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How to reduce PDF file size Mac or PC without extra software

Outlines how to reduce PDF file size Mac or Windows on PC with several strategies that work to give you smaller files without needing extra software.

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You have completed your multi-page Word document with lots of images, graphics and text effects and want to send it to friends, colleagues or family members in the form of a PDF. But a look at the file size will make you wonder: at over 20 MB, the PDF is much too large to be sent by e-mail! How good that PDF files can be compressed with just a few clicks without any major loss of quality. This guide shows you how to compress PDF file size and turn even the largest PDFs into manageable data packages.

how to reduce PDF file size

What does “PDF” actually mean?

The abbreviation “PDF” stands for ” Portable Document Format”. PDF is the most common file format used when it comes to exchanging documents such as office files, electronic manuals, invoices and forms. PDF documents are relatively small and can be opened in different operating systems. The content is always displayed in the same way, even on smartphones and tablets. 

Another advantage: unlike Word files, unintentional changes to a PDF document are largely excluded. You can protect your own PDF files with a password and, if you wish, prevent text passages from being copied or printed. The PDF file format is a good choice if you want to send reports, applications or invitations as attachments to an e-mail, offer documents on your homepage or archive scanned invoices, letters or health records on hard drive or DVD. 

How to tell the size of a PDF

If you’re using Adobe Acrobat, checking the size of your PDF is simple. Just click on File, then Properties. You’ll see lots of information about your document, including its size. Alternatively, you can navigate to the folder containing your document, right-click on it, and click Properties.

Larger files will take longer to upload, are cumbersome to share electronically (via email, for instance), and will use up your file storage more rapidly, so follow the methods below for how to reduce PDF file size.

How to reduce PDF file size – Mac

The Apple operating system Mac OS, which runs on iMacs and MacBooks, among others, has an integrated routine for compressing PDF files – you do not need any extra software for how reduce PDF file size Mac.

  1. Switch to the Mac OS file manager to the folder containing your PDF file (for example, the desk ).
  2. Right-click the file, select Open With and select the Preview (default) command from the context menu that appears .
  3. From the Preview menu choose File then choose the command Export (Don’t choose Export as PDF.)
  4. Change the name of the file so that your original PDF document is not overwritten – for example “Brochure.pdf” to “Brochure_compressed.pdf”.
  5. Click the Quartz Filter pop-up menu, then choose Reduce File Size.
  6. Complete the process by clicking on Save . The resulting file size depends on the nature of the source PDF document.

Shrink PDF file size on Windows PCs

Unfortunately, there is no built-in shrinking routine for PDF documents under Windows. However, you can also reduce the storage space required for large PDFs under Windows without additional software by packing them in a ZIP archive.

ZIP archives are called “ZIP-compressed folders” under Windows and appear in Explorer as yellow folder symbols with a zipper – hence the name “ZIP”, which is derived from the English “zipper”, which means “zipper”. All files in such a compressed folder are reduced by 10 to 90 percent, depending on their type and content. 

You can also store multiple files (not just PDFs) in a single ZIP-compressed folder.

  1. Open Windows Explorer file manager and look to large PDF file in the appropriate folder (for example, documents ).
  2. Click the right mouse button on the PDF file and choose from the menu to send , followed by ZIP compressed folder .
  3. Windows automatically suggests the file name of the PDF with the attachment “* .zip” as the name for the ZIP folder – the PDF “UPDATED.pdf” becomes the compressed folder “UPDATED.zip”. The original file remains untouched in this process.
  4. After you have confirmed the file name or changed it according to your requirements, the archive folder is located in the same directory as the PDF file. A double click opens the archive like a normal folder.
  5. In the example of the UPDATED file (see picture), the 7.4 MB original file was reduced to 5.9 MB, which corresponds to a size reduction of around 20 percent.
  6. Tip: The more images and graphics your PDF document contains, the greater the space savings that a ZIP archive can save.

