Dealing with PDFs

PDFs are ubiquitous, and many effects projects are distributed in this format. It's a nice container for text and images, and it holds it's resolution no matter what -- this is great for printing PCB layouts and having them actually turn out the right size.

But they can be a pain in the ass to deal with, because you can't just print one tiny section -- you have to print at least one whole page. This is bad for making PCB transfer images.

Isolating the PCB Transfer Image
Most image manipulation programs can deal with PDFs. Simply open the file with your program, let it rasterize at whatever the default DPI is (usually 300), and then crop the whole file down to just the transfer image. Simple and quick.

But what about when you don't have the proper "security" to edit a PDF? (This happens when a PDF has been password-protected to limit editing or printing or whatever the creator choose to restrict.)

Well, there are a few ways to circumvent a PDF's built-in security features. And they're all free. :)

On Linux or Windows:
Super simple. Just download a free copy of The GIMP. Open the password-protected file with The GIMP, and viola!! You can now have your way the file and edit it as you like.

There is a Mac version of The GIMP called However, it's kind of a pain to get running properly. If you're up to it, go for it.

But you can use some built-in OS X tools to get the job done with minimal effort. Simply apply *any* Quartz filter to the PDF file, and resave it to new file. This will strip the security features out of the saved file. I like to use the "Reduce File Size" filter, because it has virtually no effect on the file other than to strip the security.

You can even set up an Automater workflow to process several files at once. :)

Now open with your image editor of choice (even Photoshop) and crop away!

Why do these shortcuts work?
* The GIMP: Only programs that explicitly follow Adobe's rules for PDF security will actually enforce those security measures. Anything else will just ignore the security and open the file. :)

* Quartz Filters: I'm not really sure why, to be honest. But the PDF security gets discarded somewhere between applying a Quartz filter and resaving the file. ??