Top 5 tweaks you must do to your PDF documents before publishing them

Between the time it takes to create a PDF file and publish it, you may end up earning yourself a bad name. One that lives on forever—in the form of a lame PDF document! While a bit more goes into creating a lean and mean PDF files, by following this blog post you can save yourselves some embarrassing content authoring, document production, and SEO mistakes.

Create a PDF document using PDFMaker

Many applications are supported by PDFMaker. Use the plugin to create a PDF document from a source file. As opposed to say, printing the source document to the PDF print driver or taking a screenshot and creating a PDF from clipboard.

Using PDFMaker ensures that the metadata, the quality settings, and the privacy settings, as set by the document author, are respected and incorporated into the output. Some functionality is only available via this route, like creation of PDF bookmarks.

Acrobat ribbon in MS Word

Acrobat ribbon in MS Word

Set the various options in document properties dialog

Once you PDF document is created, press Ctrl+D (alternatively, click File > Properties) to access the Document Properties dialog.

In the Description tab, mention the Title, Author, Subject, and Keywords. Many of these values are best set as the metadata in the source file. This helps ensure the PDF document contains these options every time a new PDF is generated.

Using the settings in the Initial View tab, you may want to display the document title, instead of the PDF file name, in the title bar of the PDF. You may want to also display the bookmarks or other available options when the PDF opens. From the Initial View tab, you can control the magnification, first page to open, placement on the screen, etc. when the PDF is opened. You can also hide one or more of the menu bar, the tool bar, and the windows controls.

Initial view in Acrobat Document Properties

Initial view in Acrobat Document Properties

Less common options you can set are add more meta information in the Custom tab and set printing mode (DuplexMode field) to ‘Duplex Flip Long Edge’ to save paper when your document is printed.

In the Fonts tab, ensure the uncommon fonts used in the document are embedded. Avoid print and display errors during PDF consumption in different environments. than the one it was created in. Do check the end user license agreement of the font for any possible restrictions on embedding them in a PDF.

Detailed official help is here.

Get your bookmarks in order

First, get bookmarks. Use the optimum styles in your source document and use the settings in the Acrobat plugin to generate PDF bookmarks.

Do not stop at this, else you may end up shipping a PDF document with bookmarks out of order. Decide whether you want only the Level 1 bookmarks to be expanded or even Level 2 (or Level 3) bookmarks expanded. The software supported by PDFMaker, contain some settings to create bookmarks.

Create PDF bookmarks in Adobe FrameMaker

Create PDF bookmarks in Adobe FrameMaker

Create PDF bookmarks in MS Word

Create PDF bookmarks in MS Word

Check my previous blog post, to collapse the PDF bookmarks and retain that state in the PDF.

Accessibility

Accessibility options in Acrobat

Accessibility options in Acrobat tools pane

Accessibility Checker in Acrobat

Accessibility Checker report in Acrobat

Run the accessibility check on your PDF and check for, at least, the obvious things that you can fix. For example, mention the alt text of the images, create a tagged PDF, OCR the scanned content, and so on.
You can quickly do an accessibility audit of your PDF document using the Full Check option from the above screenshot. Accessibility Checker runs a customizable check for up to 32 parameters.

Optimize the PDF for the required use case

You may want to optimize your PDF depending on the use case and target audience. Some common optimizations are to reduce the file size to conserve bandwidth, to flatten the form fields, to remove common fonts to reduce file size, to add uncommon fonts for a smooth experience, enable Fast Web View for byte-serving of large documents, and so on.

Acrobat option to save as an Optimized PDF

Acrobat option to save as an Optimized PDF

Learn all about optimizing PDF files here and in the video below.

Checking specific content across multiple guides in a documentation suite

If you have multiple documents in a doc suite and wish to check one or more content strings across them, read on to find out how you can do it using Adobe Acrobat.

Possible scenarios when you may need to do this are locating mentions of:

  • Product terminology for editorial or legal review.
  • Companies’ trademarks and third-party terms to check if proper symbols are applied or not. Or to apply them in the first place.
  • Product name/version in all docs, to update branding/versioning.
  • A feature or a keyword to do bug fixes across documents.
  • Keywords and related words for SEO purposes.
Use cases for searching content across docs napkin

Use cases for searching content across docs

Following are the various methods I use to achieve the search, indexing, and exporting search results for further action.

Method1

The simplest possible method is to dump all the files in a parent folder and run full text search from Windows explorer on the parent folder. Things to remember:

  • Entire content of plain text content like TXT, XML, and HTML files can be searched directly.
  • To enable indexing of various other file formats, install the corresponding iFilters. Get the download links from this Wikipedia entry.
  • On Windows 7, full text search is the default behavior. For Windows XP, to install Windows search 4.0, see this article. Some tips for advanced search are here.

Method2

If for some reason you cannot install/use indexing services on the OS, use a specific tool for searching. Like UltraFileSearch or WinGrep.

Method3

You need Adobe Acrobat and PDF documents to achieve this. This is my personal favorite as it gives a better user experience, is quite intuitive for anyone to follow, and fits well in the wider work flow. More details and video demonstration are in this post.

Method4

This is a subset of Method3 above. With free Adobe Reader you can run advanced search a folder full of PDF files. However, as the free Reader does not index PDF files, the search is slower.

See what works for you and let me know. Share you methods below.

Expand or collapse PDF bookmarks and retain that state

So you like PDF bookmarks?

And you like to expand and collapse them to your liking?

And you’d also like the PDF file to save and retain this state of bookmarks?!

Hmm… you sound pretty finicky about your settings, just like I am 😀

Every time you open a PDF file, the bookmarks as displayed as set by the author/generating-application. The changes you make, while reading it, do not show up the next time! This is what I do to make the PDF file retain my changes to the bookmarks.

  1. In Acrobat Professional expand and collapse the bookmarks as you want. This is a change in the PDF, but not yet recorded thus by Acrobat. Hence Acrobat will not prompt you to save it.
  2. Click File > Save As, and save the PDF as a PDF again. The changes to bookmarks are saved!
  3. (Optional) Thank the community, for sharing such great tips with us all.

Tip: Keyboard shortcut to quickly collapse all your bookmarks to top-level bookmarks: Select any bookmark and press Shift + / on number pad. Use the forward slash on the number pad.

Update: Embedding my video on the same topic in the post.