Adobe Acrobat Distiller is a very powerful program that few designers seem to take advantage of. In this tutorial I will show you some reasons to use Distiller and some useful features. Before you can learn how to use it, you must learn what it is. Adobe Acrobat Distiller is a tool that turns postscript files into PDF files. Now why use Distiller instead of just exporting a PDF from Adobe InDesign or another Adobe program? Many reasons. Lets get into it.
Ironically, you may have used it without you even knowing. Ever made a PDF from the print dialog box from MS Word or another non-Adobe application? That uses Distiller to make the PDF. But aside from that Distiller is really gets into its own by be able to convert multiple files at one time from a PS file (thats PostScript not Photoshop). Say you are working on a project for a client that requires multiple InDesign files, lets say 15. The client wanted PDF that were compatible with Acrobat 7 and higher, CMYK color, and highest quality possible. Typically a designer would just export these right from InDesign. The problem arises that, say the client wanted to make it compatible with Acrobat 5 and higher, RGB color, and a lesser quality in order to put it on the internet. The designer would have to go back in and export out all of the files by hand again. Complete waste of time.
Now lets say that the designer has some foresight and instead of creating PDFs from the InDesign files he exported out PS files (again thats PostScript) from the print dialog box (instead of your printer, choose PostScript). Once the client makes the change, he would just have to run the PostScript files though distiller and it would create the PDFs with the exact settings that he needed. No need to open up InDesign at all or export anything by hand. It’s all run in batch (or in other words, in groups). That saved the designer at least a half hour if not more, especially if the client requests more PDFs.
One of the coolest features of Distiller is the ability to set up watch folders. Watch folders will automatically look for PS files and convert them on the fly. This is helpful if you are constantly creating PDFs from PS files. Just as simple as drag and drop. We are going to learn how to do this.
In Distiller in the menu system go to Settings - Watch Locations.
After the dialog pops up, click Add Folder. You will want to have set up a folder in advanced of where you want to drop your PS files. Each folder can have it’s own PDF settings which can make it nice if you need to do multiple PDF settings. After selecting the folder you can edit the folder output settings by clicking Edit Settings. Once you are done with the settings click ok. Your watch folder is now set and ready to go. Distiller will automatically create 2 folders for you. One called In and the other Out. I don’t think I need to explain what these do. To process a PS file into a PDF just drag and drop a PS file into the In folder. It will automatically be processed for you. No exporting it by hand.
Distiller is a really powerful tool that can work with you to make your workflow easier and faster. It may not be right in all situations and it is up to you to correctly utilize the tool but one thing is for sure; it is a very under used tool.