PDF backwards compatibility (older MacOS etc.)

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by macstatic, Apr 17, 2007.

  1. macstatic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I'm trying to figure out how I can create PDF files that will work on as many systems as possible (including older MacOS and Windows systems).

    I'm currently using a Powerbook G4 with MacOS 10.4.9, writing those documents in NeoOffice as NeoOffice documents, then saving them as PDF files using the NeoOffice's built-in PDF export option.

    But I would like those same documents to be readable on say my ancient 68K Mac running MacOS 8.1
    I believe I have Acrobat reader 2.0 installed on it now, but it won't read those PDF documents I've created. I have no idea what the latest possible version is which works for that machine.
    So I would like to know:

    1) What's the latest Acrobat reader version which will work with MacOS 7,8 and 9, and where can it be downloaded from?

    Are there any alternatives to Adobe's own acrobat reader by the way? I've only found a couple for MacOSX (in addition to the built in "Preview" of course) with the unimaginative names: PDF-viewer and PDF-view, but nothing for older MacOS versions.
    Adobe's PDF readers are often accused of being partly "spyware" as it (for no apparent reason) often tries to go online and do something (and this is even after having unchecked the automatic updating feature). It's also bloated and slow.

    2) How do I make my PDF files compatible with those older PDF readers?
    I have Acrobat 7.0 pro if that helps, although I've just started using it and don't understand all its features yet.
  2. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    I produce a lot of PDFs every day... the earliest I bother going back to is PDF 1.3 (Acrobat 4) as it's compatible with 99% of the machines out there and was a significant milestone in the history of the PDF format.

    Producing earlier versions of PDF documents for ancient machines is problematic as many of the features in later versions of the PDF standard are just not there.

    To use Acrobat Pro to convert PDFs for earlier versions, use PDF Optimizer. Uncheck all the image settings unless you want to downsample images and select compatible with Acrobat 4.0 and later...


    I also find Planet PDF helpful for more indepth PDF discussion.


    And there's also this:

  3. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Thanks for your suggestions and comments.

    I've been searching all over, but can't find any download sites for Acrobat reader 4.0. The earliest version you can download at Adobe's own "Adobe reader" download page is 5.05, but it demands a PPC Mac with MacOS 8.6 and onwards.
  4. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I finally got round to trying out the version 4.05 of Adobe Acrobat-reader, but my upon installation it complained that it only worked with PPC Macs.

    So what's the latest 68K Mac compatible version of Adobe Acrobat-reader and where can I download it from?
  5. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I should have looked closer at the page you (Blue Velvet) mentioned, because there's a version 3.01 available which I've just downloaded. Haven't tried it on my old 68K Mac yet though, but assume it'll work fine.

    However, I can't find out how to make my PDF documents compatible with anything older than 4.0.
    In my Acrobat Professional 7.0.9 I believe the way to do it is to open up the PDF document you're working on (I wrote them in NeoOffice and used its built-in "Export as PDF" function), then go to the Advanced-PDF optimizer menu. There's a button near the top right hand side marked "Make compatible with:" but the lowest I can go is "Acrobat 4.0 and later".

    Is there another way to make my PDF files compatible with earlier versions of Acrobat reader? My PDF files are pretty basic; just text and a few images.
  6. RacerX macrumors 65832

    Aug 2, 2004
    It should be noted that PDF compatibility isn't a yes or no type of answer when looking at versions... When Acrobat 4 was released, the PDFs it created using the PDF 1.3 format didn't not work with Acrobat Reader 3.x. In fact, most of the time Reader 3.x had no problems reading documents created with Acrobat 4.

    The issues popup mainly when using features or abilities that are unique to the format. A PDF 1.3 document that uses something unique to Acrobat 4 will not be readable in Acrobat 3.

    I'm sorta in the same boat here as the PDF apps for OPENSTEP and Rhapsody are generally designed to be compatible with PDF 1.2 (Acrobat 3) documents, but do pretty good with PDF 1.3 (Acrobat 4) documents.

    As long as you aren't doing any really fancy stuff with your documents, odds are that PDF 1.3 should work just fine with Acrobat Reader 3.x.

    As for working with the full version of Acrobat, you should be able to set the compatibility of Distiller to the level you want (I have Acrobat 6 Professional, and I can set the compatibility of Distiller down to PDF 1.2). Once Distillers PDF settings are set, you can drag a PDF to Distiller to have it distill it down further to a lower PDF version.

    You can do the same type of thing with Stone Design's PStill... which can be set up as a PDF service for use with Save to PDF in Mac OS X's print services.

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