How to Compress a PDF, Reduce the File Size, and Make It Smaller

Rob Nightingale 30-11-2019

PDF files can be excessively large. Fortunately, there are many easy-to-use programs that can chop an oversized PDF down to something easier to email and share online. Here are four options that cover how to compress a PDF file and make it smaller.


How to Make a PDF Smaller

  1. Third-party PDF tools
  2. Browser PDF tools
  3. Windows PDF tools
  4. Mac PDF tools

1. Third-Party PDF Tools

Adobe Acrobat PDF Optimizer (Cross-Platform)


If you have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer, there’s a tool within the application called “PDF Optimizer”. This is one of the best and easiest ways to shrink a PDF document.

To get to this, open your PDF in Acrobat, click Tools > Optimize PDF. A toolbar with a few options will appear just above the PDF.

If you click Reduce Size, Acrobat will apply default settings to your file to attempt to reduce its size.

If you click Advanced Optimization, you’ll have more options to ensure you maintain the quality you need. To help with this, in the Advanced Optimization window, click Audit Space Usage, and you’ll be able to see how much space each kind of element is taking up within the file.


PDF Compressor (Windows)

PDF Compressor (free version)

For ease of use and the ability to bulk compress a large number of PDFs at once, PDF Compressor is a great choice that we’ve covered before. Not only can this program compress thousands of PDFs at a time, but it can also shrink encrypted and protected PDFs, too.

What’s more, this compression is lossless, meaning quality is maintained, despite the file size being smaller.

4Dots Free PDF Compress (Windows)



This freeware application enables you to compress single or multiple PDFs in one fell swoop. You’re also able to compress entire folders of PDFs with just a few clicks of the mouse, even if the PDFs are password protected.

Once you’ve selected which files you want to compress (drag and drop is supported), select the location where you want the smaller files to be saved. Hit Compress and the tool will do all the work for you.

Free PDF Compressor (Windows)

Free PDF Compressor

This completely free piece of software is also extremely simple to use. Select the file you want to shrink, hit Compress, then save the smaller file.


In addition, you can choose from five levels of compression, depending on how you want to use the file:

  • Low resolution (72 dpi), ideal for screen-view only
  • Medium resolution (150 dpi), ideal for an ebook
  • High resolution (300 dpi), ideal for printing
  • Prepress (300 dpi), ideal for prepress, including color preserving
  • Default, ideal for a wide variety of uses

2. Browser PDF Tools



You don’t even need an account to use SmallPDF. Simply head over to the site, add the file, and click Compress PDF. You can then either drag your PDF onto the page, locate the file on your hard drive, or import the PDF from Google Drive or Dropbox. The file will then be compressed automatically. Just click the download button to save the new file to your hard drive.

You’re able to compress two files per hour for free. If you want more, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version.


The quality of the compressed file won’t be less than 144 dpi. This should make most PDFs small enough to upload or send via email without any problems. And if you’re worried about security, the file is deleted from SmallPDF’s servers after one hour.



If you want more control over the quality of your compressed PDF, try DocuPub’s NeeviaPDF (for files less than 10 MB in size).

To keep things simple, you can choose one of the presets, which range from low compression (for a higher image quality) to maximum compression (for a lower image quality). You’re also given the option to discard certain elements from within your PDF. This includes things like forms, annotations, and page labels, which can unnecessarily increase the size of the file.

How much of the original PDF you want to discard depends on how much space you really need to save.

3. Windows PDF Tools

Windows 10 finally includes an option to print-to-PDF. However, advanced features, like tweaking the quality and size of a document, are not part of this feature. Meanwhile, many PDF printers let you choose quality and compression settings, which can greatly influence the size of your PDF files.

Note that the tools highlighted below require GhostScript to view and handle PDFs.


FreePDF is a classic PDF printer The 6 Best Tools to Print to PDF PDF printer tools let you save any file you can print as a PDF. Here are some of the best PDF printer apps for Windows 10. Read More and we highlight it here because it allows you to create your own compression profiles. Once installed (remember that you need GhostScript), you’ll find it listed as part of your Windows printers.

To reduce the size of a PDF document with FreePDF, open it, press Ctrl + P to launch the print dialog, choose FreePDF as your printer, click OK, and wait for the FreePDF dialog to pop up. Here, you can choose from three preset PDF profiles, including eBook, High Quality, and Medium Quality.


To create a custom PDF profile, click Edit Configuration in the top right, choose Profiles, click New, and customize the options available in the Profile editor window. You can change the general quality of your PDF, adjust the default resolution for pictures inside a PDF, or add a watermark to your PDFs.


The default medium quality profile compressed a scanned PDF document of 10 MB to a 1.7 MB PDF file with an acceptable loss in quality.


