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So, which is the best format to use when exporting a PDF file to an image? It depends on the contents of the PDF file.

  • If the PDF file is mostly text and line art, with no images, PNG is my favorite. It offers the best compression—better than TIFF and usually better than JPEG—and is lossless, to boot.
  • If the PDF file has images in it, JPEG is my choice. It will give me a smaller file and still looks perfectly fine.

You should avoid exporting a PDF file to JPEG2000; whatever the merits of the file format itself, the Acrobat export consistently has the lowest quality of the lot.

On balance, exporting a document as a series of one-page images works very well and is arguably the best solution for documents that will be stored for an unknown length of time or read by unknown software and systems. It is many people’s favorite way of archiving documents for permanent storage and is my second-favorite way of sending documents for professional printing. (My first favorite way is, of course, PDF.)

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