Digital Document Preparation FAQ

    The State of California has authorized the preparation of plans, calculations, reports, etc., to licensed architects, engineers, and other design professionals licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs. These professionals have specific titles that enable them to be responsible for the preparation of documents associated with structures and other public works. Unlicensed individuals may prepare plans if the project is qualified to be constructed per California Residential Code. All documents submitted for review are considered in the preparer’s “responsible charge”. Santa Clara County cannot, and will not, modify the submittal package to enable review and will return to the applicant if the submittal does not meet our requirements.

    Naming files to properly describe the contents of the file document will help reviewers identify more quickly which files they need to review. Comments from reviewers will be sorted by documents and by discipline. Revised file documents will need to be uploaded by applicants and improper or inconsistent naming of files will create delays in review of your application. Applications with files that are not named correctly will be rejected. ​

    Santa Clara County is trying to review documents submitted in an effective and efficient manner.  Common plan preparation procedures require the reviewer to jump around the plan set to find related information from notes shown on the plan.  Going directly to the specific sheets noted is more efficient for the reviewer to get to the needed information instead of scrolling through individual plan sheets.  The responsibility to prepare the bookmarks in the digital document lies with the design professional who has prepared the plan set. ​

    Santa Clara County is responsible for maintaining records of plans and providing the public with access to them.  Files kept in our electronic database must be compatible with a wide range of computer software for storage, viewing, and printing.  In addition, the file sizes must be manageable for transfer and for use by the public and County staff.  The PDF standard is constantly evolving, and Santa Clara County will continue to evaluate these standards as necessary.​​

    Yes, assuming they meet the size limitation requirement of no more than 100 MB total.  Vector-based PDF files are typically much larger than raster-based files.  However, the County prefers vector-based files given the ability to scale these files.​

    There are numerous PDF tools freely available on the Internet, which can be used to merge, rotate, and rearrange PDF files.​

    The industry standard software for working with PDF files is Adobe Acrobat; however, there are numerous PDF tools freely available on the Internet. 

    Step 1: Save the vector-based PDF files as raster images (TIF or PNG). The format of the raster images is important (300 ppi, monochrome).  We recommend TIF files with LZW compression. 

    Step 2: Convert the raster images back to compressed PDF files. 

    Step 3: Merge the individual PDF files into a single multi-sheet PDF file. ​

    Properly formatted and compressed raster PDF files should not exceed 1MB per sheet.  If your files are larger, you may have made one of the following errors: 


    • ​Plans should be saved as 8-bit (grayscale) or 1-bit (monochrome).  Saving the plans as 24-bit (full-color) raster files will drastically increase the file size.  Even if the images contain only black and white objects, 24-bit files still contain the shade and color data.
    • Uncompressed files are much larger than compressed files.  Construction plans contain mostly white space.  The data required to store this white space can be significantly reduced.  When creating or saving PDF files, remember to specify “compressed.”
    • Try minimizing the number of different fonts used in the document preparation and changing your fonts to an Open Type Font.  Recent articles indicate that the use of True Type fonts could lead to file sizes that are significantly larger.
    • If necessary, please break up files into volumes by discipline. (Architectural, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, etc.)


    Transparent raster images require considerable resources to display. Even though the source image is not transparent, your CAD software may be plotting it with transparency (white pixels plotted as see-thru).  Be sure to set image transparency “off” before plotting.


    In order to conserve county resources, our review software is web based, with no work saved on County owned and operated servers.  The embedding of the fonts in drawings requires the review software to continually get information from the web server to assure proper rendering.  This continuous contact has shown unacceptably slow review times.  The font unembedding reduces the file size and increases system response times.​


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