4 Ways To Reduce The Size Of A PDF File

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intro   4 Ways To Reduce The Size Of A PDF FileLately, I’ve been trying to scan my class notes and handouts, and transfer some e-textbooks so I can view them on my Kindle to save myself carrying too much in my backpack. This is something that Calibre could help convert easily to ebook reader-friendly formats, but the resulting PDF files are often huge, have several pages and thus, take sometime to load and smoothly display things. This is especially true for my Logic textbook, which is about 180MB.

So in my desperate search for ways to optimize PDF files, I’ve found that there aren’t many free options. Although there are a lot of shareware programs, there are also, thankfully, a few free programs can help you reduce a PDF file size.

Irfanview & GhostScript [Windows & Possibly Linux]

If you don’t have Irfanview, you should really consider downloading it. It’s a much better and lightning fast alternative to the default image viewer in Windows, supports countless plugins that allow it to be extremely versatile, and converts images to different file types. You can use it to add borders and watermarks to your photos, and batch process many images at a time. You can also view PDF files, provided you download GhostScript first.

Once you have Ghostscript installed, you can use Irfanview (portable version will work as well) to view PDF files and save them as new files. You’ll get a box on the right of the Save As dialog to choose compression levels.

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You can choose to save with lossless, best, high, medium, and ‘dump’ quality. In my tests, Irfanview reduced a 14MB PDF file to 8MB using the high-quality setting in Compression, while the lossless and best quality settings produced files bigger than the original size.

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PrimoPDF [Windows]

PrimoPDF is a desktop application that allows you to create PDF files from image files and documents.

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It installs itself as a virtual printer, which makes optimizing PDF files a matter of opening the files and printing them with PrimoPDF, though you can also drag and drop documents to the PrimoPDF desktop shortcut. From there, you’ll get a dialog box, where you can choose the document quality.

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For the smallest file size, choose the Screen setting. Pressing Create PDF starts the conversion.

Free PDF Compressor (version 1.12) [Windows]

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This program is now shareware but the link provided leads to the last freeware version. It is pretty much just an executable that does a decent job at reducing PDF file sizes. In my tests, this program managed to reduce a 50MB PDF file to 45MB, with the maximum compression level, at an impressive speed (almost instant conversion).

Neevia’s PDFCompress [Web-Based]

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PDFCompress is a simple web app that takes any PDF files smaller than 5MB and compresses them according to the presets you chose (low, medium, high and maximum). Maximum compression means the quality will be approximately a 10 in a scale of 100. In my test with a 3MB file and maximum compression, the optimized file was about 9% smaller, with no visible quality loss.

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I should also mention PDF ReDirect which is another Windows-only PDF printer that lets you optimize and rotate PDF files, which we previously reviewed here.

What free software do you use to reduce PDF file size? Let us know in the comments!

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18 Comments - Write a Comment



The Mac OS X Preview is somewhat capable to reduce PDF File Size too.

One point missing in the Article is that results vary depending on the PDF contents. Pictures for example can be compressed but will lose quality, same applies to rasterized text.

If your PDFs consist of none-rasterized text results vary depending on how the Fonts are embedded. In general what compression does to those is to remove all Font characters not used in the entire PDF.

When scanning documents to PDF what happens is that the entire scan get’s embedded as a single picture (huge file size, not searchable, lossy compression).
So you should always try to apply OCR to scanned texts. For one you might be able to make your PDF searchable and depending on the quality you might be able to convert the entire scan into a digital document (e.g. copy the entire text to Word and create a new plain text PDF = lower file size).

Jessica Cam W.

That’s a good point. I’ve had mixed results with OCR software though. Which OCR app do you use?


I use the one that comes free with MS Office (XP and 2007)- Document Image Viewer – tell it to recognise the text, then “print” it using one of the various virtual PDF printers (like PrimoPDF that you mention).
I’ve had good results with SimpleOCR in the past.



great helpful points you have shared for reducing the size of pdf file



Print to PDF in the regular print options. I get good results reducing PDF file sizes using the regular Adobe PDF printer option and/or PDFCreator. Just open the PDF, select “print” and choose to print to PDF. Badabing.

Jessica Cam W.

I used to have PDFCreator, but as far as I remember, it would just print a file to PDF without offering any file size options like PrimoPDF does. PDFCreator does work a bit faster for me than PrimoPDF though.


Before you rename and save the PDF you can access OPTIONS and in Formats chose PDF and there will be a tab dedicated to compression.

Jessica Cam W.

Nice! Thank you so much! I’ll try that next time.


Jon Ruth

Instead of compressing PDF files after the fact, try compressing the image used to create the PDF.

I have had great results by scanning images to PNG format using the highest compression level and then converting the PNG files to PDF files. The resulting PDF file is typically smaller than the PNG file. Adding OCR will, of course, increase the PDF size. DPI will also affect image size. For pure text or hand writng, 300 DPI is plenty. If images are important, I find 600 DPI is sufficient.

I use Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Standard to create large documents, mostly for it’s OCR capabilities. I use PDFcreator as a PDF printer, mostly for online receipts.

Jessica Cam W.

I used to always scan documents to PDF file, but choosing PNG and high compression levels first makes sense. Good idea!


Jessica Cam W.

Oops, I forgot to include credit for the introductory image: Alessandro Rei.



I my experience converting pdfs to the djvu format is better than compressing them.



I use Bullzip PDF printer & Ghostscript latest versions
and ran a test on a 643 pages, 21375 Ko PDF file.
When you set the Bullzip printer to the ebook option,
you end up with a 19745 Ko file.
When you set the Bullzip printer to the screen option,
you end up with a 14062 Ko file
… seems interesting …

Jessica Cam W.

The Screen option in PrimoPDF works similar to Bullzip’s then, since it also
gives the smallest file size.



I use FILEminimizer PDF, it brings my PDFs down, sometimes by over 60% – it is fantastic!



I use FILEminimizer PDF, it brings my PDFs down, sometimes by over 60% – it is fantastic!



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