Agenda Packet File Compression Explained and Simplified

Written by Megan Asikainen

This small technical tactic is vital to ensuring transparent meeting information sharing.

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Microsoft Outlook, the email client used by over 400 million users, restricts file attachments to 20 to 25 MB. For clerks whose agenda packets and accompanying documentation could include hundreds of pages of reports, photos, maps, schematics, and other materials, creating a complete packet that meets a 20 MB file size limit is like trying to prepare a meal with only one ingredient—it cannot be done. Add to that the fact that years’ worth of 50 MB files will bog down your computer and file-sharing system, and your ability to work nimbly and efficiently to build and share agendas and meeting minutes is compromised.

As municipalities depend less on printed packets and more on digital delivery, optimizing file size has become more important. While there are other ways to share files within your administration other than emails, such as intranets, document sharing services like Google Drive, and your agenda and meeting management software, you have to build files that can be easily accessed, reviewed, and shared outside your office. Importantly, documents must be accessible by the citizens you serve, many of whom don’t have advanced file-sharing tools, fast download speeds, or desktop printers that can handle large files.

It may sound like an insignificant tactical annoyance, especially when a clerk’s responsibilities range from documenting the history of your community to ensuring a fair and free election, but optimizing agenda and meeting documents so that they are easily accessible and consumable delivers on the promise of transparency that is crucial to your administration’s relationship with its citizens.

Here’s what clerks need to know about agenda packet file compression, simplified.

What is a PDF?

The portable document format (PDF) is one of the most frequently used and shared digital document file types. PDFs are coded to be readable by nearly everyone* on any device without the need for specific software or applications and won’t lose their formatting when opened. PDFs can be viewed in many popular browsers, such as Chrome. *It’s critical to note that for citizens with a visual disability reliant on screen readers and other assistive technology, PDFs without manual remediation may not allow for easy content consumption.

What Happens During File Compression?

Each file compression service uses a proprietary algorithm to identify and eliminate redundancies, find patterns, and target content that it can reduce. It also looks to identify high-resolution images and minimize their file size by lowering the pixel density. Overall, the process aims to make these size-saving changes without compromising on the quality of the file.

Know that when you reduce a file, the data stripped away to reduce the file size is gone, which means you can’t un-compress a PDF and restore it to a larger file. If you have any reason to think you might want to refer to a high-resolution version of an agenda packet in the future, save a copy of the original, high-resolution document version.

A Note About Imagery

Depending on your agenda’s makeup, consider choosing a compression option to reduce the size of images in your document. This feature can be a valuable option if you have an attachment or presentation with a significant number of high-resolution images, which can quickly ratchet up your file’s total size.

PDF File Compression—the Size vs. Quality Conundrum

While there are dozens of free file compression tools available online, know that some are more reliable than others. You do not want to risk compressing a large file down to the point of being so size-reduced that you have lost resolution on photos and images and even text, resulting in a poor quality document that is grainy and hard to read. Depending on the file compression tool that you use, you may be given the option to choose the level of image file compression, ranging from low to high.

Automated File Compression from CivicClerk®

To ensure that every agenda packet you share with your board or council and citizens is easily accessible, consumable, downloadable, printable, scannable, and loveable, we’ve built automated file compression into our CivicClerk solution. With CivicClerk, as staff members upload PDF attachments to their agenda items, the system automatically compresses those files. When the packet is generated, each item’s attachments are compiled into one packet optimized for digital delivery. For more ways that CivicClerk can help you streamline your essential but time-consuming everyday tasks, click here.