return, at no cost. Every conversion service has benefits and drawbacks — for example, SmallPDF has no file size limit, and you can use it as many times as you like. On the other hand, PDFCompress! has more advanced compression settings, but a 5 MB cap for files.
First, upload a PDF to your preferred website. This should take less than a minute, unless the file is exceptionally large. When the conversion is complete, the service will prompt you with a Download button, allowing you to access the slimmer file. Keep in mind, if the new PDF is marginally smaller than the original, it may have already been optimized.

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