Please create PDFs the right way

PDF files are wonderful things. I can recall back in the 1990s when I first encountered Adobe’s Acrobat software. As a longtime Mac user in a Windows world, I was more than familiar with the problems associated with converting files from Mac to Windows. Formatting goofs were more than enough reason to tear your hair out.

But along came Adobe and the Portable Document Format. Wow, a document that would look the same on a Windows system as it does on a Mac.

Today we don’t even give PDFs a second thought. They are accepted as a means of sending files via email or filing documents with a court. Despite the fact we have adopted PDFs throughout the legal system, there are still some folks who don’t understand how to use them in the best way. Specifically, they do not know the best way to create the PDFs. So, although this issue is covered by other web sites (I’m certain!), I want to go over it here.

If you’re creating a document on your computer, the worst way to create a PDF is to print it, take the printed copy, put it in your scanner, scan it to PDF, and email it. This is a bad method for two reasons that come to mind. First, it’s a waste of your time. Second, it creates a PDF file that is unnecessarily big. The reason for the file size problem is that when you scan a document, you are creating a graphical image of that document. It’s like a photograph or photocopy. It takes up more space on your hard drive, it might get rejected as being too large for your email, and if for some reason you need to print it (or a part of it), printing will take forever.

If you’re creating the document on your computer, the thing to do is to use the computer to “print to PDF.” In other words, assuming you have the Adobe Acrobat or other PDF-generating software installed, you can print the document but choose the PDF generator (sometimes called a distiller) as the “printer.” I’d love to give you more instructions here, but there are different ways to do it based on your software setup. On a Mac, it’s easy since PDF creation is built into the Mac OS.

When you “print to PDF,” you create a smaller, faster file. You also create happier users.

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