11 Adobe Distiller Tips For Technical Writers

Most Technical Writers use Adobe PDFs to create technical guides, reports and other business documents. And while there are many free PDF converters out there, Adobe Distiller has some great features that give you greater control of your documents, such as making the PDFs download faster, password protection, embedding thumbnails and font control.

PDF Tricks with Adobe Distiller

Adobe Distiller lets you optimize PDFs, for example, by embedding specific fonts, fine-tuning PDFs for web-viewing, and for allowing Postscript files to over-ride PDF settings.

Here are some things you can do.

  1. Font settings – you can embed all fonts in the PDF (rather than the default fonts) and also embed a subset of embedded fonts it the document reaches a certain percentage. You can also tell Distiller to always embed specific fonts, e.g. fonts related to your brand, logo etc.
  2. Web Settings – create a profile (i.e. group of settings) and optimize the PDFs for web publishing. For example, configure Adobe Distiller so that PDFs download faster. Note that while the image quality may degrade slightly, the documents will open faster.
  3. Embed Thumbnails – use this option to embed a set of thumbnails that are displayed in the left navigation bar. Nice way for readers to see your document at a glance, rather than having to scroll all the way through it.


                                             Embed Thumbnails into PDFs with Adobe Distiller

  4. Save in Distiller Format – save the PDFs, with all the settings, in Distiller’s own file format (.joboptions). Later, if you want to modify the file, you can open this. I use this option on large projects when I combine multiple PDFs together. You can also pause the operation and go back to it later – without losing the settings.
  5. PostScript – advanced settings let you allow PostScript to over-ride the PDF settings and also allow PostScript XObjects to be in included.
  6. EPS – settings let you resize the page and centre artwork for EPS files.
  7. Document Structure Conventions – here you can process DSC comments, log warnings, and preserve both EPS and OPI information.
  8. Create Profiles – you can also save you settings as a Profile. Or create different profiles for different document types, such as for Print, Web, or Mobile. This saves you the time/effort when you go to do your next batch of PDFs.
  9. Color Management – the color management settings lets you control how colors are displayed, for example, you can convert all colors to sRGB. There are also options for CMYK and preserving half-tones.
  10. Tagging – further options let you tag everything, or just images, for color management.
  11. Password Protection – enables you to protect the document. There are different levels here: you can set it so that people need a password to open the PDF, to select text, or to print the document. For example, you may want people to be able to read your document but not print it and/or copy and paste text.

What Adobe Distiller tips do you have?

I’ve barely scratched the surface. Do you find the web quick save really makes a difference? What other improvements do you see when you use this tool?