Web Standard: PDF - When to Use, Document Metadata, PDF Sections


PDF files provide some benefits when used appropriately. PDF files should not be used for short documents (< 5 pages) unless retaining the format for printing is important. PDF files that are uploaded to EPA's WebCMS do not require internal file metadata, however, completing file metadata information optimizes search capabilities.

Internal file metadata: the metadata that’s saved with the PDF file itself. Using Adobe Acrobat, you can access this internal file metadata by going to File > Properties or pressing ctrl-d. Using Adobe Reader, you can only view this metadata. This metadata includes title, author, subject, and keywords. Completing file metadata information optimizes search capabilities.

PDF file: a document saved in the Portable Document Format using Adobe Acrobat (or another such PDF creator). Typically, PDF files are opened using Adobe Reader, but other applications can read PDF files. 

Content Requirements

  • Do not recreate PDF content in HTML then link to the PDF.
  • When linking to a PDF, follow the PDF Linking Standard.
  • Make the PDF content accessible and web ready BEFORE posting.  
  • The internal file metadata is optional, but recommended.
    • If you chose to add internal file metadata to the PDF file, follow the metadata directions and complete these fields in the Document Properties description tab:
      • Keywords
      • Subject
      • Author
      • Title
  • What should go into these fields? Follow the metadata instructions for pdf content.
    • How to complete these fields:
      • Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat and then choose File > Document Properties (or press Ctrl-D)
        1. Select the "Description" tab.
        2. Enter the information listed above.

Guidelines for posting large PDF documents

There is a 150 MB file size limit for PDF files in to the webcms. If your file is over 50 MB, you should consider the document content and the expected audience and determine if chunking the document might be helpful.

You are not required to break a large document into smaller sections. If you do divide a document, then create a title page for each section or add this information as a footer/header. A title page is helpful if other search engines find your content sections. Include:

    • EPA logo or "U.S. Environmental Protection Agency" spelled out
    • Title of full document
    • Title of chapter/section/appendix or description of what the section (file) contains (e.g., "Final Rule: pages 750-828")
    • EPA publication number of full document, if applicable
    • Date of document (month and year)

If a file size is > 50MB these are recommended best practice options:

  1. Chunk the document to make it usable 
  2. Put up an HTML page that contains the Title, Executive Summary
  3. Post the document to an FTP site
  4. Add information on how to order the document on DVD or CD.

You should base your decision on what you or your web team can readily manage.

See Also:

About this Standard:

Effective date: 07/10/2013
Date approved: 07/10/2013
Web Council review by: 07/10/2015 (or earlier if deemed necessary by the Web Council)