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.

  • 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, 2015 at 13:57

4 Answers 4


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.

  • 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, 2010 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, 2010 at 8:21
  • Maybe you could leak which of the two suggested methods you used? Sep 9, 2010 at 18:54
  • 18
    gs -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 -sOutputFile=output.pdf input.pdf
    – neoneye
    Oct 12, 2010 at 18:56
  • This adds PDF producer as GPL GhostScript 10.00.0 is there a way to do that. Nov 10, 2022 at 16:44

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.

  • Do you know what the "built-in Document Viewer" is called?
    – jeteon
    Feb 18, 2016 at 4:12
  • @jeteon: That's probably evince... Feb 18, 2016 at 11:10

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 ;)


Adobe Acrobat DC is $15/mo and its "Optimizing PDFs" dialog can do what you need

Look under the "Make compatible with" dropdown

acrobat's make compatible with dialog

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