Create PDF documents with small file size: 7 methods

Throughout the compression process, you can save if you already consider how to reduce PDF file size right at the start of creating your PDF files. You can save a lot of valuable storage space with the following measures:

1. Avoid scanning PDFs wherever possible

It’s a common misconception that, to create PDFs, or to combine multiple documents and exhibits into a single PDF, you need to print everything out and scan it together. Electronically converted files are generally much smaller in size than scans.

You only ever need to scan documents that exist in paper form only — all other documents can be electronically converted from the original file by saving them as PDFs. Furthermore, individual documents can be quickly combined as PDFs using software such as Adobe Acrobat, avoiding any need to print out documents to combine them.

2. Reduce the size as you save in Word

In Word, to convert a document to PDF, you use the Save As option. This option generally produces a fairly small file, depending on the number of images in your document. However, if you find that your Word-converted PDF is still too large, there is a further option in Word that will produce a significantly smaller file. Here’s how to use it:

Open the Word document you are going to convert to PDF. Click on the File button and then Save As. In the Save as type menu, select PDF and enter your preferred file name. Here’s the extra step: where it says Optimize for at the bottom of the dialog box, select Minimum size (publishing online).

3. Reduce size of digital photos

Image files from modern digital cameras are very large, often 12 to over 20 megapixels. If you transfer such files in their original size into your program, the file size of the resulting PDF skyrockets. Reduce to a sufficient value for the application or use the image files before inserting into your program tools for image compression, such as those in Microsoft Word by clicking on a photo under Picture Tools > compress images are available.

4. Change the resolution

The document resolution in the PDF software is usually specified with the value “DPI” for “Dots per Inch”. The following applies: the more DPI, the larger the PDF will be. For online publications, 75 to 100 DPI is sufficient, for high-quality screen display it should be around 150 DPI, while for pin-sharp printouts between 225 and 300 DPI are required.

5. Image compression

The image compression is independent of the resolution (DPI), and reduces the image data, and thus the file size of the resulting PDFs by sophisticated program routines . Depending on the application, you set this compression with a value for “Quality” or something similar. A low value stands for high compression with visibly lower image quality with interference. A high value results in large files with excellent image quality. Conversely, the compression factor can also be specified for some programs – here a low value leads to large files and high image quality, while a high value produces small PDF files with reduced image quality.

6. Save as “Reduced Size PDF”

If your file is still very large after you’ve created it electronically, rather than by scanning, there are still some steps you can take. The simplest is to re-save your file as a reduced-size PDF.

In the latest version of Adobe Acrobat, open the PDF you wish to re-save as a smaller file, choose FileSave as Other, and then Reduced Size PDF. You’ll be prompted to select the version compatibility you need and then you can click OK to save. We recommend setting your compatibility with at least Acrobat X, as that version is still widely used.

7. Use Adobe Acrobat’s PDF Optimizer

Sometimes you’ll want more control over which elements of your document are reduced in quality or removed. In these circumstances, you should choose the PDF optimizer tool.

Before you optimize a file, it’s a good idea to audit the file’s space usage — review which elements, such as fonts, images, and so on, are using the most data. The results of this may give you ideas about where best to reduce file size.

To begin optimization, open your PDF in Acrobat, click File, Save as Other, and then Optimized PDF. In the dialog box that appears, click on Audit space usage in the top right-hand corner. You’ll see a table of information a bit like this:

Conclusion: save storage space with small PDF files

You can find PDF documents almost everywhere. The files are usually created in such a way that the images and diagrams in the document are of high quality. This results in large files that take up a correspondingly large amount of storage space. Sometimes files that are as small as possible are simply more practical, for example for emails or when you want to save important documents on your smartphone to save space. In these situations it helps to reduce the size of the PDF files on your own computer.

Customized PDF reduction with software

There are numerous free software tools on the web that not only allow you to create and edit PDFs, but also compress them. A search engine query for “compress PDF” or “shrink PDF” brings up a lot of results for Windows and Mac OS.