If you are in the business of creating PDFs for your customers, there are a few ways to make sure you’re providing them with the most optimal PDF documents to meet their needs. Let’s take a look at some of the best practices for creating optimal PDFs for your users.
Understand your PDF users and their needs
Start off by fully understanding your users’ needs and how they will interact with the PDFs you’re creating for them.
PDF users can often be categorized into three types: processors, direct recipients, and indirect recipients.
Processors are those who take your PDF and manipulate it or use it in their own applications, i.e,, software developers/engineers. Direct recipients view, print, or otherwise use your PDF for various reasons, i.e., commercial printers. Indirect recipients receive your PDF document from someone or somewhere else, where both parties benefit from it, such as an individual receiving financial statements from a bank.
Once you’ve determined what kind of PDF user they are, it’s also important to understand how they’ll be using your PDFs.
There are many different use cases for PDF documents. The typical use cases include:
- End-user consumption: viewing reports, whitepapers, statements (i.e., bank statements, financial records, etc.)
- Document collaboration and editing (within document management systems)
- Business/Industry-specific workflows: pre-print processing, automated forms processing
- Long-term document preservation and storage (PDF/A)
- Ensuring that PDFs are accessible (for the visually impaired, i.e. PDF/UA)
- Print-specific workflows (PDF/X)
Understanding which of these use cases applies to your customer will help you determine how the PDF needs to be created and optimized.
Note: Each of these use cases comes with its own set of best practices, which we can touch on in future articles.
Look under the “hood” of your PDF
There is a lot more to PDFs than you can see just by looking at them. Every PDF file has a lot going on behind the scenes, including:
- Vector Graphics
- Raster Images
- + More
To ensure your customers have the best experience with their PDFs, you need to make sure all of these “under the hood” elements are working properly. That means at minimum, you need accurate rendering (color, fonts, graphics, and images showing up correctly), and the PDF must be created in ISO Standard 3200-1: 2008.
Avoid Common PDF Pitfalls
The best PDF is a PDF that just works without causing issues for your users, so it’s vital that you address commonly overlooked PDF issues such as:
- Unsupported image types
- Transparency processing inconsistencies
- Color variations
- Overprint issues
- Annotation appearance differences
- Font challenges
How we can help
If you need to make sure you’re creating the most optimal PDFs for your users, the Adobe PDF Library can help. APDFL can process 16-bit images, JPEG 2000, and all transparency types. It uses the Adobe Color Engine and Font Engine, which ensures all colors and fonts are consistent across the board. You can also avoid overprint problems by turning overprint rendering on or off. Lastly, APDFL can generate appearances for all common annotation types. All of these elements can help you produce the most optimal PDFs for your users.
TL;DR: Don’t make users suffer with problematic PDFs – give them documents that just work!