File Analysis: Knowledge Is Power
In September last year we went along to Presentation Summit in San Diego and got the chance to talk to some of our most dedicated uses about some possible upcoming features. Out of all our ideas, we received the most enthusiasm for a tool to analyze the contents of PowerPoint files, which spurred us on to find out what other files people wanted to know more about. After surveying our users on potential analysis features, we discovered they also wanted a tool for PDF, Word and Excel too; so we started building…
WeCompress, and our desktop tool NXPowerLite, have loads of great features to shrink file bloat including; removal of unnecessary metadata or fast save information and image compression, flattening and cropping. But it’s reduction capabilities don’t cover every factor that contributes to file size. You’ll get amazing results on WeCompress with image heavy files, but if your file’s large size is due to fonts, video or sound files; the resulting compression may be less than you’d hoped.
When we detect low reduction on WeCompress, we ask users to submit their files for investigation, so we can understand, and in turn help them understand why their file isn’t reducing. Analysing their file’s content is the first step in this investigation, from this we can usually easily pinpoint why their file is underperforming. We let the user know about why their file isn’t reducing, as well as use this knowledge to help us decide what new features to develop to improve our compression engine. We realized that by showing file content breakdown to the users upfront as part of the compression process, we could help them understand their files faster and reduce frustration from bad results.
With the analysis report, users have all the information they need to understand their file’s components. We can also use the data in their report to provide them with useful information and suggestions on getting even better results straight away.
As is the case with fonts, it’s not appropriate for our tool to automatically go in and change or remove them as this can dramatically change the appearance document. But if the user absolutely needs the file to be smaller, it’s a straightforward manual edit to reduce or remove the embedded fonts and check the layout and alignment. Given all the right information, the user can decide if it’s an extra step they want to take for a better result. This also means that next time they create a file, they’ll be aware that adding lots of fonts may increase their file size.
If the report shows lots of fonts in their file, we show a tooltip explaining how embedded fonts contribute to file size and offer them a step by step walkthrough of how to reduce fonts manually.
There are other file components we can flag up to users easily too. Their files might have lots of embedded video or audio which can be manually re-encoded, made linked content or edited down to just the essential parts. We can show them how many different images they are using and which ones are taking up the most space, if their PDF page dimensions are too big or whether there’s an anomaly in their file structure. From all of these data points, we can give instant, customized advice and education that will help users understand their options. File compression is a tricky balancing act where size, fidelity and intended use are all critical factors that contribute to getting the perfect file. With our compression settings we aim for the best most consistent results for our users, but it’s not the perfect fit for every use case. By adding the analysis information, we’re giving users the choice of going beyond WeCompress and get the perfect compression result for them. With file analysis, we hope we can make a big impact on people’s understanding and help them create better, slimmer, files.