Large Dimension PDF Files Are Fine, Adobe Is The Problem!

June 30, 2011

The problem I’m about to describe is most obvious to those in the sign industry. It can certainly affect any user, though most designers don’t use large enough dimensions to hit the limit. Let’s go over this “problem” and how to avoid it.

You may hear that PDF files have a limit of 200 inches. That is just a bit over 5 meters for those working in metric. This is completely false! There is no such limit in the PDF file format. The limit is in Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader.

Adobe Illustrator page size limitIn order to prove this theory, we have to create a file that is larger than the limit. Out of curiosity, I loaded Adobe Illustrator CS4 and tried to enter a width for the sign I was creating of 250 inches (a little over 6.3 meters). I received a dialog box informing me the size must be between 1 pt and 16383 pt. You’ll see the dialog at right. That works out to around 227 inches or 5.75 meters. That seems like a pretty low limit for someone needing to create large designs. CorelDRAW has a limit of 150 feet (or 45.7 meters) so I’ll use it to create my test PDF file.

I made my page 250″ x 50″ inches in CorelDRAW X5. The file has a total of 7 objects so it it pretty basic. The CDR file is 29 KB. Once I had a CorelDRAW file, I used the Publish to PDF function in CorelDRAW to create a PDF file in Acrobat 5 format (a much older format). The PDF file is 45 KB and you are free to download a copy if you like (I’ve zipped it for download so you’ll need to unzip to get the PDF file).

Once you have a PDF file to test, go ahead and open it in Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat. I tested in Adobe Acrobat 9 and the result was a blank page. I tried to open it in Adobe Illustrator CS4 and got mixed results. Two of the text objects were missing, but it did display everything else (not necessarily correctly). The background object extends beyond the edge of the page because of the page size limitation in Adobe Illustrator I mentioned earlier.

Now let’s open the PDF in a non-Adobe product. I used the free FoxIt Reader for my test. The file opened perfectly! I certainly don’t have every PDF reader and/or editor available for testing, but I’m guessing most of them should be able to handle this file without problem. Feel free to post a comment with your results in other pieces of software.

I know many designers are using CorelDRAW to design signs and they are told that the PDF they created with CorelDRAW is a problem because it opens blank in Adobe software. Now you know the problem is the Adobe software. Yes, the company that originally created the PDF specification isn’t following the specification with their products! I encourage you to pass this post along to those who have told you CorelDRAW is to blame. Tweet it to the world. Put it on your Facebook wall and your LinkedIn profile. I’m sure it will anger some Adobe users. Heck, I think Corel’s marketing department should be using this information to get every sign shop to use CorelDRAW. It might also help them promote the recently released PDF Fusion.

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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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