Mapsoft Flattener
Version 1.6

A Publishing Tool for use with Adobe Acrobat
(V10 upwards)

Running under WindowsTM Operating Systems

Issue 4
September 2022

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The Flattener tool allows you to flatten PDF documents in a number of ways. You can choose to:

q   Flatten form data and markup elements (such as comments) into the main document content of PDF files, so making that data viewable across many platforms. By flattening the markup and forms elements this solves the problem that can occur where third party viewers or PDAs cannot display these element. In addition, once flattened, these elements cannot be changed, so providing a permanent record of who added what markup elements to a document and when.

Elements that can be flattened are listed in the section Elements that can be Flattened later in this document.

q   Flatten markup and other elements (excluding forms) onto a separate layer within a PDF document. This has the same benefits as described above for flattening markup data into the main document content of a file, but this new option also has the additional benefit that it allows you to switch the display (and printing) of data within a particular layer on or off. This ensures that a documents original content is not hidden beneath markup (which can happen when markup is simply flattened into the main document content).

q   Remove interactive elements, such as bookmarks, links or movies, from a PDF file. This can dramatically reduce the size of some PDF files.

q   Remove extraneous markup from your PDF files, which can also reduce the size of these files.

You can combine the flattening of data into the main document content with the removal of extraneous markup and/or interactive elements.

You can save a flattening configuration and re-use it again and again. In addition, when used in conjunction with Mapsofts unique automation tool, Automator, Flattener can also be used to flatten multiple files in one single operation. (Automator can be purchased from the Mapsoft web site,

Using the Flattener Tool

The Flattener consists of one dialog box where you select the appropriate settings to flatten a PDF document in the way you choose.

To flatten markup and other elements onto a separate layer in the document

1.      Open the document which you wish to flatten.

2.      Select Plug-Ins > Mapsoft > Flattener from Acrobats main menu.

The Flattener dialog box will then display.
Flatten markup and other annotations back into the pdf file

3.      Select the All button if you wish to remove all links, bookmarks, notes, form fields, thumbnails etc plus any mark-up from your document. Alternatively select the individual elements that you wish to remove (you can choose to remove more than one type at a time)

4.      By default, the Flatten remaining annotations onto Page button is checked. Leave this checked to flatten any remaining annotations that are capable of being flattened (i.e. those that you have not chosen to remove in step 3 above). Once flattened, these annotations will remain on the relevant page: they will look as though they are part of the standard content of that page but they will no longer be editable.

Elements that can be flattened are listed in the section Elements that can be Flattened.

5.      By default, the Add Flattened content to layer checkbox is also checked. This places the annotations that are to be flattened onto a separate layer above the relevant pages original content. This enables the viewing and printing of those elements to be turned on or off, so ensuring these elements do not obscure the document content below. (This option is a sub-option of the Flatten Remaining Annotations Onto Page option and can only be set on when that option is also set.)

6.      Enter a name into the Name Configuration field to save this particular configuration. This enables you to re-use this configuration or to use it in conjunction with Mapsoft Automator: Mapsofts automation tool which allows Flattener to be used in batch mode over multiple files or to be used in conjunction with other Mapsoft publishing tools.

7.      Click OK to flatten and/or remove the specified elements from within your file.

Elements that can be Flattened

It is possible to flatten all types of mark-up in PDF documents using Flattener. In addition the following elements can also be flattened into a document:

q   Form fields
Form fields cannot be flattened onto a layer, only into the main body of a file.

q   Stamps

q   3D elements

q   Notes
Notes are flattened in their unopened state so only the Note icon will be shown once that Note has been flattened: its content will no longer be visible. If flattening files we thus recommend that you use the Free Text tool to add comments/notes rather than the Note tool, to ensure that the Note text remains visible after flattening. Only the Note icon itself is flattened

q   File Attachments
Just the file attachment icon is flattened into the file content, not the attachment itself.

q   Sounds
Just the sounds icon is flattened into the file content, not the sound itself.

q   Movies
Movies are only flattened into the document content if its image has been saved back into that document.

It is obviously not possible (or appropriate) to flatten the following elements:

q   Bookmarks.

q   Articles

q   Embedded thumbnails

q   Links

Hints & Tips

q   While thumbnails will always appear, they will not usually be embedded within the document. In Acrobat 6 and 7 the thumbnails will appear in a Pages navigation pane: but if using Acrobat 5 they will appear in the Thumbnails pane.

q   Owing to a bug in Acrobat, if articles are removed from a document, then although the in-file article content will be removed successfully, you must do a Save As before all the references to those articles are removed from the Window > Article pane.

q   Remember that links and free text are separate entities. If you create free text and use it for a link, if you subsequently remove links the free text will remain, but if you remove free text the link will stay.