The Battle of the File Formats: The Pros and Cons of JPG vs PDF

So, JPGs and PDFs are pretty much the same thing, right? Nope.

In lots of cases, you can use either to do the job fine. But there are key differences in file size, quality, editability, and ease of use that affect how each file type will fit in a given scenario. Learning about JPG vs PDF comparisons is quick and easy, and it can make a big improvement in the way you work with these files.

Here’s our comprehensive comparison between JPG and PDF files, and what you should use when.

JPG vs PDF: File Size and Quality

A JPG, or JPEG, is a compressed file type. What does this mean for you?

It means that the same file will be smaller in JPG form than in PDF form. It’ll take up less space on your computer.

In its mission to reduce file size, a JPG file will experience something called “lossy compression.” This means every time it’s saved, like after edits or when it’s converted from another type of file, the quality decreases. The number of pixels stays the same, but you might get less definition in your image.

If you’re making lots of edits, you might start seeing fuzzy borders and solid colors where there was once subtle variation. JPG files get rid of small color differences that seem “redundant,” and it’s true that you often won’t be able to tell that the quality has changed. When you edit multiple times, though, the quality suffers each time.

And when you convert a PDF to JPEG, you can’t just convert it back to recover the quality. The modifications remain there each time it’s saved.

A Single Unit? Or Separate Parts?

While a JPG is a unified file, a PDF still maintains its separate parts, like text sections, lines, and visual objects. This is important for editability.

If you want a file that other people can edit, you’ll probably want to go with a PDF. There are lots of PDF editing programs and web services you can use to fiddle with the different components of a PDF file. Even if you don’t need to edit anything, PDFs are great for highlighting and copying text.

How to Know Which One to Use

Okay, so now you know the difference between a JPG and a PDF. But how will you know which one to use? We’ll walk you through 3 different scenarios and which file type you should choose for each.

Collaborating on a Project

Let’s say you’re creating a flyer for an upcoming event. You’re sending drafts back and forth to the event hosts, the speakers, and the communications team. After a while, if you’re using JPG format, you might start to notice some unpleasant drops in image quality.

As you might remember, JPG is “lossy,” so every edit and new save will hurt the quality of the file. Remember that even a crop is an edit. To preserve quality through multiple drafts, you’ll want to use a PDF.

A PDF file will make the editing process easier anyway. With this file type, collaborators can edit the text directly and move objects around.

Uploading a Picture to Your Website

What if you need to upload a picture of a product for your company’s website? In this case, you’ll want to go with JPG over PDF. You can use a PDF on a website if you really need to, but this will force the user to view your image in a new tab or get a download.

For a smooth, seamless experience, you’ll want to use a JPG that you can embed on the product page.

But what about file quality?

Well, when you’re uploading an image to a webpage, you’ll want something that loads fast. Slow-loading pages will lead to drastically lower user engagement and user satisfaction. Trading a subtle, unnoticeable loss in quality for faster loading speed is a no-brainer.

And just because conversion and editing leads to image quality loss in JPG doesn’t mean JPGs are low-quality files in general. If you have a high-quality image that’s in JPG format, and you don’t make any changes to it, you’ll be able to preserve its quality just fine.

Sending Something Via Text

When you text someone an image, you’re taking up a little bit of space on that person’s phone. This is different from sending email attachments, in a few ways:

When you use email, the recipient has the option to download your file on their computer. They’ll likely have more available space here than on their phone.

Email also allows for attachment previews. In many cases, the recipient will be able to see everything they need by clicking the preview of your attachment in their web browser.

In an email, you have the option to embed the image. This way, the recipient can still download the attachment if they want to, but there’s not an expectation that they should.

What this means is that when you’re attaching an image in a text message, you might want to be more careful about using up the recipient’s storage space. This isn’t a big deal for one or two files, but if you’re sending attachments on a regular basis, all that storage can add up.

Another thing to consider is that text messages sometimes struggle with large files. The delivery might get slow or disjointed. In fact, your phone might not let you send files that are too large.

For all of these reasons, in most cases a compressed file type like JPG is best for sending images through text.

Choose the Right File Type For You

Lots of people send edit files without knowing the real differences between file types. By taking the time to compare JPG vs PDF files, you’re already way ahead of the game when it comes to everyday tech know-how. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to choose the right file type for the job every time.

For more on day-to-day tech and marketing advice, check out the rest of our blog!

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