One can use Preview to compress a PDF. However Preview on Mac OS X 10.7 does a too hard compression for my taste. There is only one compression setting.

Are there alternative tools that allows you to adjust the compression ratio?


6 Answers 6


As Guy mentioned, ColorSync Utility is what your looking for. For me the standard compression was also too little resolution & too lossy compression. So I created a new filter in ColorSync - which then becomes available in e.g. Preview: Resolution 200 dpi, jpeg quality ~75%

Step 1: Open ColorSync Utility & create the new filter such as below

Screenshot: New ColorSync filter

The above settings give me files with acceptable size and decent quality (e.g. for sending by e-mail)

Step 2: Open the PDF in Preview, then choose File > Export, Click the Quartz Filter pop-up menu, then choose the relevant filter ("Reduce File Size 200dpi" in this case)

Apple Preview, export PDF

Edit 2011-12-18: Seems for Lion it's not that straight forward regarding Preview integration. See here:

Just copy your filter from /Users/YourName/Library/Filters/ to /Library/PDF Services/ and the customized profile will be back in preview.

  • On MacOs Mojave 10.14.1 settings shown as not adjustable, so you need to copy filter.
    – mrgloom
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 17:16
  • I'm not convinced by the need to move the Filters for Lion, and there's certainly no need to in Mountain Lion onward. User-created filters should work fine in <user>/Library/Filters. Having the filter in PDF Services means it will show up in the PDF button of the print menu.
    – benwiggy
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 8:28
  • 1
    Just in case anybody else is confused about how to create a setting which is adjustable. Using the + button won't work, instead you have to click on the triangle next to an existing filter and then use "Duplicate Filter".
    – mdomino
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 21:41
  • This is not the case anymore with Big Sur, the original steps worked just fine.
    – förschter
    Commented Apr 11, 2021 at 8:59
  • Is there a way to make this custom filter the default profile for print to PDF? Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 3:52

Ahhh! Turns out that you can fine tune the quartz filter that Preview uses. This might be a faster way to compress:

This is from a review of PDFCompress on Macupdate.com:

With Quartz Filters, you can take total control of the compression process. In Leopard (perhaps Tiger or earlier, I'm don't recall), in your Utilities folder you'll find "ColorSync Utility". With this program, you can create you own quartz filters which allow to you compress PDFs as much as you see fit. When you start ColorSync Utility, you'll see how Apple programmed their "Reduce File Size" quartz filter that you see in Preview. It's remarkably easy to make your own filter by modeling it off Apple's filter. Head on over to for a quick tutorial. Also, some nice guy on Apple's Discussion boards put up a bunch of premade filters you can download that do the same thing. A follow-up poster even posted AppleScript code and Automator recommendations to make compressing PDFs a snap! Check out for more on that. Happy PDF-Shrinking!

  • 3
    Pleas share the link to the additional filters.
    – sorin
    Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 13:05

This is for anyone who is in the same boat as I was. I had a PDF of handwritten annotations on a book exported from Goodnotes. The Quartz Filter method didn't work for me, even when I applied a custom filter with aggressive settings. This makes me think that the filter is only applied to images in the PDF. In my case, the most aggressive filter reduced a PDF of size 104 MB to 103 MB!

Using Automator to Reduce PDF Size

Note: This method works by converting pages in your PDF to compressed JPEGs and then stitching them back into a PDF, so other PDF data such as bookmarks and notes will be stripped.

  • Open Automator.
  • Go to File > New and Choose Workflow.
  • Create the Workflow as follows.
    • In the left pane, look for Ask for Finder Items and drag it to the right pane.
    • Next, add Render PDF Pages as Images and set the Compression and Resolution of the JPEGs.
    • Finally, add New PDF from Images.
  • Click on Run (top-right), choose your PDF and wait for Automator to do its job.

In my case, this reduced the file size to 10 MB.

Here's a screenshot of my Workflow:

Workflow Screenshot

I learned a lot from this Apple discussions post.

  • I’m slightly confused why you mentioned 104 and 103 MB - is that sarcasm or enthusiasm for the compression?
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 12:29
  • Neither. It's just to add some specifics. Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 13:01
  • Ok. Seems the same answer was copy pasted in two places so I was curious how it fit each question, I’ve closed one as duplicate since it seems best to combine the threads.
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 13:04
  • Yeah, makes sense. I copy-pasted because I wasted a lot of time tweaking Quartz filters to no avail. I hope this helps someone. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 11:16

I have used PDFCompress for years. It offers multiple options and hs been continuously updated. Highly recommended, but now $30. There may be cheaper options, but this has worked well for me.



To compress a PDF using some settings, you can use PDF Toolkit+. It used to be $2, but it's currently free. It does not allow adjustable ratio, but has specific settings of 150 or 72 dpi.


To compress a PDF using some settings, you can use PDFOptim - http://rootrisetech.com/product/pdfoptim

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