There’s a right way and a wrong way to make a PDF. Based on an unscientific survey of the PDFs I’ve gotten from lawyers, just about all of you are doing it the wrong way.
The wrong way: print the document on paper and scan it to PDF.
The right way: convert the document directly to PDF.
Note Though almost all the material in this website is identical to the second-edition paperback of Typography for Lawyers, the technical material on this page has been updated to reflect my best current recommendations.
When you print a document and then scan it to PDF, you’re defeating most of the benefits of using a PDF at all. Essentially, you’re making a series of photos of your document and packaging them inside a PDF. These photos occupy a lot of disk space, they’re slow to view or print, they have to go through OCR to be searchable, and any care you’ve put into typography will be diluted by the reduced quality of the scan.
But printing directly to PDF stores your document in a compact, high-resolution format. Instead of a series of photos, the document pages are stored as highly compressed digital data. These pages take up very little space on disk, are fast to view or print, are searchable without OCR, and preserve your typography with perfect fidelity.
Got it? Good.
Many lawyers who use Windows rely on the built-in PDF generators in Word and WordPerfect. For ancient and arbitrary reasons, they only work with TrueType-format fonts, not OpenType. If you use professional fonts like those in font recommendations (including mine), make sure you’ve installed the TrueType versions of the fonts (they have the
For a long time I recommended that lawyers who use Windows also use the PDF generator that was included in the paid Adobe Acrobat software, because it made the best PDFs. The quality of Adobe’s PDF maker, unfortunately, has deteriorated over time. I still think Adobe Acrobat is a useful tool for anyone who has to file PDFs—e.g., as mentioned above, for combining a PDF brief with a set of PDF exhibits. But I don’t recommend generating PDFs from your word processor using Adobe software.