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Reducing PDF file size with a Quartz filter

Mat Lu

Apple has an interesting video tip up this week on reducing the file size of graphic intensive PDFs created from the Print dialog. In their example they make a PDF from a Keynote presentation containing lots of graphics, and substantially reduce its size by selecting the "Reduce File Size" Quartz filter in the ColorSync options of the Print Dialog before choosing "Save as PDF..." from the PDF drop-down menu. In their example, without the filter the resulting PDF is 5.3MB and with the filter it's only 632KB. So I thought I'd give it a try on some of my own documents. But then I ran into a problem.

The Print dialog ColorSync access to Quartz filters has disappeared in Leopard. The video tip was made with Tiger; it seems a little bit ironic that they would release it now with a feature that is no longer available in Leopard. However, digging around a little bit I discovered a work-around. The Quartz filters are still available on the Save dialog box in the Preview application (above). So to achieve the same effect when you're in the Print dialog instead of choosing "Save as PDF..." from the drop down menu rather hit the "Preview" button, which opens the PDF in the Preview application. You can now "Save as..." and when you do the Quartz filter drop-down menu will appear, including the "Reduce File Size" filter. Give it a name and save it and you'll have your smaller PDF.

In my own testing using the "Reduce File Size" filter did noticeably degrade the quality of images in the PDF, but the file size savings were significant as well. It would actually be nice if there were more granularity so you could have some control over the compromise between file size and image quality. Nonetheless, if you have to shrink a graphics intensive PDF for emailing, etc. this can be a handy tip.

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