PDF on Mobile Devices: Optimize Files for Onscreen Reading

People reading PDFs on mobile devices
Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

PDF files weren’t made to be read on screens. But you could—and should—optimize them for onscreen reading. In this article, we teach you how.

Things aren’t always used the way they were intended. That’s the case with PDF on mobile devices. Although PDF files were designed to be printed, more and more people are reading them on screens. Here’s how to optimize your PDF files for display on mobile devices.

Optimizing existing PDF documents for mobile

File size is the most crucial aspect of optimizing PDFs for mobile. Here’s how to compress existing PDF files.

Compress PDF files automatically (PDFpen 12 and later)

PDFpen comes with built-in PDF compression mechanisms, including MRC, CCITT, and post OCR compression. They work behind the scenes to automatically reduce the size of your PDF files as you scan, edit, and save. To run your existing PDF file through these processes,  simply open and save your PDF.

Compress PDF files manually (PDFpenPro v12 and later)

PDFpenPro comes with a tool for manually compressing PDFs: the Create Optimized PDF feature. Here’s how to use it:

1. Open the existing PDF file.

2. Choose File > Create Optimized PDF. The Optimize Images dialog box will appear.

Example of a dialog box in PDFpen Pro when manually optimizing PDFs

3. Specify how to compress color, grayscale and monochrome images.

4. Check “Remove third-party metadata” and to “Optimize images only if it saves space.”

5. Click Create. PDFpenPro will create a new, optimized version of your existing PDF document.

Create new PDF files that are mobile-friendly

When creating new PDF files, follow these guidelines to ensure that they are optimized for mobile.

1. Keep source documents small

Be mindful of file size when creating your source document. Keep images in the source document small by changing their mode or reducing their resolution.

2. When possible, use a single column for text

Multi-column text is harder to navigate in small-screen devices.

3. Use the small file size preset when converting to PDF

Adobe Creative Suite applications such as Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator have an existing preset called The Smallest File Size preset you can use to create PDF files with the smallest possible file size. You can select this preset from the Adobe PDF Preset pop-up menu on the Save Adobe PDF dialog box (Illustrator, Photoshop) or the Export Adobe PDF dialog box (InDesign).

4. Reduce the file size of the final PDF file

Follow the steps under “Optimize existing PDFs for mobile” to reduce file size further.

PDF on mobile devices works best when optimized

Although it isn’t ideal, content creators must accept that readers may choose to view PDFs on small screens. The most crucial aspect of optimizing PDF documents for mobile devices is reducing file size. The latest versions of PDFpen and PDFpenPro make compressing PDF files easy:

  • Simply open and save a PDF to reduce file size automatically
  • Use PDFpenPro’s Create Optimized PDF feature for advanced manual compression

Download a free trial