by Sophie Knowles thumbnail imageSophie Knowles on

PDF Compression: "5 things you probably didn’t know"

Now more than ever before, businesses need to store enormous amounts of information. Meticulously organised filing cabinets are bulky, inefficient, and environmentally unfriendly. The most practical place to store documents today is on the cloud. But just like filing cabinets, the cloud has its own set of shortcomings. JPEG, TIFF, and uncompressed PDFs continue to balloon in size, taking up precious storage space. When cloud storage reaches capacity, there are two options: buy more storage space for a hefty price tag, or compress files and free up cloud storage without spending any extra money.

Compressing PDFs enables your business to free up storage space, send files faster, and search for specific information within your files quickly.  Ultimately, saving you time and money.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the world of PDF compression with five things you probably didn’t know about the most versatile file format out there:

 

1- PDF stands for….

Adobe asked people in the business district of Salt Lake City what the acronym “PDF” abbreviates. Although everyone responded that they were familiar with PDFs, only 8% actually knew what “PDF” stood for. Do you?

a. Portable Data File

b. Portable Document Format

c. Process Document Form

d. Pretty Darn Fast

If you selected “b. Portable Document Format,” congratulations -- you beat out 92% of survey participants. 

Compressed PDFs have become an integral part of our daily communications and filing systems. Yet, few people actually know what the acronym stands for, or the origins of the PDF.

 

2- File compression started in the early 1990s

In the early 1990s, Adobe co-founder John Warnock and his team, Camelot, set out to solve a messy problem. Mac, Windows, UNIX, and MS DOS all had their own ways of interpreting files. Opening a Mac file on a Windows machine or vice-versa would result in an output of incomprehensible gibberish. 

The team worked to develop a portable document format so users on different operating systems could access the same document without worrying about it being altered or distorted. In June 1993, after three years of work, Adobe launched Version 1.0, the world’s first programme able to read the newly created format called PDF. With a high initial price tag and slower download times, it didn’t immediately revolutionise the market. Over the next decade, Adobe released updated versions with new features and free options. As they gathered feedback from customers and refined the software, the PDF user experience improved and the software became a stalwart for convenient file compression and sharing. 

While later modifications may have resulted in PDF’s exponential growth in popularity during the early 2000s, Warnock and his team’s long-term vision to create a portable document format that would work universally across operating systems was the key ingredient to PDF’s first 25 years of success and bright future ahead.

 

3- All U.S. Federal Court files stored electronically must be in PDF format

U.S. Federal Courts actually mandate that all documents filed in its Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system must be in compressed PDF format. Given the size and density of many court filings, they recommend compressing all documents before uploading them to the server. Finding a resolution that neither drastically compromises document quality nor slows upload time can be a fine balance. PACER recommends 200dpi resolution with all files scanned in black and white format. 

Users can search the PACER database for specific court filings directly or via names and keywords mentioned in filings. While the amount of data is astronomical and can still be difficult to sift through, compressed PDFs have revolutionised the way that U.S. Federal Courts store and access legal documents. Thanks to advances in PDF compression, the days of sitting in dusty storage rooms searching through millions of documents for that one needle-in-a-haystack piece of information are fortunately behind us.

 

4- Compressed PDF files are the best way to save treasures you find on the Internet

Did you know that any webpage you visit on the Internet can be downloaded as a PDF? That’s right -- you can save any webpage on the Internet exactly as it appears in front of you. 

This comes in particularly handy when you see something that you want to save, precisely as it appears at that moment -- a secret recipe that your favourite chef shares for a limited time, an inspiring quote from a famous orator, an incriminating tweet by a celebrity, or your Instagram feed to hang on the wall for posterity. 

The Internet is a constantly evolving web of information with no guarantees that any page will ever look the same. Some people try to save gems they find on the web by snapping a screenshot or using the snipping tool. While this approach does sometimes work, it usually results in the file being distorted and lower quality. Saving a webpage as a compressed PDF is the only way to ensure that you have a high quality copy of the page you want to save as it appears at that exact moment.

 

5- Compressed PDF files have unmatched versatility

Even in 2019, 25 years after Warnock and his team first envisioned a portable document format compatible across all operating systems, the PDF is alive, well and an essential part of daily communications. Compatible with Mac, PC, iOS, and Android operating systems alike, the PDF’s unmatched versatility has ensured that it won’t be going away anytime soon.

With Adobe and online tools like PDF Pro, converting a wide range of document types -- JPG, PNG, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, among others -- into PDFs has never been easier.

In just a few seconds, you can compress large, unsendable files into leaner, shareable file sizes -- while always maintaining the original document’s quality. Learn more about PDF Pro’s features to conveniently create, edit, convert and compress your files today.


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