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Either I'm doing something wrong, or it's ridiculous that we're in 2012 and we can't print a PowerPoint file to PDF without all sorts of silly artifacts (see the test file below). I'm looking for a "virtual printer" software for Windows that doesn't suffer from:

  1. Random horizontal lines through images. The problem is discussed all over the web, yet I don't use any sort of transparency, and still get these lines. Adobe Distiller creates these all the time.
  2. Jagged images in the PDF. I have a huge (>3MP) PNG in one of the slides, yet it looks like crap if printed with CutePDF Writer 3.68 or PDFCreator 1.2.3, while other images (JPG in the PPTX) look as good as in the original.

CutePDF doesn't really have settings, but in PDFCreator I've even used "ZIP" for image compression, and still get the jagged oblique line and jagged logo from the test file. DPI was set to 600, and in PowerPoint 2007 on Windows 7 I've checked "High quality".

Test file

Here's a test PowerPoint file. I'm looking for some "virtual printer driver" application for Windows that produces a PDF out of this file without the artifacts above (and preferably without any other ones).

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Regarding #2, I believe most PDF software resizes any size image to an x-DPI JPG or GIF. Where x is what you set in the options, but it's typically 150 dpi. This would probably reduce the quality quite significantly. –  ta.speot.is Feb 21 '12 at 12:25
    
@todda.speot.is: the other images in slide 2 (JPGs) aren't affected by the DPI/quality loss. Only the PNG suffers from that. I've updated my question. –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 21 '12 at 12:42
    
3MP is not huge. It is 6x5 inches when printed at standard 300dpi. Also, if your PNG is a logo or has text in it, you will probably need to have a higher pixel count to avoid jagged edges. Your jpegs are probably photos, which do not show the same aliasing artifacts because they are have no crisp edges. Text and hard edged logos are best when left as vector images up until output to PDF or printer. –  horatio Feb 21 '12 at 16:48
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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Office 2007 SP2 includes built in support for saving to PDF/XPS files. Before SP2 there was a standalone add-in, the Microsoft Office Addin for saving to PDF and XPS which added this ability.

Now the jawdrop moment - this thing is too good to be true:

  • a 1Mb download
  • saving is about 10 times faster than printing via Adobe or CutePDF or PDF Creator
  • the generated PDF is between 2 and 4 times smaller than the PDFs generated by those
  • the PDF also displays instantly in Foxit Reader, on every page. The PDFs produced by the virtual printers took a 1-2 seconds to display image-heavy pages.
  • the oblique line is smooth
  • the logo is super smooth
  • no stupid horizontal lines

Alas, the map image has visible JPEG compression artifacts, and there don't seem to be any configuration settings for this addin. It reads the PDF/A setting from HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Common\FixedFormat, but the "Optimize for" setting isn't persisted (it reverts to "standard").

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This add-in was a standalone installation untill Office 2007 SP2 support.microsoft.com/kb/953195 –  edusysadmin Feb 21 '12 at 13:44
    
Sadly it seems to convert PNGs to JPG and add compression artefacts. –  Timmmm Dec 7 '12 at 15:37
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I have never in my life gotten PowerPoint to export something remotely acceptable. Which is sad, since I had to convert a bunch of PowerPoint presentation to image series in my time.

Given that the applications you mention are basically printers, a document has to be generated first so it can be print. So some rendering is done by PowerPoint. And PowerPoint just can't get it right.

So I seriously doubt that there is a solution from within PowerPoint (would be glad to learn otherwise)

How did I solve it? Screenshots. Lots of them. If you have to do it a lot, you can get fancy by using AutoHotkey and Greenshot.


As a side note, the XPS export from PowerPoint 2010 seems to work much better than the PDF export (which isn't that surprising). For example, the "Startup Weekend" logo on slide 2 of your example document is transparent and smooth in the XPS (white, jagged background in PDF).

XPS is natively supported on all Windows Vista and later platforms.

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Turns out there's an addin for PowerPoint 2007 that can save as PDF (see my own answer). No more screenshots maybe? –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 21 '12 at 12:40
    
That's natively supported in PowerPoint 2010 and still produced faulty output for me (as noted). I'm luckily no longer in the PowerPoint conversion business ;) –  Oliver Salzburg Feb 21 '12 at 12:47
    
The addin produces the same faulty output (loses transparency) if I check "ISO 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A)". With that unchecked, the output is (almost) perfect. –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 21 '12 at 13:05
    
Ah, I see. Yeah, I had that still selected from a previous export. Good find. –  Oliver Salzburg Feb 21 '12 at 13:14
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I don't have your stated problems with the provided file:

Acrobat X Pro

(with included MS Office plugin)

File > Save as Adobe PDF

Seems perfect. Unfortunately, not free software.

Example

PrimoPDF

This is a PDF printer driver and, as you might expect, gives you exactly what would come out of the printer.

I used the screen preset (lowest quality).

Unfortunately it has a white border, and quality may not be as good because PowerPoint expanded to fit. That could probably be fixed by playing with the print page size settings, but I have not tried.

Example

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just tried your files and do not see those artifacts. I created outputs both from LibreOffice 3.4.4 - OK, there are other problems caused by format compatibility, but not those described (I left default settings) - file is here.

Second one was printed with PDFCreator 1.2.3 from Powerpoint Viewer 2010 (do not have full version of Powerpoint) and looks OK - you can view it here.

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Curiously good output from PDFCreator. This suggests that PowerPoint 2007 does something weird. Indeed, if I disable "High quality" from the print dialog, the yellow line is output smoothed. With "High quality" enabled, it's jagged. –  Dan Dascalescu Feb 21 '12 at 14:18
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