How To Reduce the Size of a PDF File

Posted by Arch on February 7, 2019

Are you working with monster PDF files sizes? They can take a while to load or make it difficult to send in an email. The easy solution would be to make the file smaller, but how to do that without sacrificing quality?

Fortunately, there are a couple of options to choose from. They preserve the quality of your PDF document to varying degrees, so you may need to try a couple to find the right one for you.

Keep reading to find out how to wrangle your PDF size. Don’t let large files keep you from emailing them to others. Shrink them down using one of the methods below.

Can you compress your PDF files for free? Sure, but it may take a little work. If you have money to spend, or you plan on doing this often, you may want to invest in a program instead.

Use the Full Version of Adobe Acrobat

One of the easiest ways to make any changes to PDF files is to use Adobe Acrobat. You need the full version, though, to make serious edits.

Step One – Open PDF

To change your PDF size, first you need to open your document in Adobe Acrobat. If your default PDF reader is another program, you may need to specify using Adobe this time.

Open with Adobe by right-clicking over your PDF file icon. Go down your drop-down menu until you get to the “Open with” setting and select the Adobe program.

Step Two – Go to Tools

Next, go to your Tools tab. You may find it near the top of your screen. Scroll down until you see the Protect and Standardize section. Go to Optimize PDF and click on the arrow next to “Add”. From there, click on Open.

However, you need to have the full version of Adobe Acrobat Pro to do this. The free Acrobat Reader program won’t let you compress files. So if you try to click “add” using Adobe Reader it will send you to the Adobe website with an invitation to buy the full version of Acrobat.

Step Three – Optimize Your PDF

Now it’s time to compress your file. Go back to the original tab with your PDF document. You should see a new Optimize PDF toolbar. Click on Reduce File Size to pull up a new action window.

Ideally, you may want to make your file compatible with the latest versions of Adobe. In this case, it’s Acrobat 10.0 and later. But if you know your readers use an older version, you can select the one most applicable to you.

Why do you want the latest version settings? Because it compresses the file to a smaller size.

In addition, you can also add multiple files. Press the Apply to Multiple Files and add the documents you want compressed. This way you don’t need to do this process for each individual PDF.

When you’re done, click OK. Another window will pop up, allowing you to rename your new file(s).

After it processes the compression, the PDF in your Acrobat window will be the new compressed version.

Use Free Online Compressor

Some people don’t want or have the means to pay for the full-blown Acrobat. If that sounds familiar, you also have an option to use a free online compressor.

Step One- Search for a Compressor

Search “pdf compressor” in your web browser. There are plenty of options to choose from. Some preserve the quality of your PDF better than others.

Furthermore, some online compressors also limit file size uploads, or only allow you to compress single files at a time. So you may have to try a few to find the right one.

Step Two – Compress Your PDF

Once you’ve chosen an online PDF compressor, they all generally work the same way. First, you add your files by either drag and drop or choosing a file from your computer. Some programs, like this one on smallpdf.com, also allow you to choose files from Dropbox or Google Drive.

Step Three – Save Your Compressed PDF

When your file is ready, you will see an option to download the compressed file. The download location may vary, like this one that has cloud options, but from here you simply save the PDF.

Use Preview on Mac

Mac users can use both Adobe Acrobat or free online converters. But if you have a Mac, you can also use a feature that’s already on your device.

Step One – Open the PDF in Preview App

To get to your Preview app, go to File and click Open. Select your document.

Step Two – Compress File

When you have your PDF open, go back to File and choose Export from the drop-down menu. The option you are looking for is called “Quartz Filter”.

From this new menu, choose Reduce File Size and let your app do the rest.


Working with large, unwieldy files can be a hassle. Readers may experience long load times. And they may be difficult, if not impossible, to email to other people.

Fortunately, there are a few options open to you for compressing large PDF files. If you work with PDF files often, paying for Acrobat Pro may be your best bet. But it’s not your only option.

Other solutions such as free online compressors may also be a good fit for you if you don’t mind uploading your files to a 3rd party cloud. There’s not a right way to reduce your PDF size, so pick the one that works best for you.

One thought on “How To Reduce the Size of a PDF File”

Jonathan says:
In Acrobat Pro, isn’t it simpler to use File > Save as other > Reduced size PDF?

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