PDF Basics

Before you create a document

Ask yourself if it is crucial for your audience to have this information as a downloadable document? Could you summarize the information and place it on a web page instead?

PDFs are often forgotten about and not kept up-to-date. Because the website is dynamic and changing, links embedded within PDFs are frequently broken soon after a document is published. It's time consuming to track down and repair broken links within PDFs. Remember that anything posted to the website is searchable and will appear in search results regardless if the information is outdated.

Web pages are easily updated and are accessible without any extra effort on your part.

Use PDF files if you publish a document to the website

PDF files can be opened and viewed by most anyone on the Internet because of Adobe's free reader. Do not use Word, PowerPoint, and other file types that require the user to own a specific program. Without the program, they cannot view the file on the web.

PDF file size - 5 mb or less

Files larger than 5 megabytes will not upload to the CMS server. Contact Web Help if you must publish a larger file.

Add the file type and size after the PDF link

When you link to a PDF or any document, let your site visitors know the file type and size of the document. Use this format:

  • File name (pdf 100 kb)

Use Adobe Acrobat Professional Version 8 or higher to create PDFs

You must own or have access to Adobe Acrobat Professional Version 8 or higher to generate an accessible PDF file. Do not use PDF 995 or other stripped down PDF generators. The PDFs produced by them are not accessible. 

Check PDF document properties

The minimum requirement for WSDOT document properties is to complete the title and author fields. Make sure that you have a descriptive title. The title is most important because search engines will display the title of the document in search results. The title should be understandable out of context.
To view document properties, from the Adobe Acrobat Professional toolbar, select:

  • File
  • Properties
  • Description (the first tab in Document Properties)

Save the file using Save as not Save from the menu. Save as creates a file that is  Fast Web View enabled for quick download from the server.

How to improve searchability for your PDF documents

Take the following steps to increase the searchability of your PDF documents.

  1. When you create the document, make sure that you include keywords in the content of the document. Using keywords consistently in the content, document title, and file name will improve searchability.
  2. Go to Document Properties under File - Document Properties.
  3. Enter the document title and author. The title is most important. Make sure you use a descriptive title containing keywords that may be part of a user's search. Because search engines will display the title of the document in search results, the title should be understandable out of context.
  4. In this same Document Properties dialog box, you can view your PDF file size – make sure it is no more than 5 MB.
  5. Save your PDF file with a brief (25 characters or less) yet informative file name. The file name will appear in the Web address (the url). Do not include any spaces in the file name. 

Make PDFs accessible

Online training is available to help you learn how to meet accessibility standards and make your PDFs accessible to those who use screen readers or other assistive devices.