How to deal with poor PDF quality

"Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten", says a Gucci family slogan. Nevertheless, creators of PDF documents, private users up to large companies, regularly produce files with insufficient quality causing unexpected problems and cost in document processing steps. So, companies are forced to equip their document 'inbox' with a quality control system.

The exchange of electronic documents in business processes has now become a matter of course. The quality of these documents therefore plays an important role in ensuring smooth operation. Many organizations have been surprised by the poor quality of the files delivered and are forced to take action by processing issues and even production downtime.

An important measure is the establishment of a quality control system for incoming documents - a quality gate, as we call it. Before this can be done, one has to be clear about what quality means. In this context, we can distinguish two types of quality, the inherent quality and the dedicated quality. Inherent quality is usually understood as:
  • Conformance with the file format specification (ISO 32'000)
  • Efficient, non-redundant and memory-friendly use of the PDF language
Dedicated quality is mostly focused on applications such as:
  • Scanning
  • Document exchange
  • Publishing
  • Printing
  • Archiving
  • etc.
For example, it is important for files to be printed that the fonts and colors are optimized, but usually no structural information is needed. And for archiving, the files must conform to the PDF/A standard, whereas this is not necessary for printing.

Such a quality gate must therefore offer the following functions:
  • Validation: standard conformance checks as well as configurable custom checks such as minimum resolution of scanned images, legibility of text, etc.
  • Repair and conversion: Fix file corruptions, ensure conformity with a standard such as PDF/A.
  • Optimization: reduce file size, merge and subset fonts, convert colors, adapt resolution of images.
  • Digital Signing: seal the document, enable detection and prevention of unauthorized modifications.
The introduction of a quality control system costs money. But as indicated in the slogan at the beginning: Customers and employees will not remember the initial cost, but the problems solved by the better quality. And this saves the most important cost: the cost of a damaged reputation.

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