Really cropping pages in Acrobat

A little Adobe Acrobat story:

You’ve just uploaded final hi-res printer pdfs to your printer’s ftp site and you get a call from the marketing department. They’d like to put a pdf of the cover of the job you just uploaded into the new company brochure.

The printer pdf for the cover has bleed and slug areas, as well as crop marks and page information. You could reopen the orginal native document and export a new pdf with all the bleeds and crop marks turned off. But wouldn’t it be great if you could just crop that area out instead of all that extra work?

Here’s what you’d like to do. You would open the printer pdf in Acrobat Pro 9, hit Shift + Apple key + T to open up the Crop Pages dialog box (or in the Menu bar, click Document/Crop Pages…), enter the geometric bounds of the crop area and hit ok. On screen you’d see the pdf without any white margins or page marks and you’d be able to just send the pdf on to marketing—no worries.

There’s only one problem. You didn’t really crop the pages, it just looks like you did. Marketing calls you up and wants to know why the pdf has white margins and crop marks?

What happened (or didn’t)?You open the pdf and reopen the Crop Pages dialog box, and see that, sure enough, although the pdf looks okay on screen, it has yet retained all the stuff you were trying to crop out.

According to, this is one of the “nice things” about Acrobat Crop Pages:

“One of the nice things about the crop tool is that you can undo your changes even after saving a PDF. This is because Acrobat doesn’t truly crop the document, it simply covers up what you don’t want displayed.”

No, actually, this is one of the most maddening, frustrating things about Acrobat Pro 9. Crop Pages only creates a crop box appearance, but retains the cropped out area in what is called the media box. And it is almost impossible to get rid of that. You will find suggestions on the Web to use PDF Optimizer (didn’t work for me) or printing to AdobePDF Printer (also didn’t work). I even tried exporting the pdf as a postscript file, redistilling it in Distiller, and STILL got the media box.

Fortunately, I figured out a solution (not perfect) using Applescript.

tell application "Adobe Acrobat Pro"
tell active doc
repeat with i from 1 to count of pages
tell page i
set cbox to crop box
set media box to cbox
end tell
end repeat
end tell
end tell

(I did this as a repeat loop, because you might have different media box and crop box sizes for different pages in a single pdf.)

Now the media box of your pdf has the same geometric bounds as the crop box, so the cropped page really is cropped, and the marketing department people will be able to insert it into their brochure without incident.

To make the pdf really perfect, export it as an eps file, redistill it in Distiller, and you’ll have a perfect pdf for use in other documents.

Note to Applescript noobies: Acrobat is notoriously anti-Applescript. The Adobe coders went to a good deal of trouble to write their own version of Javascript to use with Acrobat, so they refuse to support any other scripting language. (Unfortunately, their reliance on Javascript opened a backdoor for virus hackers to infect Macs.) You will have limited ability to script Acrobat, unless you also learn about UI scripting.

See ya soon.


About this entry