Creating PDFs with Acrobat Distiller

Acrobat Distiller overview

In Acrobat Distiller, you can select settings used to convert documents to PDFs, security options, and font information. You also use the Acrobat Distiller window to monitor the jobs you’ve lined up for PDF conversion.

the Acrobat Distiller window
Acrobat Distiller main window (Windows)

A. Menus B. Adobe PDF settings files C. Files in job queue D. Failed job E. Context menu F. Status window 


To convert PostScript files automatically in Acrobat Pro, set up a watched folder in Distiller.

To start Acrobat Distiller (Windows), choose All Program > Adobe Acrobat Distiller.

Manage the conversion queue

Distiller lets you queue PostScript files that you create in authoring applications and then monitor them throughout the PDF conversion process.

Queue a PostScript file

  1. In Distiller, select an Adobe PDF settings file from the Default Settings pop-up menu.
  2. (Optional) Choose Settings > Security and select an encryption level.
  3. Open the PostScript file and start the conversion process, using either method:
    • Choose File > Open, select a PostScript file, and click Open.

    • Drag one or more PostScript files from the desktop to the Acrobat Distiller window.


Click Pause before doing step 3 if you want to review the queue before Distiller starts converting the files.

Change the queue during processing

Do any of the following:

  • To temporarily stop processing the current job, click Pause.
  • To resume processing the current job, click Resume.
  • To delete files from the queue, click Cancel Job. Cancel Job deletes all files from the queue that are not yet successfully completed. Or (Windows only), select and right-click individual files in the job queue and choose Cancel Job(s) to delete only those files.
  • (Windows only) To open the folder where the selected files are, right-click the job queue and choose Explore.
  • (Windows only) To open the selected PDF in Acrobat, a browser, or Reader, right-click the job queue and choose View. Or, double-click the PDF to open it in Acrobat.

Save a history of the job queue (Windows)

  1. Right-click the job queue, and choose Save List.

Distiller saves and opens the history as a PDF.

Clear the queue

Remove all paused and successfully converted files from the list:

  • (Windows) Right-click the job queue, and choose Clear History.
  • (Mac OS) Click the Clear List button above the queue.

Distiller preferences

The Distiller preferences control global Distiller settings. You set Distiller preferences by choosing File > Preferences (Windows) or Distiller > Preferences (Mac OS).

Notify When Watched Folders Are Unavailable (Acrobat Pro)

Returns a message if a watched folder becomes unavailable or can’t be found.

(Windows) Notify When Windows TEMP Folder Is Nearly Full

Warns you if available hard disk space is less than 1 MB. Required hard disk space is often double the size of the PostScript file being processed.

Ask For PDF File Destination

Lets you specify the name and location for files when using drag-and-drop or the Print command.

Ask To Replace Existing PDF File

Warns you if you are about to overwrite an existing PDF.

View PDF When Using Distiller

Automatically opens the converted PDF.

Delete Log Files For Successful Jobs

Creates a log file (named messages.log) only if there are messages from interpreting the PostScript file or if a PostScript error occurs. (Log files for failed jobs are always created.)

Guidelines for creating PostScript files

If you want to fine-tune the creation of the PDF with Distiller parameters or pdfmark operators, first create a PostScript file and then convert that file to PDF. For more information about the Adobe Acrobat SDK, see the Acrobat Developer Center at (English only).

In authoring applications such as Adobe InDesign, use the Print command with the Adobe PDF printer to convert a file to PostScript. The Print dialog boxes can vary from application to application. For instructions on creating a PostScript file from your specific application, see the application documentation.

Keep in mind the following guidelines when creating PostScript files:

  • Use PostScript Language Level 3 whenever possible to take advantage of the most advanced features of PostScript.

  • Use the Adobe PDF printer as your PostScript printer.

  • (Windows) Send the fonts used in the document.

  • Give a PostScript file the same name as the original document, but with the extension .ps. (Some applications use a .prn extension instead.)

  • Use color and custom page sizes that are available with the Adobe Acrobat Distiller PPD file. Other PPD files may cause inappropriate colors, fonts, or page sizes in the PDF.

  • Send PostScript files as 8-bit binary data when using FTP to transfer the files between computers, especially if the platforms are different. This action prevents converting line feeds to carriage returns or vice versa.

About watched folders (Acrobat Pro)

You can configure Distiller to look for PostScript files in certain folders called watched folders. Distiller can monitor up to 100 watched folders. When Distiller finds a PostScript file located in the In folder of a watched folder, it converts the file to PDF and then moves the PDF (and usually the PostScript file and any associated log file) to the Out folder. A watched folder can have its own Adobe PDF settings and security settings that apply to all files processed from that folder. Security settings for a watched folder take priority over the security settings for Distiller. For example, Distiller does not convert a PostScript file in a watched folder if the file is marked with read-only permission.

(Windows) Settings and preferences are unique to each user. On a non-NT File System (NTFS), custom settings files stored in this settings folder are read- and write-accessible by every user on the system. On an NTFS, only files created by respective users are read- and write-accessible. Settings files created by other users are read-only. (The default settings files installed with Adobe Acrobat Distiller are Read Only and Hidden.)

(Mac OS) Each user’s settings and preferences for Distiller are normally not accessible to any other user. To share a watched folder with other users, the creator of the folder must set the appropriate permissions for the In and Out folders. Sharing enables other users to copy files to the In folder and get files from the Out folder. The creator must be logged into the system and have Distiller running. The other users must log in remotely to open the live watched folder and have their files processed.


You can’t set up watched folders as a network service for other users. Every user who creates PDFs must have an Acrobat Pro license.

Set watched folders (Acrobat Pro)

  1. In Acrobat Distiller, choose Settings > Watched Folders.

  2. Click Add Folder, and select the target folder. Distiller automatically puts an In folder and an Out folder in the target folder. You can place In and Out folders at any level of a disk drive.
  3. To define security options for a folder, select the folder and click Edit Security. Click OK to return to the Watched Folders dialog box.


    A security icon is prepended to any folder name for which security is set. To return a folder to the original options selected in the Distiller window, select the folder, and click Clear Security.

  4. Set Adobe PDF conversion settings for the folders:
    • To edit the Adobe PDF settings to be applied to a folder, select the folder, click Edit Settings, and edit the Adobe PDF settings. Click OK to save it to the watched folder as folder.joboptions.

    • To use a different set of Adobe PDF settings, select the folder and click Load Settings. Use any settings that you have defined, named, and saved, and then click OK.

  5. Set options to manage the processing of files:
    • Enter a number of seconds to specify how often to check the folders. You can enter up to 9999. (For example, 120 equals 2 minutes, and 9999 equals about 2-3/4 hours.)

    • Choose what to do with a PostScript file after it has been processed. The file can be moved to the Out folder along with the PDF file or deleted. Any log file is also automatically copied to the Out folder.

    • To delete PDFs after a certain period of time, enter a number of days, up to 999. This option also deletes PostScript and log files, if you have chosen to delete them.

  6. If you want to remove a folder, select the folder and click Remove Folder. Make sure that Distiller has finished processing all the files in the folder before you remove it.

    When you remove a watched folder, Distiller does not delete the In and Out folders, their contents, or the folder.joboptions file. You can delete these manually when appropriate.

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