IrfanView is a lightweight and feature-rich image viewer for Windows. It comes with a range of plugins 6 Cool IrfanView Plugins To Enhance This Simple Image Editor Read More that turn it into a versatile tool, for example to convert images to different file types, add watermarks to your photos, and batch process images How to Take a Screenshot & Batch Process Images with IrfanView Read More . It also has PDF printing qualities, though not in the classic sense.

Before you can view PDF files with IrfanView, you need to install GhostScript. Then, when you attempt to Save your oversized PDF as a new and smaller PDF file, you’ll see a PDF Settings window next to your Save PDF As… dialog. Under General, you might have to set the Preview of PDF during save operation to not needed, so you can select settings immediately. Then you can adjust compression settings as seen below.


In my test, I chose medium quality for all image types and could reduce the size of a 10 MB scanned PDF document to less than 1  MB. The result was visibly blurred, but perfectly legible.

4. Mac PDF Tools

PDF Filter


If you routinely update your Mac’s operating system, you should be able to shrink your PDF without installing any new apps. This is a cool feature in OS X that many people don’t know about.

First, open your PDF in preview. Usually you can just double click the file, but if you have a PDF readers such as Adobe Reader installed, you’ll want to right-click > Open With > Preview). Then click File >Export, and in the Quartz Filter drop-down box, select Reduce File Size.

This only works with large PDF files. Try doing this with a very small PDF (less than a few MB), and these could actually increase in size.

PDF Squeezer


Other than the simple process above, there really isn’t much choice for reputable, free PDF compression tools for Mac users. If you want to control the output quality, etc. of your compressed PDFs, your best bet is to download an app such as PDF Squeezer ($5.99).

This is a relatively low-cost app that enables you to choose from various predefined compression settings, or to choose your own. You can also batch process multiple files at once (including encrypted files).

How Do You Make a PDF Smaller?

This is only the start of what you can do with your PDFs. From reading the text within images and scanning files for malware, to converting PDFs to other formats and unlocking password protected PDFs, you can find the perfect PDF tool to help you.

Whether you’re dealing with interactive PDFs or large ebooks, PDFs can end up being surprisingly large. Each of the tools above should help with shrinking those files to a much more manageable size.

Need to edit your PDFs, but don’t want to install software? Try these online PDF editors and annotation tools 5 Free PDF Editor Websites to Create, Fill, Annotate or Alter PDF Files These web apps will help you get everything done with a PDF, without ever installing any software. Read More .

Related topics: Digital Document, File Compression, File Management, PDF, PDF Editor.

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  1. Enid J
    July 16, 2019 at 6:01 am

    Larger files will take longer to upload, are cumbersome to share electronically (via email, for instance), and will use up your law firm’s file storage more rapidly. Also, while the courts accept larger file sizes, they prefer to handle smaller, optimized files.
    1 Avoid scanning PDFs wherever possible
    2 Save as “Reduced Size PDF”
    3 Reduce the size as you save in Word
    4.use iMyMac PDF Compressor--for free

  2. Anand
    July 31, 2018 at 8:47 am

    downloaded the 4dots software on your recommendation. But, Windows Defender warned of a Trojan while installing, and so promptly deleted it. Please confirm if this is a known issue, and remove such softwares from your list.

  3. pras92
    February 25, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    Only was able to reduce the size with reasonable quality. I used medium compression preset, JPEG compression, Quality 45.

  4. Paul
    February 5, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    You should take a look at - It's like smallPDF except it'll let you reduce more than 2 files an hour and is able to shrink lots of other file types too!

  5. Ananjoti
    May 25, 2011 at 1:14 am

    PDF995 gives the most authentic PDF 'print outs'

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  7. Guest
    April 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I use FILEminimizer PDF, it brings my PDFs down, sometimes by over 60% - it is fantastic! [Broken Link Removed]

  8. Guest
    April 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm

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

  9. Pierre
    April 20, 2011 at 11:16 am

    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.
      April 21, 2011 at 3:53 am

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

  10. Mike
    April 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm

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

  11. Jessica Cam W.
    April 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Oops, I forgot to include credit for the introductory image: Alessandro Rei [broken link removed].

  12. Jon Ruth
    April 19, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    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.
      April 19, 2011 at 2:50 pm

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

  13. Donkeyrock
    April 19, 2011 at 10:32 am

    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.
      April 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      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.

      • MF
        April 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm

        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.
          April 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm

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

  14. Morean
    April 19, 2011 at 9:19 am

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

  15. Mike
    April 19, 2011 at 12:48 am

    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.
      April 19, 2011 at 1:14 am

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

      • Mrdavidhsmith
        April 19, 2011 at 11:01 am

        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.