Best Practices for Preparing a PDF

There’s more than one way to create a PDF file. The easiest way, if you’re starting in your favorite document creation software, is to simply use the Save As PDF option or print the file as a PDF, if your software allows. Seems pretty easy, but no one ever said easy was best.

While this method does allow you to share your document with others regardless of the platform they use to view the file, it leaves out so many of the features that publishing a document with PDF software has to offer.

Using pdf software, however, means there’s a lot more you can do to make sure your document is ready for publication. Here are steps you can take to prepare your files so that the end result is professional looking, easy to read and accessible to all.

Images in your PDF document

Pictures, graphics and diagrams complement the text of a document in many ways. Yet images can increase the file size too much and images don’t always look clear when placed in a document. To maximize the effectiveness of images in your document, make sure to adjust them to their final size before placing them to maintain their sharpness, as resizing them afterwards could make them appear blurry.

Also, use portable network graphic (PNG) files when possible and avoid using tagged image file format (TIFF) or graphics interchange format (GIF) files. Joint photographic experts group (JPEG) files will work as a substitute if PNG files are not available. The reason? PNG offers a choice between 8- and 24-bit images for quality. It also supports transparent image backgrounds. But the most important consideration is that a PNG files usually come out smaller than JPEG files, which can save on file size.

Fonts for pdf documents

One major advantage to PDF documents is the ability to embed fonts into the file itself. As a result, even readers who do not have the fonts used by the document have the ability to read the published document as intended. There’s no need to substitute or download missing fonts.

This doesn’t mean that you should feel free to use any font you like, however, as some just don’t work well or are hard to read when converted. Best practice: use fonts such as Times New Roman, Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, Calibri or Tahoma. Before publishing the file, check to make sure that it doesn’t contain fonts that are hard to read and that you have embedded any fonts the document uses into the file.

Making Accessibility a Priority for PDF documents

Governments, organizations and industries have specific laws and regulations that dictate certain characteristics that a document must have before publication, which include ensuring that those documents are accessible, which often means “tagged.” PDF tags provide a hidden structure representation of the PDF content that’s text-based, and it’s presented as needed to screen readers. Creating a document using PDF software allows you to add specific elements to make the published file compliant with these regulations.

Not all documents are required to comply with every standard, however, there are certain actions you should take to ensure that your PDF document meets fundamental accessibility standards.

To begin with, all images and forms should have alternate tags attached to them. Additionally, make sure that there is no text from a scanned image—recreate the text in the PDF software instead. Also, ensure that all links point to the correct pages on the web. And turn off all commenting and formatting marks.

Taking these steps not only helps the document’s compliance, but it makes for a better experience for all users.

Today’s PDF software such as Foxit PhantomPDF provides you with the necessary tools to make sure that your work looks the way you intend it, is accessible to all and is optimized so that when you distribute your PDF document, it makes the desired impact on your audience.


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