3 Ways To Compress a PDF File Size Manually

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3 Ways To Compress a PDF File Size Manually

Key Points:
  • For Mac users, you can compress PDFs with Preview, a preinstalled tool on every Mac.
  • Adobe has a web tool called Adobe Compress PDF when you visit their site.
  • Adobe provides excellent PDF software called Adobe Acrobat if you work with PDF’s regularly.

Sometimes, you’ll want to send multiple PDF files via email but find the files exceed the attachment size limit. A common workaround is to compress the PDF files. Compression allows you to get the same PDF quality for less file size. Let’s look at 3 ways to compress a PDF file manually, without sacrificing quality.

Using Preview on Mac

For all those Mac users out there, you are lucky. You can compress PDFs with Preview, which comes preinstalled on every Mac.

Step 1: Open Preview

Desktop on a Mac showing the Preview app.
Open the Preview app.

Most of the time, Preview will live on your dock, looking like two overlapping photos with a magnifying glass. To open it, you will double-click on the icon.

Step 2: Open a PDF in Preview

A PDF opened in the Preview app on a Mac.
Open the PDF in Preview.

There are two ways of doing this. Either you can navigate to the PDF you are trying to compress in Finder and double-click it. Unless you have another PDF program on your computer, it should open in Preview.

The other option is to open Preview as we did in step 1, go to the top left corner, and click on File. Then, open in the drop-down menu, select a file, and click open now in the bottom right of the Finder window.

Step 3: Export

The File menu opened showing the Export option in Preview on a Mac.
Select File > Export.

Now that the PDF is open, you will go back to the File drop-down menu and select Export. This will bring up a box where you can change the file name. We recommend changing the file name so that you can make sure the export works. You can call it something like PDF_small or whatever works best for you.

First, ensure the format options say PDF; sometimes, it might be preset to JPG or PNG. Then where it says Quartz Filter, select Reduce File Size from the drop-down menu.

Then click save. Congratulations, you just reduced the size of the PDF!

Using An Online Compressor

Don’t worry if you are not using a Mac and don’t want to download any software, don’t worry. There is a perfect option for you. Adobe has a web tool called Compress PDF. Who’s better to use than the company that invented PDFs in the first place? We recommend bookmarking this site if you are compressing PDFs often.

Step 1: Open the Website

Open up your browser, and then google Adobe Compress PDF. Or click on the link below if you want a quick shortcut. Again, we recommend bookmarking this website to make it easier.


Step 2: Select A File

Compress PDF page on Adobe's website.
Select the file you want to compress.

In the center of the website, you will see a blue button that says, “Select a file.” This will open up the file explorer on your computer. When you find the PDF you are looking to compress, select open in the file explorer window. This will start the upload process. Depending on your file size, it can take a couple of seconds or a few minutes.

Step 3: Compress

The PDF compression options on Adobe's website.
Select the compression option you’d like for your PDF and select the Compress button.

When your PDF is done uploading, you will see 3 options to compress your PDF. High, medium, and low, and these work inversely to the way you might think. High is the most compression with standard image quality. Medium is slightly less compression than high and has better image quality. Finally, low is the largest size with the best image quality of the three.

It is worth noting even though the high setting gives the lowest image quality of the three, the PDF will still look good.

Once you have selected a quality setting, you can click on the blue compress button. After a few moments, it will bring you to a new page where you can download your compressed PDF file.

Using Adobe Acrobat

Arguably the industry’s best PDF software, Adobe Acrobat is worth paying for if you work a lot with PDFs. Here’s how to reduce file size with Adobe.

Step 1: Open the Optimize PDF Tool

The Adobe Acrobat Tools menu.
Select Open under Optimize PDF in the Tools Center.

When you get Adobe Acrobat open, the first thing you are going to look for is the Tools center. Click the Tools tab at the top left, scroll down until you see the Optimize PDF tool, then select Open from the drop-down menu.

Step 2: Select a file

The menu to select a file to open in Adobe Acrobat.
Select the PDF file you want to open.

Click on the Open box to open a file explorer or finder window. Find the PDF file you are looking and then select the open option in the bottom right-hand corner of the file explorer or finder window.

Step 3: Select reduce file size

A file opened in Adobe Acrobat with the Reduce File Size option highlighted.
Select Reduce File Size.

You will see a top toolbar menu when the file is opened in Acrobat. In that menu, you will see an option that says “Reduce File Size.” The icon looks like a folded piece of paper with arrows pointing in at each corner.

Step 4: Set compatibility and click OK

The Reduce File Size popup in Adobe Acrobat.
Select file version compatibility from the drop-down menu.

Select file version compatibility from the drop-down in the Reduce File Size dialog box that opens. Most of the time, you can use the setting “Retain Existing” for the best results.

Step 5: Rename and save your file

The Save File popup in Adobe Acrobat.
Save and rename your new PDF file.

In the Save As dialog box, retain the same file name to overwrite the original PDF with the optimized one, or add a new name or location for your file. Then click Save.

In the video below from IT reviews, you will learn three different ways to reduce the file size of your PDF.

Wrap Up

Hopefully, one of these ways has saved the day and removed that headache. Keep in mind with PDFs; it’s not the size that matters, but how easy it is to send over email.

Up Next…

Frequently Asked Questions

Why would I compress a PDF?

Suppose you are getting an error when you try to email a PDF, saying that the file size is too large. Compressing the PDF is a great way to get around that.

What are the 2 types of compression?

There are two types of compression: lossless and lossy. Lossless compression algorithms reduce the size of files without losing any information in the file.

Does compressing a PDF reduce quality?

Depending on how much you have to compress the file, it can reduce the quality of your PDF. But if you use tools like Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Compress, you can see how much the compression will affect your PDF’s quality.

Why do we compress files?

Compressed files require significantly less storage capacity than uncompressed files, making them easier to send to someone and store on your devices.

What happens if I compress a file?

File compression reduces the file size by as much as 90% without losing any primary data. Compressing a file is also known as zipping.

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