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What software exists can do this conversion?

I work with some software that can't handle newer PDFs made with Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro and other newer office programs.

Price and platform doesn't matter as long as it's not too expensive.

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Adobe Acrobat itself has a feature to change the version. Word has a similar option between Office 2010 and Office 2013 for its .docx format. Only providing a comment because of the spam that was published. – Ramhound Jan 14 '15 at 13:57
up vote 17 down vote accepted

Acrobat 9 Pro can be used to re-distill PDF 1.7 into any "lower" version of PDF. Look at the Distiller settings... Up to you to decide if it's "not too expensive".

Depending on the exact feature subset of PDF-1.7 used in your files, even (Free) Ghostscript may be able to do a good quality transformation to PDF-1.2, PDF-1.3 or PDF-1.4 file format version.

This is the Ghostscript command line to create a PDF-1.4:

 gs                        \
  -sDEVICE=pdfwrite        \
  -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 \
  -o output.pdf            \

The more recent versions of Ghostscript can abbreviate the parameter -sOutputFile=... to -o .... It also implicitly also sets -dBATCH -dNOPAUSE. So it is much shorter to type and much easier to avoid typing errors.

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I almost lost all hope when reading @Rook's answer. This gives me hope. I will definitely try out both programs. I think I long time ago tried Ghostscript for a PDF merge task. Thank you. – neoneye Sep 8 '10 at 9:17
IT WORKS. I have just converted a bunch of PDFs from version 1.6 to version 1.4. Very impressive. – neoneye Sep 9 '10 at 8:21
Maybe you could leak which of the two suggested methods you used? – Kurt Pfeifle Sep 9 '10 at 18:54
gs -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 -sOutputFile=output.pdf input.pdf – neoneye Oct 12 '10 at 18:56

If you're using Ubuntu 11.04 (or probably any Gnome distro) and can view the PDF in the built-in Document Viewer, you can then Print to file to save it as a PDF-1.5. (Save A Copy, in contrast, just creates a byte-identical copy of the file.) I did this today to convert a PDF from 1.6 to 1.5, so now I can use it with the FPDF lib.

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Do you know what the "built-in Document Viewer" is called? – jeteon Feb 18 at 4:12
@jeteon: That's probably evince... – Kurt Pfeifle Feb 18 at 11:10

I've never done it, so naturally cannot say how effective this is, but here goes: Convert PDF files to older format. Also, googling for convert pdf to older version gives out some interesting results.

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Cool, I will try experiment with the ESP conversion. Still interested if there are other conversion tools. – neoneye Sep 3 '10 at 14:43
@neoneye - Well, the trouble with this kind of conversion really, is that it's not really a conversion. Basically, what they're doing is that they're disassembling a PDF and putting it back again; since PDF is an "output format", a final format so to say, you can't really convert it so anything else, for that would require editing it, and PDF's are not really ment for that. – Rook Sep 3 '10 at 14:49
@Rook: you are not correct when stating "that it's not really a conversion". Of course it is. It's even a double-conversion: PDF ==> EPS ==> PDF, and the first file's content very likely is much different from the final file's. The PDF "disassembly" into EPS likely will have been lossy, and the "putting it back again" will never recover the losses. Chances are, it will have deteriorated in its quality features (look at the fonts, look at transparencies...) – Kurt Pfeifle Sep 6 '10 at 21:32
@pipitas - You misunderstood my meaning. Or maybe I put it a little vaguely together. What I ment to say is that PDF is usually an output format, a final output ... it is, unlike for example, a Word file, not ment to be edited, or to be saved as anything else once it is in PDF format. – Rook Sep 6 '10 at 22:48
@Rook: So you misunderstood the meaning of the original question? Even if not: again you are not completely correct. Want to print a PDF? You need to convert it to PostScript, PCL, HP/GL, ESC/P or whatever printer language your output device "talks". In professional printing/prepress, there are complete workflows based around PDF conversions... They wouldn't need these, if PDF really was such a "fixed", "final" output format that you see in it. Are you aware there are PDF-1.0, -1.1, -1.2, -1.3, -1.4, -1.5, -1.6, -1.7... and PDF/X*, PDF/A*, PDF/E*,... file format specifications? – Kurt Pfeifle Sep 7 '10 at 0:30

In addition to the Ghostscript solution suggested above, you can use the "Reduce File Size" option in the "Document" menu of Adobe Acrobat 8 or 9, and choose the compatibility level you desire.

Additionally, Acrobat 8 or Acrobat 9 Pro can run the PDF Optimizer in Batch Processing to convert multiple files at once; simply create a new sequence with no commands. In the sequence's Output Settings dialog, check the "PDF Optimizer" box and click the Settings button - enable or disable any optimization settings you'd like, and set the "Make compatible with" dropdown near the top to the appropriate Acrobat/PDF version you desire. Run the batch sequence on the files/folders you wish to convert, and PRESTO, hundreds of documents converted in minutes!

I used the PDF Optimizer/Batch Processing method to convert 297 PDF files in about 3-4 minutes (most were 1-page flyer type documents). It's also worth noting that the PDF Optimizer can't convert secured documents ;)

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