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How Adobe Acrobat Can Make Life Simpler

© 2000 by Foster D. Coburn III. All Rights Reserved.

In the last article, I gave you an overview of the PDF file format and how to create PDF files in CorelDRAW 9. But we were limited to only creating files in CorelDRAW 9. By using Adobe Acrobat, we can create PDF files in any application. As PDF files can be very valuable in the graphics workflow, we'll explore how to create PDF files using Adobe Acrobat.

What is Acrobat?

First is the Acrobat Reader. I mentioned this last month and it is free. But the rest of the Acrobat family comes packaged for under $200. There are two major components to the package: Acrobat Exchange and Acrobat Distiller. Each of these components provide a unique function and I'll descibe them in detail.

From Document to PDF

Almost every application designed for Windows can print to a PostScript printer. I say almost though I can't name a single application that can't. So to "distill" a file and make a PDF, you first must print to a PostScript file and then run the Acrobat Distiller application. In reality it is even easier than that. When you install Acrobat, an Acrobat Distiller printer driver that creates the PostScript file and automatically runs it through Distiller is also installed. This makes your life easier, but you also have to understand what is happening or you might not get what you want.

Distiller contains a number of settings that control the PDF file that is created. When you use the Distiller printer driver, the last settings you set are what is used. So it is important to make sure the settings are correct before printing to the driver. As we look at the settings, you'll notice a strong resemblance to the settings we saw in the CorelDRAW Publish to PDF feature.

A Look Inside Distiller

When you first start Distiller, you see the screen at right. There isn't much to choose on this screen, but it does give you important information. The Job Options drop-down lets you choose the settings you want to use to process the file. Depending on what you choose, the Compatibility will be either Acrobat 3.0 or 4.0. More people can read Acrobat 3.0 files, but 4.0 gives you access to more features. The newer format has been out long enough that you can safely use either format without too many worries about compatibility. When you open a file to be converted, the rest of this dialog will provide more information and a progress report.

Most important of all is to get the correct settings. You can change them by selecting Settings | Job Options (Ctrl-J) to get the dialog box shown below. Before I go over the individual settings, make note of the Save As button on the right side of the dialog. At any point you can use these to save a new set of Job Options that will show up in the drop-down list on the screen shown earlier. So if you need to have a particular group of settings quite often, save it and make life easier.

Again the first setting is Compatibility and I'd suggest using Acrobat 3.0 unless you have specifically chosen to use some of the newer features. You'll want to leave ASCII format unchecked and Optimize PDF checked. Deciding to Generative Thumbnails depends on the purpose of the document. The thumbnails serve as a visual table of contents and are of best use for documents that are mostly graphic in nature. Resolution refers to the resolution of the device where the document will most likely be printed. There are a few scenarios where something will be converted to bitmap and this helps to determine the resolution of those bitmaps. Leaving it at 600 dpi is adequate for most jobs, but it should be at least 2400 dpi if you plan to use the PDF to create film. Lastly, the binding setting determines if the page will be bound on the left or right side.

Moving on to the Compression tab shown below, we can control the compression and/or downsampling of bitmaps. Each of the bitmap types allows a choice of whether or not you want to resample and if so the type of resampling and the desired resolution. Unless you have reason to choose otherwise, I would suggest you leave everything at the default settings. Similarly you can choose the type of compression you want and the quality of that compression. Keep in mind that JPEG compression will give the smallest files, but it does so by degrading the quality. So it might be OK for something that will only be read on screen, but shouldn't be used for something to be printed. The last setting controls whether text and vector line art are compressed and this should always be checked.

How fonts are embedded is extremely important, especially if you want your document to retain its look. The screen below shows the Fonts tab and you'll definitely want the first option, Embed All Fonts, to remain checked at all times. This will put the actual fonts inside of the PDF file. Yes, it makes the file larger, but this makes sure that the recipient of the document will see things correctly. Subsetting fonts will store only the characters that are used in the file. This helps to keep the PDF file smaller. But it inhibits editing as the character you need for editing may not be stored in the file. Your best bet is to leave Subset at the default settings. Lastly, you can choose which fonts to manually embed. Most likely you won't ever need this.

By far one of the most confusing parts of publishing is color management. The Color tab, below, shows the various options we have. With Leave Color Unchanged selected, the entire Assumed Profiles section is dimmed. This means that color management will not be used. If the idea of color management scares you, this is probably your best option. For those who want to manage their color conversions, you have three choices. Tag Everything means that all objects in your file will be affected. Tag Only Images will only have an effect on bitmaps. Lastly, you can convert everything to sRGB which would be most likely to be used for Web-based documents where printing isn't involved. The Options section mainly deals with settings used for high-end prepress. If you are using these settings, they are self explanatory.

There is one last tab, the Advanced tab as shown below. When they say advanced, they mean it. Very rarely would you have a need to change these settings and thus I'll leave it to the help file to explain each of the settings.

In Closing

So far we've seen how to create a PDF file directly from CorelDRAW and now by using Acrobat Distiller. Each of these options has a benefit and Distiller is your only option if you need to create PDF files from programs other than CorelDRAW 9. In the next article, we'll explore Acrobat Exchange and how it can help us to edit PDF files and secure them.

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Last Updated October 28, 2000.

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