Converting Fat PDFs to Skinny ones

I’ve noticed that when I take a photo and convert it to a PDF, the file sizes are quite large. Its not uncommon to get a 10MB file. This new file must have junk included that contributes to the large file size. I believe this is true because If I take the same file and use desktop class standard PDF software, I can usually compress the file size down 40-75% of the original size.

Is anyone a ware of a shortcut ACTION (or a full shortcut) that will take a PDF and reduce the size of the file. To be clear, i do NOT want to zip the file. I want a file that is smaller in size.

Appreciate any help you can provide.

I have seen one out there that uses cloud convert. Not sure if there is one that does it on the phone natively.

Do you know if it’s the photo data itself? Or the rest of the PDF. Maybe these other tools are dropping the photo res or otherwise compressing further?

(I suppose one could throw the PDF into a text editor and find out…) :slight_smile:

I don’t think its the photos, though I will save the photos separately over the next few times to identify their sizes.

Since I can easily reduce the size using desktop PDF software, I assume it is the act of capturing the photo/scans using either Shortcuts or Toolbox pro (or both) that does it.

Since my IOS email APP (might be my company’s email server policy) won’t allow me to send a file greater than about 9 MBs, I usually end up scanning, then moving the file to my desktop to reduce the size. Once on my desktop and the file is smaller, I end up sending from there. These extra steps slow down my workflow.

Keep the questions coming. You might help me discover a key fact that provides a solution!

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Thanks. I just went to try the cloud convert. It has options to convert from pDF to PDF but nothing indicates it will reduce the file size. I suppose I could upload a photo of a picture or a document and convert it into a PDF to see if it inherently reduces the size.

Guess my concern would be uploading a personal document to this site. These scans/photos might be of a personal nature (utility bill, mortgage payment, etc…). I’m also not savvy enough to create a shortcut that would interact with this site and do the conversion automatically. In a jam, this could work but for security reasons, I don’t know enough to discern how safe this is.

You’re likely far more savvy and may have a way to ensure whats uploaded there is safe. I’m still learning. It may be that it can’t be done as you also commented. Appreciate the feedback.

What settings are you using in your desktop app? Often they are set to resample image sizes. On the Mac, Quartz filters are often used to do this.

PDF Expert has some PDF reduction functionality on i*OS. You can automate the opening of the, but not the reduction round trip.

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I’m using NUANCE software and their “Reduce Current Filesize” commmand. Not sure if this answers your question.

You are right, and I have PDF Expert. File size reduction is under their subscription umbrella. I was hoping to find a solution that did not require a subscription. I may not have a choice.

I miss the days of buying software outright…though I understand they have to stay in business also.

As a quick and dirty hack, you can use the “Get images” action followed by the “make PDF from” action to produce a smaller PDF. I use it to unlock password-protected PDFs so I can mark them up. The downside is that it messes up all the text.

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Reconsider the photo size itself. Resizing/resampling the source image can affect the pdf size.

Try this shortcut:

Here’s a sample result from a photo take with my iPhone X.

Resized means 50% smaller dimensions. Resampled is ~50% reduced quality.

Original: 3024x4032 = 2.3 MB
Resized: 1512x2016= 526 KB
Resampled: 3024x4032 = 824 KB
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Hmm. Didn’t know that. I’ll give that a try and will report back.


Thanks for the shortcut. The resulting size comparison Text is informative.

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Right. But it begs the question of how/when the images get compressed. Maybe that’s just academic - but I’d love to learn…

… My team often sends workshop slide decks to customers as PDFs. Ours start out as PowerPoint slides. What I discovered is that pasting images into PowerPoint creates HUGE PowerPoint files but embedding from a file doesn’t.

(That was actually my first trigger to make md2pptx - automatic file embeds. That plus the shockingly inconsistent state of “evolved over many years” conference presentations, but I digress.)

When we send a workshop PDF to customers, with up to 50 images in, we quite often hit email file limits - generally at the customer’s end. Hence my interest in PDF file sizes.


You learn something everyday! Didn’t know pasting images vs inserting them into PPT generated larger files. We use NUANCE Power PDF desktop software to save pptx files for sharing at work. Its “reduce file size” feature is pretty good. My issue is when I need to perform a similar task on an Iphone/ipad. Sounds like you have a similar challenge.

As an experiment, and pulling from Afrendlypotato’s idea above, I took a fat PDF and converted it to an image. Then, I took SuperM’s recommendation to reduce file size. Finally, I used a MAKE PDF action to see if that works. Unfortunatley, the resulting PDF is actually larger than the original unless you reduce the size more than 80%. That results in a less readable document…so, I’m back to square one.

@sylmer has suggested using PDF Expert to reduce PDF files (see earlier discussions in this thread). Its a great app, but it requires a subscription to access this feature. I was hoping someone found a shortcut solution that I could use instead to customize for my needs. Might be a bridge too far.

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Actually my use case was on Mac. But I’ve run this code (md2pptx) on Raspberry Pi as well - mostly for fun as I don’t do work on Pi.

It’s possible the “paste makes it huge” problem has gone away in the past 5 years. And it might have been a MacOS problem as much as a PowerPoint one. (I suspect uncompressed is offered for pasting as well as compressed and PowerPoint chooses uncompressed.)

What you’re describing experimentwise seems extensive and hard to automate. So PDF Pro - which I just switched to on Mac - is the way to go on iOS.

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