Version of PDF used by OS X



Background

Not all versions of Adobe Acrobat PDF? are created equal which is no surprise; after all that's what version upgrades are all about. It's also of no surprise that Apple would not be using the latest version of Adobe's PDF Format; after all, why would Adobe give away the crown jewels to Apple or anyone else.

Here's a breakdown of which version of PDF Apple uses for various releases of Mac OS? X:

  • Mac OS X Jaguar (10.2.x) = Adobe PDF version 1.2 = Acrobat version 3.x
  • Mac OS X Panther (10.3.9) = Adobe PDF version 1.3 = Acrobat version 4.x
  • Mac OS X Tiger (10.4.1) = Adobe PDF version 1.3 = Acrobat version 4.x

Contrast that to the options you have available when using Adobe Distiller (part of Adobe Acrobat, but not included with Acrobat Reader) When choosing the Adobe PDF Virtual Printer from the Print Settings dialog box you're actually handing off the print job to Acrobat Distiller which lets you specify which version of Adobe Acrobat you'd like to use (among many other helpful options):

Adobe Distiller version 6 = PDF version 1.2 through 1.5 = Acrobat version 3 through Acrobat version 6

Why is this important?

Well, not all versions of PDF support the same features so knowng which version of the Mac OS you're using could easily explain why certain effects (for example Transparency? or Gradients) aren't print correctly when using the internal Save As... PDF option from Apple. For example, Mac OS X Jaguar (PDF v1.2) had no support for Gradient fills (error in shading dictionary, see our related article here ). Bottom line is it's important to know just what your getting when choosing Print -> Save As PDF... and using Apple's built in PDF feature.

Is Apple's implementation taking into account backwards compatibility? Maybe, but the more likely situation is Adobe would not want Apple to be using the latest and greatest version in their OS as it would reduce the need for Adobe's product. As Adobe moves forward to Acrobat 7 (the current release), it's possible future versions of Mac OS X Tiger might start to support a more current release than PDF v1.3 but time will tell.

We hope that helps
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