Bad PDFs? Yes, there is such a thing.

We thought we’d take the time to explain that there is such a thing as “BAD PDFs”. You’re all wondering “Bad PDF’s”? How can that be. It’s a PDF correct? Well yes but there are some PDFs that are just plain “terrible”.

Once in a while a customers contact us and say “hey I’m trying to convert this PDF file” but the conversion is not working.

We’re not generally surprised by this. It occurs and it really has nothing to with any of our products. It just has to do with “Bad” or actually “Errant” PDF data.

So, lets go back to the basics first. A PDF authoring software can be anything like Word, PowerPoint, InDesign, Excel to name a few. PDF creation software is normally (we say this with a grain of salt) done by “Printing” or saying “Print to PDF”. On Mac OS X, PDF printing is built-in. If the software supports Printing, then you just have to say “Save as PDF” or “Print to PDF”. On Windows, you need to have some kind of PDF printing or capture software installed (we prefer Acrobat but hey its up to you).

Now, the quality of the PDF that is created varies quite a bit depending on which PDF creation software made it. What you mean quality? Yes, there is such a thing as quality of the PDF. Sometimes the PDF creation software literally injects garbage data which only allows you to view the PDF but you can’t do much else with it. Aaaaah!

Yes, its bad as most other information can just be junk. Why does the quality differ so much? PDF was a specification originally created by Adobe and published and its up to the rest of the world to interpret what to do with the specification and many times the rest of the world doesn’t do such a good job with it.

Well how errant can the data be? Sometimes its just errant font information; Sometimes bad PDF data description or hell even illegal PDF commands (it doesn’t exist)!

We create PDF conversion software such as PDF2ID to convert PDF to InDesign; PDF2Office, to convert PDF to Excel, Word, PowerPoint etc; and PDF2Office for iWork to convert PDF to Pages, Keynote Numbers on various platforms such as Mac OS X, Windows and iOS and we really understand this as it directly affects us more than anything.

How do you know you have a bad PDF? Well if you use any of our PDF conversion products and the result is not what you generally expect, that’s 95% of the cases (at least we like to think that!!).

What do you do? Sometimes you’re stuck. But many times there is a really nice work-around. The work-around is called Adobe Acrobat!

Simply open the “Bad” PDF File in Adobe Acrobat X or XI and save it as an Optimized Acrobat 9 or 10 later file with all images set as “ZIP” compression with the rest of the values as default. It generally does a fantastic job of “cleaning out” the bad data and creating a “new good” PDF file! Acrobat X/XI can do that? Yes! Hurrah!

It doesn’t work always but its our first approach always!

So, now you’re saying okay but how about Good PDF creation? I want to make sure my PDFs are always nice and clean.

We say stick with the Standard for both Mac OS X and Windows or other platforms. What Standard? Well Adobe Acrobat for PDF creation (or if you’re using an Adobe product like InDesign stick with the built-in PDF creation facility). It generally is the best from what we know. What about the other products or even Mac OS X PDF printing? Yeah, we’d like to reserve our comments on this as we know that Adobe Acrobat is just the best overall.