At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: PDF

How to View Your Photo Book on Your iPhone or iPad

You’ve just created a physical photo book using your favorite online book-making service. Bravo! Now, you’ve decided you also need to create a digital version that works on your iPhone or iPad. Here’s how you do that…

I know the idea of creating a digital version of a physical photo book is entirely counterintuitive… I’ve been talking for years about the need to create photo books to organize your pictures. I’ve been preaching that merely maintaining your photos in digital form isn’t the right move. I’ve been warning how hard drives and Cloud services will likely not protect your precious digital files in the decades to come.

Photo books will stand the test of time. Plus, they serve as an analog platform right now to enjoy all of your wonderful pictures that are locked away in digital form.

So why do I suddenly see a need to reverse engineer this solution and figure out how to generate a digital version of a photo book?

Slow as Molasses
Well, there’s one problem creating photo books… You have to wait for what seems like forever after you order them online, because they take a few days to print.
(It can take over two weeks to receive them without express shipping.)

If you’re trying to hit a deadline to create one of these books as a gift and didn’t plan early enough in advance, you may need a digital version to show off to the gift recipient as a ‘preview.’

And that’s not a terrible back up plan, because people are used to viewing pictures digitally anyway.

The Price for Immediate Gratification
Sure, you can pay a few bucks to have your book-making website do it for you.
(I use Blurb through Adobe Lightroom…and Blurb’s price to create a PDF version is $4.99.)

But when I ran across this exact situation recently, my finger immediately deselected the “Create a PDF” button. I figured that creating a sharable digital version of a photo book is something Mr. At Home with Tech should be able to do by himself for free.

I needed to preview my new photo book via an iPad. And then I wanted to email the gift recipient an online link to the photo book as well.
(Emailing the file itself wouldn’t be an option due to the large file size.)

So, here’s how you do it…

Save the Finished PDF Book Using Adobe Lightroom
As opposed to just using a website’s book-making tools, there’s one big benefit to creating your photo books using software that resides locally on your computer.
(Such as Adobe Lightroom or Apple’s Photos)

You’re creating the finished file first before uploading it to the book-making website. And the file you’re uploading is a PDF. You should also be able to save that exact PDF onto your computer’s hard drive for your own use.

Adobe Lightroom’s book-creation module offers you the option to export one large PDF or a whole bunch of JPEGs that represent each page.

In ‘Book Settings’ on the top right… you’ll see the choice of ‘Blurb,’ ‘JPEG’ or PDF.

  • Choose ‘PDF’
  • And then on the bottom right, click ‘Export Book to PDF’ and choose the destination

Now, it’s time to get that file onto the iPad…

Move the PDF Over Via the Cloud
There are a variety of Cloud-based methods to easily move the PDF over to an iPad.
(Like Apple’s iCloud Drive)
But I’m a big fan of Dropbox, and that’s the route I chose…

  • Export the PDF into the Dropbox folder on your Mac
  • Then, find and open the PDF using the Dropbox app on your iPad

Save to iBooks
Finally, you want to save the PDF locally for easy access. Sure, it’s always available via Dropbox, but the big PDF takes some time to load up. And the pages don’t show up cleanly on Dropbox. The iPad’s screen dimensions don’t match the book’s… so there’s some page overlap.

Instead, use Apple’s native iBooks app. It’s is a great solution!
When viewing your PDF via Dropbox on your iPad or iPhone…

  • Tap ‘Export’
  • Tap ‘Open In…’
  • Tap ‘Import with iBooks’

Now, each page shows up cleanly and independently as you swipe through!

Send a Link Via Dropbox
If you’ve used a Cloud-based sharing method to get your file onto your iPad, you should be able to also create a web link to that file, which you can then email to the gift recipient.

In the Dropbox app on your iPad…

  • Select ‘Share’
  • Tap on ‘Create a Link’
  • Tap on the ‘Mail’ icon
  • Type in the email address
  • And ‘Send!’

Best Gifts Ever
If you’re wondering after all of this whether you actually still need the physical photo book, don’t lose sight of your original mission!

The digital conversion is icing on the cake and satisfies an immediate need for instant access.

But when your gift recipient eventually opens up the actual book, you’ll remember that sometimes going ‘old school’ still has its advantages…

The Best Way to Compress a PDF

Have you had the time to figure out how to squeeze your PDF to the perfect size in OS X? Here’s the good news… Now, you can check this nagging challenge off your ‘boring-tech-fix’ to-do list!

