Tips for Flattening a PDF file

How does a user flatten PDF file when using Acrobat X? Flattening a form field entails removing the form fields altogether and keeping the data as regular items.

Those looking to lock down a form without using password protection usually want a way to be able to do that.

One way to achieve that is to “print to a new PDF”. It is possible and done but not a very optimal approach. If there is any transparent artwork in the PDF, they will get flattened too. Additionally, any interactive content in the file will be deleted and replaced with poster frames. The same happens with PDF forms.

So, if a user wants to retain the elements of the file without any form fields, how does he do it?

Those who have Acrobat Pro use the Preflight feature. Acrobat 8 and above also apply fixups to PDFs.

Some common issues that people face when flattening such as all checkboxes for Dr. Mr. and Mrs. show as checked. That is a side effect of using the Preflight feature. One will need javascript to circumvent such issues.

To use the preflight feature:

From a pre-determined pool of steps, user has to schedule a series of steps on the PDF. The steps get bundled into an Action. Name the Action and by clicking on it, start. The actions will take effect in an open file.

Users can use Action Wizard to provide instructions to follow. One can do that by clicking “Add Instruction Step” and add a title. It could be something like “flattening a file”. To execute the sequence of steps, a preflight profile is used. Acrobat X contains a lot many preflight profiles and includes fixups. Use Flatten Form Data.

Select a profile using More Tools and click on Preflight at the top of the list. Under Action Start, preflight steps will appear. Configure a Preflight Profile by clicking the Options button. Select the profile you just chose and clicked Safe to save the step.

The last step would be to configure how to save the PDF. One can save the file in the same location from where it was selected to change. Just rename the file.

Now that the action has been executed, it has to be saved. By clicking on Save and entering a name for it, save the action and it will be available in the Action Wizard panel.