pdf exports

• Feb 3, 2016 - 18:51

question: why is there such a huge difference in file size when I export to pdf on mac vs. on pc?

the mac files are almost prohibitively large - I find I'm taking my scores to another location where I can do the conversion on a pc.

stefano targhetti


You want Adobe Acrobat Pro. I use X (v.10). It and 11 are still supported with security updates by Adobe and work great in El Capitán and don't require Subscription (ugh!). Forget the freeware — this does exactly what you want and a great deal more.

I recently scanned a 21 page full color catalog from the '60s at 79mB and used Acrobat to reduce it to 2.9 mB. My recent Christmas book was 186mB when I exported the Finale pages to .pdf. Having only two pages in color, the 121 pages reduced to 3.7 mB with no visible loss of quality.

My normal use is to assemble single PDFs from multiple sources. Once you do this in Acrobat, you'll never look at Preview or any freeware again for this use.


Nuance has a PDF converter under $60. Having Acrobat Pro, I've never used it but you can download an eval.

Here's the workaround I use - at the print dialog box, under PDF, select "Open PDF in Preview". The resulting file is nice and tidy (once saved from Preview).

In reply to by jazz_trpt

Really? If there's a way to reduce file size in Preview, I'm listening but what you suggest doesn't do that.

I deal with 15–100MB .pdf files daily in my work. My default is "Open PDF in Preview" and then I save. To make them smaller, I use Acrobat Pro X as I mentioned.

Although I use the Adobe product, it is very expensive if that's all you use it for. I'm looking for decent freeware or cheapware .pdf assembler and conversion software to recommend to my colleagues who are uploading hundreds of these files a day to a database. I have found a few for Windows but am now looking for Mac. Here's a list I have found but haven't checked many out yet.


In reply to by jeetee

So, you believe I didn't understand the OP? You clearly didn't test this, did you? Well, I did.

After each action, I checked File Size using GetInfo. Here's what I found.

I took a 17 page Finale score and saved it as PDF. File size: 300,588 bytes (303 KB on disk)

Using XML, I exported it to MuseScore which gave me a 25 page score (no big deal there).

Export to pdf from MuseScore File size: 5,190,047 bytes (5.2 MB on disk)

Using 'Open in Preview' File size: 5,245,141 bytes (5.2 MB on disk) That's larger, right? OK, not much but it isn't smaller.

Using 'Save as PDF' from the Print Menu File size: 5,245,141 bytes (5.2 MB on disk)

Compressed with Acrobat Pro X File size: 2,594,191 bytes (2.6 MB on disk) (I expected it to be smaller)

Then, just for kicks, I exported the MuseScore file as XML and opened it in Finale giving me a 32 page score. When I saved that as a pdf, I got File Size: 404,686 bytes (406 KB on disk)

Even if you don't have Finale, you can test what I did in MuseScore.

At least now I have benchmarks to test other pdf converters and see if I can find something that outperforms Acrobat Pro on MuseScore files.

Then, because I was curious, I opened that same XML file in Encore, saved as pdf and got File size: 302,544 bytes (303 KB on disk) Encore doesn't support MusicXML 3 so there were no lyrics and it was only 20 pages. But still...

In reply to by MikeHalloran

Here is how it works (follow steps exactly):
Choose print in Musescore.
In the print window (bottom left) select "open Pdf in preview" (I bet you selected "save as Pdf").
In Preview save the file.

Gives nice small files. BUT: This procedure adds almost an inch of extra margin around your page (Preview is generally a pain in the ass, if you ask me). So you get your music scrunched together in the middle of the page and spare room at the bottom. That is why I have given up on this.

I am now doing it via Musescore.com. Upload, then download as Pdf. It is quite a bit more work and there are problems as Musescore.com tends to change your layout. Read the following thread to find out how to deal with this, especially the advice by Marc Sabatella at the end: https://musescore.org/en/node/97726

The problem with Apple is apparently not straightforward to fix (I don't begin to understand the explanation) and we are not to expect a fix for version 2.0.3. unfortunately.

In reply to by MikeHalloran

You're correct, I didn't test this at all as I don't even have a Mac. Aside from that, I indeed assumed you didn't test it either and misinterpreted the question.
The reason for my assumption is the following:
1. You're the first report stating that the method I've linked too doesn't work. You vs multiple other for whom it did work.
2. You didn't provide any numbers backing your claim there
3. This is the internet, assumptions are made

Obviously, my assumption was incorrect and I apologize for that.

Now that that water is under the bridge I'm very interested in why you're getting different results than some other users.
Do you have a different version of the OS? Different versions of Preview? Differences in the installed PostScript packages?
It would be great if you can provide your info on those points. It would be better still if then someone else for whom it does work can provide the same info.

