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John Deubert’s AcrobatiX: Exporting PDF to an Image

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Acrobat X enables you to export your PDF pages to a series of images. Why would you want to do that? Author John Deubert explains that sometimes a picture works better than a thousand words.
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Recently, I sent a PDF file to a local print shop whose computers may well date to the mid-80s, judging by the problems they had. They just couldn’t print the file; they also couldn’t say why. Their high-speed printer would just blink for a while and then stop blinking. I went through the usual fixes: converted to PDF/X, made sure the fonts were not conflicting with any of their fonts, etc. (My fonts were all embedded in the PDF file, so there’s no reason on God’s tierra verde why there should be any conflict, but after a while you just start trying things at random.)

Finally, I said “Enough!”, exported the PDF file to an image, and sent them that. Problem solved, if not understood. Because the image was, in effect, a picture of the PDF page, there were no fonts or other bits to go wrong; it printed fine and looked perfectly good.

PDF is usually the best way to store and send documents, but in a world full of sorrow, woe, and peculiar computer systems, exporting a document as an image can sometimes be the perfect solution to a troublesome problem. So, let’s talk about how to do that: Let’s see how to export a PDF file to an image (that part’s easy) and see which image type is best (that part’s situational).

The Process

Exporting a PDF file to an image is done with a simple menu selection. You probably know this already, having read my Acrobat X Visual Quickstart Guide (of course you have), but as a reminder: Just pick the appropriate image type from the File > Save As > Image submenu (Figure 1). Acrobat will export your PDF file to a series of image files, one per page in the document.

Figure 1 The Image export commands live three levels deep in the File menu.

Again, because each image is, in effect, a picture of a page in the PDF file, there will be no actual text, line art, or graphic elements to give you trouble in printing. This completely eliminates any number of common problems, including font issues and drifting line art; all you have is a single image, and what you see in that image is exactly what you will always get on the printer.

What you lose, of course, is the ability to do very much with the page except look at it and print it. You can’t edit the text (there isn’t any) or nudge the position of line art (there isn’t any of that, either). If you zoom in on the page, it will appear increasingly pixelated, soon becoming unusable.

When you export to an image, Acrobat gives you some controls to play with. Clicking on the Settings button in the Save As dialog box (Figure 2) yields a dialog box with controls specific to the image format you’ve chosen (Figure 3). In general you should leave these at their default values unless you are brimming with self-confidence and energy.

Figure 2 The Settings button will yield up a dialog box that specifies the details of the PDF-to-image conversion.

Figure 3 You should generally leave the export settings at their default values; this will almost always produce a completely serviceable image.

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