Foolproof PDFs with Acrobat 4

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But creating a PDF that both displays and prints correctly is tricky. It's not uncommon to find headlines displayed in badly spaced Courier font, or richly textured pictures transformed into impressionistic, pixelated graphics.

To avoid these PDF goofs, you must carefully balance competing demands for compact files and high-quality graphics. For this, you need Acrobat Distiller, a component of Adobe's $249 Acrobat 4. Though some programs let you export a document directly to PDF without using Distiller, using the approach we outline here should ensure clean, compact PDFs that are easy to distribute and to read.

JOSEPH SCHORR is a coauthor of Macworld Mac Secrets, sixth edition (Hungry Minds, 2001).

1: Convert to PostScript
Before you create a PDF, you must convert your original document into PostScript, the computer language used to describe high-resolution text and images for printing. Acrobat can't read Microsoft Word, QuarkXPress, or any other native document format -- only PostScript.

First open the Chooser from the Apple menu and select a PostScript printer, such as LaserWriter 8, as your target device. Since Mac OS ships with the LaserWriter 8 driver, you should have it no matter which type of printer you use.

Select Save As File from the main pop-up menu (B). Make sure that the Format menu is set to PostScript Job, and select Binary as the Data Format option. Choose All from the Font Inclusion pop-up menu (C); this ensures that all the required fonts will be written directly into the PostScript file. Acrobat can't embed fonts in your PDF if you don't make them available.

When you've adjusted all the settings, click on Save, name the file, and click on OK.

2: Tune Distiller's Job Settings
When a PostScript version of your document is ready, it's time to launch Acrobat Distiller and convert the PostScript file into a PDF. Choosing the correct Job Option setting is critical to creating a good PDF.

From the Acrobat Distiller dialog box's Job Options pop-up menu (A), choose the setting that best matches your PDF's intended use. If you expect people to read your document only on screen, choose Screen Optimized. This will compress your PDF to the smallest possible file size. But keep in mind that many people print PDFs-even those on the Web-so it's often a good idea to go with Print Optimized instead.

Next, choose Job Options from the Settings menu. In the resulting window, select the General tab. Choose Acrobat 3.0 from the Compatibility pop-up menu (B). This ensures that everyone using version 3.0 and later can open your document.

Make sure that the Optimize PDF option is selected (C). This makes your PDF smaller and helps it load faster when viewed with Acrobat's Web-browser plug-in.

3: Take Control of Compression
All PDFs are compressed to some degree, but the Compression panel in the Job Options window allows you to apply additional compression to various types of images. Uncompressed images result in larger files; too much compression degrades image quality.

Bicubic downsampling automatically reduces the resolution of the images in your document; this can dramatically trim the total file size.

For PDFs that will appear only on screen, it's usually acceptable to downsample all color (A), gray-scale (B), and monochrome (C) images to 72 dpi. But if you expect users to magnify your documents when viewing them on screen (to zoom in on a map or a diagram, for example), that setting would make the magnified images horribly pixelated and nearly impossible to read. In such cases, downsample color and gray-scale images to 300 dpi instead-or you can turn downsampling off to leave the images at their original resolution.

Similarly, if you want users to have attractive images when they print out your documents, keep the settings at 300 dpi. Monochrome images look best at an even higher resolution, such as 600 or 1,200 dpi.

Leave the Compress Text And Line Art option (D) selected; it has no effect on quality.

Click on the Fonts tab at the top of the Job Options window.

4: Embed Your Fonts
One of the best attributes of PDFs is that they are self-contained: all the fonts and images are wrapped into a single file. But the fonts won't go along for the ride unless you embed them properly.

Select the Embed All Fonts (A) and Subset All Embedded Fonts (B) options, and set the percentage to 100 (C). This guarantees that Acrobat will display the PDF using only the fonts you've embedded in the file, even if a user's machine has fonts with the same name but slightly different metrics.

Enabling the Subset option also keeps the size of your PDF down, because it allows Distiller to embed only the specific font characters used in the document-not the entire character set for each font.

When you have finished setting your Job options, click on OK. You are now ready to turn your PostScript file into a PDF. You may use Distiller's Open command, in the File menu, to select your PostScript file, or you can simply drag the file into the main Distiller window.

Open the new PDF in Acrobat and click on the Bookmarks tab (A).

5: Add Navigation Tools
Building an effective PDF involves more than just getting the fonts and pictures right. The best PDFs are truly interactive documents, with controls that help readers zero in on exactly the information they need. Including bookmarks and page-view settings with your PDF will make it even more useful to readers.

Navigate to the page you want to bookmark. Using the Magnifier tool (B), zoom in on the exact portion of the page you want to display. Choose New Bookmark from the Bookmark pop-up window (C) (command-B), and type a name in the bookmark's name field (D).

You can repeat this technique to bookmark other pages, pictures, or paragraphs. Each bookmark creates a new link in the PDF's Navigation Pane.

To be sure readers will see your bookmarks, choose Document Properties from the File menu and select Open Options. In the resulting window, select the Bookmarks And Page option (E). Then set the Window and User Interface options to display what you want viewers to see when they open your PDF.

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