Have you had the time to figure out how to squeeze your PDF to the perfect size in OS X? Here’s the good news… Now, you can check this nagging challenge off your ‘boring-tech-fix’ to-do list!

Pop quiz: When was the last time you scanned a multipage document into a PDF on your home printer/scanner and then realized the file size was too large to use? It happens to me at least once a month… I find it’s often a problem when you want to upload the PDF online, and there are upload file limits.

Okay… so you just have to compress the file. No problem… right?
(Please note touch of sarcasm.)

How to Compress a PDF in ‘Preview’

In the Apple ecosystem, I’ve found the native PDF compression solution remarkably… unintuitive.

That said, here’s how you do it:

Typically, when you click on your PDF, it opens up in ‘Preview.’ From there, you’ve got two choices:

Go to ‘File’ on the top menu bar and look for ‘Export.’

  • Click on ‘Export.’
  • Make sure ‘Format’ is set to ‘PDF.’
  • Then under ‘Quartz Filter,’ choose ‘Reduce File Size.’
  • And then save as you normally would.

Easy… right?
Yes… but the new file that gets created looks… terrible… barely readable. Sure the file is certainly compressed, but if there’s any small text to read, it’s mostly unrecognizable.

The good news is Apple offers a second method…

That’s right… you’re going to ‘print’ your PDF into a compressed file.
(Don’t ask questions!)

Go to ‘File’ on the top bar and look for ‘Print.’

  • Click on ‘Print.’
  • On the bottom left of the ‘Print’ menu, you’ll see a PDF drop-down box.
  • Click on ‘Compress PDF.’
  • Then save as you normally would.

This method creates a larger compressed file than the ‘Export’ route, and as it turns out… the resulting file looks really good.

So if the new PDF is small enough for your needs… you’re done.

For the record, this ‘Print’ method took a 5.7MB five-page PDF down to 1.5MB.
(The ‘Export’ method crunched my file all the way down to a mushy 451KB.)

But what if you want something in between the massive compression of ‘Export/Reduce File Size’ and the heftier PDFs created by ‘Print/Compress PDF?’

Use Adobe Only as a Paid Solution
If you think using Adobe Reader can help you, don’t bother. You’ve got to pay Adobe to help you with compression.
(Adobe Acrobat)

As it turns out, there are other third-party solutions… and some are free. But I’m not interested in MacGyvering this problem. I’m intentionally limiting today’s exercise to the native software that’s already living on my otherwise wonderful Mac.
(There’s got to be a way!)

ColorSync Utility to the Rescue
And, in fact, there is…

The trick is to create a new compression profile using your native ‘ColorSync’ utility. You can duplicate Apple’s standard ‘Reduce File Size’ filter there and easily tinker with the settings of your new filter.

Here’s how:

  • Open ‘ColorSync Utility,’ which typically lives in Applications/Utilities.
  • Click on ‘Reduce File Size.’
  • When you open up ‘Image Sampling’ and ‘Image Compression,’ you’ll see the main profile is all locked up.
  • So click on little upside-down triangle to the right and then click on ‘Duplicate Filter.’
  • This is the step that creates your own personal filter copy. Now you can monkey around to your heart’s content!

Here are the tweaks I added:
(Although there are an almost infinite number of variations you can apply)

  • I increased ‘Scale’ from 50% to 75%.
  • Then, I increased ‘Max Pixels’ from 512 to 1280.
    (I borrowed these setting suggestions from

Voilà… you’ve just created your own custom Quartz filter!

  • Next, simply open up your original PDF with ColorSync.
    (Use the ‘Open With’ drop down.)
  • Go to the bottom left drop-down ‘Filter’ menu.
  • Select your new custom filter.
  • Click ‘Apply.’
  • Save as you normally would.


This new ‘Barrett Compression Setting’ got my 5.7MB PDF down to 900KB…right in the sweet spot between the other two. And the compressed file looked almost as good as the 1.5MB compression…

And that’s all I really needed!

Don’t Forget
So there you have it… two prefab methods and a hidden path to cook up your own compression settings in the OS X environment.

It’s worth noting that much of the online chatter on this topic is years old… so I’m a little late to the party… But on the other hand, what average person is supposed to have this kind of detail readily accessible at their fingertips?
(I hope this post helps.)

In an age where your computer is getting smarter by the minute, shouldn’t a simple compress command with several size settings be readily accessible?

…Just saying.

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