Higher quality Powerpoint images in Word and PDF

September 29, 2009 at 10:11 am | Posted in hands-on | Leave a comment
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This started with a request to improve the quality of text in a PDF file generated from a Word document. They text looked much heavier, and it turned out that CutePDF was substituting Helvetica for the Lucida Sans.This was solved by using Adobe Acrobat for the conversion, which embedded Lucida Sans in the PDF – and the file was 25% of the size as well. I guess you get what you pay for, and CutePDF is free.

While I was fiddling around in Adobe Reader, I noted that it is possible to set the background and text colour of the document to your own choice – and this can be really helpful to students with dyslexia or visual stress. However, embedded images still had a white background. I went back to the original Word document, selected each image in turn and used the Set Transparent Color tool on the Picture Toolbar to make the white background transparent.

The Set Transparent Color tool on the Picture Toolbar

The Set Transparent Color tool on the Picture Toolbar

This didn’t work with a diagram created in PowerPoint and simply copied and pasted into Word, since it was a drawing object rather than a bitmap. I tried exporting the PowerPoint slide as a bitmap (File – Save As – PNG format), but it was very poor quality on-screen when exported to PDF. This was because PowerPoint’s default output resolution is 96dpi (the same as the screen) so the ‘standard’ 10″ x 8″ slide is ony 960 x 720 pixels. The simplest way to improve this was to use PowerPoint’s File – Page Setup and choose a custom slide size exactly three times as large (ie 30″ x 24″) – the existing diagram simply scales up to fit and the PNG output file is the maximum possible of 3072 x 2157 pixels. Unfortunately this didn’t improve the appearance in the PDF one bit.

What DID work was to select the whole diagram and group its objects, then right-click and choose Save As Picture which saves it as an Enhanced Metafile (EMF) which works fine when pasted into Word – it has a transparent background and looks good in the PDF.

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