If we can document what/when works and what/when doesn't, then our handbook can only improve and we can keep the users expectations as close to (current) reality as possible.

In reply to by MikeHalloran

Here is what I understand to be happening - Musescore on the Mac is leaning on some library for its export function which is fundamentally different from its print function.

On the Mac, what appears to be happening is that the export to PDF function is resulting in a rendering of each page as a raster (for our purposes, bitmap) image. Like a scan or fax. Probably 300 dpi?

The print> PDF > view PDF in preview functionality works like most programs do - it downloads shapes, lines, fonts, as vector data, which is based on geometry and fills ("Make a triangle [or polygon] with these dimensions and then fill it in), including fonts (PostScript). This means that fonts get loaded once for the whole document, and the whole thing is super small.

Yes, you can use Acrobat to downsample the files, but if they are prepped with fonts embedded geometrically (vector), Acrobat won't do much to compress them. It can flatten layers, etc., but you won't see much savings IN THIS INSTANCE. (<< caps for emphasis, not yelling)

Anyway, ON THE MAC, if you want a smaller and more portable PDF file for the moment, PDF > Open PDF in Preview, and then save the file. Unless something's changed recently.

Hope this helps.

In reply to by jazz_trpt

In the print window (bottom left) select "open Pdf in preview" (I bet you selected "save as Pdf").

I bet you that I did both and posted the results. Did you not see that they were exactly the same size down to the byte count? Read it again if you missed that.

As I demonstrated, it's a 50% reduction in Acrobat Pro — which is not nearly enough. I'm used to 10–20% of the original file size or less.

I rejected uploading and downloading. That never works properly with anything and is time consuming. Since it's not acceptable for my work ... My team does not have that kind of time to waste — just not an option.

The MuseScore PDFs do give me a benchmark as I mentioned. Now I can throw those at the free and cheap ware. If I can get decent compression with something, I'll post it.

I don't know why Finale and Encore PDF files are so small by comparison but that's what I am used to. Sibelius and SmartScore Pro are similar (I didn't try Notion). Come to think of it, MuseScore is the one so large by comparison.

I'll take your word that it behaves on Windows. My XP machine only gets fired up when I absolutely must do something in Windows — in other words, almost never.

In reply to by MikeHalloran

The second answer in this thread has all the answers.
Sibelius, finale, encore, musescore on windows etc all embed and use fonts in the pdf. Every note note you see, is only a "link" in the pdf, and so the pdf is very small.
The mac pdf ms export writes every note as a vector object with all its coordinates. This results in bigger files. This may be fixed in future.
The reason for your different acrobat compression results is:
You get good results on musescore files because it compresses the vector descriptins. About 50% as you reported.
The enormous results of 10-20% on your other pdf files are because these very likely use raster images.

In reply to by MikeHalloran

Ok, one more time.
This just hot of the presses:
I take a typeset (violin part of chamber work, title page plus 4 pages of music).
Three procedures:
1. In Musescore use "Export as Pdf": 915 kB
2. In Musescore use "Print" > "Save as Pdf": 919 kB
3. In Musescore use "print" > "open Pdf in Preview", then in Preview "Export Pdf" (not "save" as I erroneously wrote above): 122 kB
The difference between 1/2 and 3 is significant. Only you have top put up with the wider margins around the page (which I do not want; I am already using a reduced scale and can't have the print any smaller than that).
BTW upload / download, inelegant and time consuming as it is gives me a Pdf of 102 kB and the correct layout. Pretty decent I think.

Maybe I should specify: Musescore 2.0.2. on MacOS Yosemite.

thank you so much for all the feedback on this post! it seems I unwittingly 're'-opened a bit of a can of worms - I didn't want to create dissension in the ranks - sorry for that!

for the record, I don't use acrobat pro or finale or any other commercial product.

I tried the technique of first opening a print dialogue, then selecting 'open in preview' - this works excellently for me - it took a 2mb pdf file exported the normal way, down to 56kb.

can't beat that result - and it's only 3 or 4 extra mouse clicks.

although I have to admit, loyal mac user that I am, when I load my musescore score onto a pc and export to pdf there - I like the appearance. can't say exactly what is different, perhaps the typeface is slightly less bold. I can't see any difference in 'quality' per se.

thanks again for all the feedback.
stefano il targhetti

In reply to by stefanotarghetti

>for the record, I don't use acrobat pro or finale or any other commercial product<

I get that but don't understand why. If the large white spaces (122k) or the large file sizes (919k) are unacceptable to you, then a commercial product may be the only way to accomplish what you want.

Freeware is nice only when it meets your needs.

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