Portable Document Format - PDF

While using our Macs we come across a lot of different files formats but, when it comes to file sharing, the most important of these is undoubtably the PDF.

The Portable Document Format was created by Adobe Systems and was officially made an Open Standard in 2008.

Its main purpose is to present text, fonts, images and graphics in a format that is independent of any software, hardware or operating system.

PDFs are the most universally acceptable way to present and distribute promotional material, EBooks and, of course, instructional material about how to use iWeb!

As you will find out on this page, PDFs can be incorporated into your website so that they can be viewed online, printed out or downloaded to the viewers desktop to be viewed with Preview or Adobe Reader®.

The Marketing section of this website will give you some ideas on how to make a PDF clickable and flickable online.

A one page PDF can simply be dragged onto the iWeb page, resized to suit and can then be downloaded by the viewer by Control, or RIght, clicking.

PDFs can be compressed in the ZIP format by highlighting them and then selecting "Compress" from the Finder/File menu. This is desirable where possible to help reduce the file size and necessary in some cases to enable direct download as we shall see below.

A download link to a PDF can be created in iWeb from text or an image. Highlight the text or image and, in the Link inspector, choose "Link to: A File", click the "Choose..." button to browse to the PDF and select it.

The problem with the method described above is that the PDF file has to load in the browser along with the web page and this can considerably increase page download time even if you only have one document on the page.

A better way is to upload your PDFs to a folder on your server. Create a folder - PDFDownload - drag your PDFs into it and upload it to the root folder on your server. Note that the PDF file should first be created as a zip file by selecting it and then choosing “Compress” in the Finder File menu.

PDF Downloads

PDFs in iWeb

Link to:  A File

The download link will be......


The PDF will automatically download to the viewer's desktop when the link is clicked.

A typical image download link is shown to the right and the corresponding text link could be like.....

Click HERE to download the Website Design Software Overview.

Go HERE to see an alternative way of exporting text documents as HTML and displaying them in an iFrame on a webpage.

To create a PC compatible zip file see the application YemuZip at the bottom of this page.

Click the Image to Download the PDF

Reduce File Size

They can sometimes be reduced by simply opening in Preview and then doing File/Save as. The freeware application ShrinkIt will do this in batch mode and copy the result to the original folder without overwriting the original. It also has the advantage of not processing the file if the end result is going to be larger than the original which sometimes happens.

To radically reduce the file size, open the PDF in Preview, select File/Save as - Shift Command S - and select "Reduce File Size" from the Quartz Filter drop down menu.

Note that this is only really suitable for text documents as your images will look horrible.


You may want to reduce the file size of a PDF for a number of reasons - particularly if you are loading it with the web page. Smaller file size equals faster download speed and the document will take up less space on the end user's computer.

As mentioned above, PDFs can be compressed somewhat by zipping them but this is not desirable in cases where you want them to load in a browser window.

If you use the iWork applications like Keynote or Pages to compile your PDFs, you have the option of exporting them in three different qualities - Good, Better and Best. Your final decision on this will depend on the graphic content of your document and how much you are prepared to compromise on the quality of their rendering.

The table below shows the results for the iWeb for Musicians EBook which was compiled in Keynote.

I chose to export this as "Better" and then zipped it to get a reasonable file size. As the book is only 120 pages with a fairly high graphic content, this is a reasonable size and downloads fast enough with a broadband connection. As the book grows, I can drop the quality to "Good" to compensate for the increased file size which looks good enough!

The version reduced by Preview is horrendous and was only done to show how radically the file size is reduced.


NOTE: If you want to make your zip files PC compatible download the freeware Yemu Zip.

Drag and drop your file onto the application and select "PC Compatible" from the drop down menu

iWeb will overwrite a text link with the file name and its just a matter of overwriting this with the text that you want.

Note that this link will not work in iWeb. The page has to be published and you will need to, at least, publish to a local folder to test it by double clicking the index.html file to launch your site in your browser.

Copyright © Roddy McKay - 2009 - All Rights Reserved

Next Page

Find out more about PDFs in the How To Build A Custom Website ebook...