Do PDF Files Compress Well? [7 Things to Know]

PDF files are an excellent way to store documents and illustrations you do not want others to edit. However, they can add up quickly, filling up your storage and drives. You can compress the files, but you cannot compress every file type without risking quality and readability.

Fortunately, PDF files compress well enough to maintain data integrity and readability. However, you must do it the right way.

By reading further, you will learn the 7 things you must consider before compressing the files.

How to Compress PDF Files Without Losing Quality

As one of the most popular digital document formats, the Portable Document Format (PDF) dos does not require a special app or program to open. Because of this widespread adoption, you can send PDF files to anyone and be assured they can properly read them.

Because they are so ubiquitous in modern life, you are probably working on several PDF files at once either for school, in college, or at work. You probably have a PDF file for anything that requires an electronic document and then some.

While most are for archival purposes, you likely send several of them back and forth to your coworkers several times a day. It is in these moments that you must compress them to preserve storage space, bandwidth, or both. This is because most email clients, cloud storage, and messenger apps have size limits for attachments.

Things to Consider When Compressing PDF Files

However, before you compress your PDFs, there are a few things you must consider. These considerations can affect the quality of the final product. They may even define the tools you must use to get there. Luckily, most of these considerations are easy to understand and implement, ensuring your files are always in good hands.

1. Size Versus Quality

People compress PDF files to make them small enough to fit through email and other online channels. However, there is a trade-off between their size and quality every time you compress them. Not every PDF file will maintain its structure and data during the process. Therefore, you want a tool that lets you customize the compression to minimize the effect as much as possible.

This is because compression algorithms use repeated patterns to highlight shrinkable areas. This is simple to do with text while maintaining readability. However, the process always reduces an image’s resolution. As such, most reputable compression tools offer several levels of compression.

2. Proprietary or Third-Party Compression

As the owner and creator of the PDF format, Adobe knows how to get the most out of its format. As such, all their editors come equipped with built-in compression features. You just select the “Optimize PDF” tool, and the application will do the rest. The new compressed PDF will retain the PDF file type classification and can be open as such. However, not every PDF reader can read or edit them.

Third-party solutions such as WinZip and HiPDF are usually cheaper than Adobe’s offerings and offer more configuration options. Some of them will even produce the same compressed PDF format. However, not all third-party apps are compatible will all PDF features. You also run the risk of using something malicious that could add viruses and trojans to your files.

3. Free Versus Paid Tools

Associated with the last consideration, your next step is to decide if you will use a free tool or a paid one to compress your PDFs. All vendors including Adobe offer free and paid options, and you can use your favorite search engine to find them all. However, they all come with caveats.

Free compression tools have the best price around: FREE. You can use them as often as you like and pay nothing for the privilege. However, most free tools restrict your configuration options, limiting their usefulness for large and complex files.

Paid tools offer more compression options and better security. These tools let you customize the process to your specific needs, ensuring that your files remain intact and readable. However, you often must pay a premium for the high-end tools, and the low-end ones are barely better than the free ones.

4. Maximum File Size

It might come as a surprise to some people, but there are times when a compressed file is larger than an uncompressed one. This is especially true for complex documents that include videos and audio components, though it can also happen when you have lots of images. As such, you need a compression tool that can handle the potential final file size.

Luckily, most tools can handle files of any size and complexity. That means your most likely bottleneck would be the size of your storage or file transfer solution.

5. Online or Offline Compression Tools

The advent of cloud technology paved the way for many online software services, including file compression. As such, you compress your PDF files without installing anything on your computer beyond your editor. However, most online tools are as restrictive as for free tools.

If you need full control over the compression algorithm, you will need a standalone offline compression tool. These tools work with your computer to compress and store your files according to your specifications.

6. Compression Security and File Integrity

Compression alters the contents of your files with the intent that you can get everything back later. However, some compression algorithms are not fully compatible with the PDF format and will break the files, rendering them useless. Therefore, you need a lossless compression solution that will not corrupt your files.

Similarly, you want a tool that will delete your original file if it has some connection to the Internet. That includes cloud storage and any publicly viewable procures. This is to protect you from data breaches and intellectual property theft.

7. Decompression and Opening Compressed PDFs

Depending on the type of compression, compressed PDFs are not always readily readable. As such, you must decompress them before you can use them. However, decompression can take a lot of time and specialized tools, especially if you must edit the files afterward.

Decompression is also a more resource-heavy task than compression. Your computer may not have the resources to read the compressed files, causing system crashes, data corruption, or something worse.


The PDF format is a powerful digital document and illustrates storage known for its high data integrity and professional-looking quality. However, they can grow large depending on their complexity. Fortunately, you can compress them into smaller files in most situations.