Change PDF Versions using Acrobat

Courts and other regulatory agencies typically require firms which eFile to provide a specific version of PDF—most often PDF 1.4, the Acrobat 5 format.

Other times, you may need to change the version of a PDF you have to ensure compatibility with a client or colleague using an older version of Adobe Acrobat.

In this article, I’ll cover the following:

I’ll also cover some other related topics about changing PDF version. Read on to learn more.

PDF Versions and Backwards Compatibility

Certain PDF documents may only be viewed in newer versions of Acrobat.

For example, if you send a PDF Package to a client using Acrobat 6, they will be prompted to download the latest version of the free Adobe Reader to view it.

The following chart is not comprehensive. It is intended to cover the specific instances a typical legal user may encounter.

Acrobat Product Version

PDF Version

New Features Affecting Backwards Compatibility

Acrobat 8

PDF 1.7

- Reader Enabled Forms - PDF Packages - PDF 1.7 XML Forms

Acrobat 7

PDF 1.6

- Reader Enabled Review - Security Envelopes - XML Forms - Embedded multimedia including 3D content - Bookmark Compression

Acrobat 6

PDF 1.5

- Linked multimedia

Acrobat 5

PDF 1.4

- OCR Text Layer

Saving to a Previous PDF Version using “Reduce File Size”

This option is available in both Acrobat Standard and Professional.

  1. Choose Document—> Reduce File Size

Using thr Reduce File Size option to change the PDF version.

  1. Choose the PDF compatibility required
  2. Click OK

What “Reduce File Size” actually does is a bit of a mystery. Documents containing color images generally show the most reduction in file size.

Typical legal documents such as scanned black and white documents or simple text-only documents generated from word processing will show little difference in file size. In fact, they may grow slightly.

Saving to a Previous PDF Version using the PDF Optimizer

The PDF Optimizer is a feature of Acrobat Professional only. Using the PDF Optimizer you can:

You can select and carry out multiple operations or simply change the version.

Follow these steps to reduce file size using the PDF Optimizer in Acrobat 8:

  1. Choose Advanced—> PDF Optimizer…
  2. — or —
  3. File—Save as…
    Choose “Adobe PDF Files, Optimized” from the Type menu
    Click the Settings button
  4. Getting to the PDF Optimizer via SAVE AS
  5. Set the PDF Compatibility
    The PDF Optimizer
  6. Click OK

Changing PDF Versions in Batch

The PDF Optimizer may be used with the Batch Processing feature of Acrobat Professional.

You could, for example, change the PDF version of hundreds of files at a time.

See my article on Batch OCR to learn how.

Additional Discussion

Acrobat cannot make every PDF readable by an earlier version, especially those that contain embedded multimedia objects. If this is the case, use the PDF Optimizer to remove embedded media.

As a general practice, I don’t recommend saving to Acrobat 5 unless required by a regulatory office or court.

Since older, full versions of Acrobat can co-exist on system with the latest Adobe Reader, “Open” compatibility isn’t much of an issue. Reader is free, and that’s a compelling reason to install it.