PDF Information

Creating PDF Documents
Last Updated: 12/7/2007

[This article provides information about the process of creating PDF Documents. For complete step-by-step instructions on how to create a PDF document, please consult Chapter 1 ("Converting Documents to PDF") of the Court’s “CM/ECF User’s Reference Manual.”]

The creation of Portable Document Format (PDF) documents is essential for the electronic filing component of CM/ECF; it is the only format that the application accepts.


There are two primary methods for creating PDF documents: formatting text documents into PDF at the time of creation or scanning imaged documents from paper into PDF.

The formatting text method offers at least four significant advantages over imaging:

Reduced Labor: Imaging is a labor-intensive task and if documents must be imaged, either the attorney or the court will have to provide that labor.

Improved System Performance: Text documents are much smaller than imaged documents. For a typical document, its PDF text version is only 20% of the size of its imaged version. Therefore, whenever an imaged document is stored or viewed, it puts five times more load on the network than it would as a text document. It also takes five times as long to transfer.

Reduced System Storage Cost: An imaged document consumes about five times more storage space than it would as a text file.

Text Search Capability. Text documents can be searched for words and phrases (as is done in Westlaw or Lexis). Imaged documents cannot be searched without first performing an extra step called optical character recognition (OCR). OCR is labor-intensive and does not yield 100% accuracy.

Creating PDF Documents from a Word Processing Package

The optimal method for creating a PDF document for filing in CM/ECF is a simple method: create it directly from a word processing application using Adobe Acrobat’s PDFWriter. The CM/ECF project team recommends this method for creating a PDF file from a word processing application.

Adobe Acrobat
The CM/ECF team continues to recommend it as the best and most efficient way to create a PDF file.

PDFWriter is part of the Adobe Acrobat software package. The CM/ECF project team recommends this tool for use in creating a PDF document from a word processing application because it:

    - creates a file that is smaller in size than a scanned document

    - creates a file that is text searchable

    - converts the document more quickly than Distiller (see below)

To ensure that the formatting and appearance of the document remain the same when viewed through the word processor and when viewed or printed through the PDF reader, the printer (File/Print menu) must be set to “Acrobat PDFWriter” before beginning to compose or edit the document. If a document is initially prepared with some other printer specified, the ultimate conversion to PDF is very likely to introduce changes in pagination, fonts, spacing, or other formatting elements, requiring further proofreading and further editing. Once the document is saved as a PDF file, always print from the PDF reader (rather than from the word processor) to be sure that the printed copy matches the court’s official copy.

If Acrobat PDFWriter is set as the default printer, no other steps should be needed. If some other printer is set as the default, Acrobat PDFWriter must be selected as the current printer immediately after opening the word processing application (or immediately after choosing to create a new document). In WordPerfect, each time the document is opened for editing before the final version is ready for filing, the printer should be set again to Acrobat PDFWriter. In Word, Acrobat PDFWriter is retained as the printer until the Word application is closed; if just the document has been closed and then reopened, the printer will still be set to Acrobat PDFWriter.

This tool can also be used to create a PDF document but it is not recommended unless there is a need for embedded images in the document because there are a couple of drawbacks to using this tool:

    - it creates a file significantly larger than that created by PDFWriter     

    - it takes significantly longer for the file to be created.

Note that the default installation of Adobe Acrobat 5.0 and higher includes the installation of Distiller but not PDFWriter. To load PDFWriter, you must choose the “custom” installation.

Although WordPerfect versions 9 and higher offer a feature (“Publish-to-PDF”) that allows a document to be converted directly into PDF format, it is not recommended; the file created in this way is unnecessarily large.

Testing by the CM/ECF project team shows that an eight page document converted to PDF with WordPerfect 9.0's Publish-to-PDF feature is three times larger in size than the same document converted with Acrobat PDFWriter.

Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word version 97 and higher does not currently provide a PDF converter and makes no reference to it. There is, however, a macro installed with Adobe Acrobat called PDFMaker that provides enhanced features for creating PDF files from Word. It is installed by Acrobat in the Microsoft Office/Office/Startup folder and is accessed through the File/Create Adobe PDF menu item or through an Adobe icon on the toolbar. It uses Acrobat PDFWriter or Distiller and converts Word features such as headings to PDF bookmarks, URLs to PDF Weblinks, cross-references within a document to PDF links, etc.

The PDF files created in Word using the File/Print to Acrobat PDFWriter method and the File/Create Adobe PDF (the PDFMaker macro) method are nearly identical in size.

Creating PDF Documents from a Scanning System

For those documents that must be imaged because a word-processed version does not exist, the preferred method is to scan the document directly into PDF format using Adobe Acrobat. Scanning to a format other than PDF (e.g., TIFF) would add both delay and labor, requiring not only scanning but a subsequent conversion to PDF.

Factors to Consider When Scanning

There are several factors to consider when determining how the scanning will be done.

The quality of the document when scanned is determined by the level of detail recorded by the scanner. This detail is referred to as the resolution, which is measured by the dots per inch (dpi). A higher resolution:

    - is slower to scan (this is dependent also on the scanner and the number of pages that are scanned).

    - creates a document with a larger file size. This, in turn, causes the loading of the document into the case         management  application and the retrieval of the document from the application to be slower.

There is a trade-off between the resolution, the speed at which the document is scanned, and the file size of the scanned document. For example, using a Ricoh IS-430 scanner (rated at 30-45 pages per minute), a 100 page document scanned at 300 dpi produces a file 6.97 MB and takes 3 minutes and 51 seconds to scan. The same document, scanned at 150 dpi, produces a file of 3.67 MB and takes 2 minutes, 15 seconds to scan.

It is therefore important to find a resolution that will provide a high quality document, with a file size that does not hamper the length of time it takes to scan, load, and retrieve the document. Of those surveyed, most courts that scan recommend a resolution between 200-300 dpi. The CM/ECF project team recommends 200 dpi resolution.

Another factor to consider is the mode of scanning. Almost always, it should be done in black and white, so that the file size will be as small as possible. However, there are some documents (those with shaded boxes, for example) that may need grayscale instead; this, however, will produce a file that is much larger in size than the document scanned in black and white. Never scan in color, unless absolutely necessary (perhaps for exhibits originally produced in color). This, too, will produce a document with an extremely large file size, which will take longer to load into the application and longer to retrieve for viewing purposes.

Limits on Size
ECF Procedure 5(d) for this court provides that “[e]ach transmission to ECF shall not exceed thirty-five (35) megabytes total file size. Files which exceed thirty-five (35) megabytes should be broken into smaller files and transmitted to ECF in multiple transmissions.”