PSA: Giant Files

When you send me a ppt, a doc, or a pdf (!) whose size is in the hundreds of megabytes, know that I curse you loudly, using all the juiciest, most vivid expletives that I know.

These files are so gigantic because your images are uncompressed and/or have stupidly, unnecessarily high resolution.

Learn how to use some image editing software and reduce the size of your effing figures before inflicting them on others.


  1. omg, yes. Rant incoming.

    I often use figures from the textbook in my lectures and though I appreciate that I can get these from the publisher’s website (now even in powerpoint form!) whoever decided that it was a great idea to have hundreds of megabytes sized PPTs for each lecture, because they include images that are themselves each dozens of MB in size… fully deserves to be cursed.

    I usually end up taking a screenshot of the images I use before pasting them into my own PPT (and this by default creates reasonably-sized images with the SS software I use). However on a few occasions I’ve been strapped for time and accidentally pasted in the original slide/image and suddenly I have a 50MB powerpoint with only 8 slides that I’m trying to upload to my course website. argh

  2. I am so totally with you. I was cursing at (my computer at) a colleague earlier this week who sent out a counterpoint rant to all her collaborators (and even students) saying just the opposite, using the logic that it’s extremely important nowadays to only use the highest-resolution images possible, that nowadays with fast Internet connection speeds and terabyte-sized drives being cheap that there’s absolutely no excuse to use anything but the best-quality files anymore, and that it’s unprofessional and sloppy and quite a technical faux pas to inflict anything but the highest-resolution figures and images on others, that lower-than-top quality images imply you’re doing low-quality work, etc etc etc blah blah blah.
    What’s up with that? What is the logic there? I’m glad I’m not alone.
    Maybe I’m missing something, but I tend to go with the logic of “use the quickest and cheapest and least resource-intensive thing that gets the job done.” For those who disagree, could you kindly provide an explanation?

  3. GoG: I’m with you — just because you can make and store giant images, doesn’t mean you should without a good reason.

    I am all for creating visually appealing and informative images, and submitting high-resolution figures for publication. However, that doesn’t mean that each of the 36 drafts preceding submission has to be gigantic and contain images so unwieldy that people can’t email files and older printers take forever to render them. In science, we usually really don’t need mind-boggling resolution, and most of us are fine downloading and reading pdfs that were made for viewing on the web.

    If you try to upload large images on arXiv, it will tell you to go back and reduce your figures, and that you are welcome to upload high res ones for readers who need them, but that they won’t make a pdf with your ridiculously oversize images.

  4. I use full-slide photos in my ppts – on every slide. So, when I share my powerpoints with collaborators, I just put them on box and send a link. That said, you can – within powerpoint – reduce the file size of your photos so that they still look good, but take up less space.

    My powerpoint rant? When you change the shape of a photo/image – please hold the shift key down at the same time to retain the proportions of the original image! If you don’t, you risk stretching or scrunching your image!

  5. My pet peeve is raster images. Unless it is actually a picture of something, all plots should be vector graphics. Always. They scale without getting crappy resolution! You can edit line thicknesses easily so they look good in PPT or papers! Why would you use anything else?

  6. I plead guilty even though I’m a rock star when it comes to photoshopping and figure editing. Ever since ppt etc. software became stable enough to handle large files (and my accompanying laptop as well), I’ve given up on figure editing just for ppt sake. It’s saving me a few minutes of time and time is precious. Ah well, at least I have one character flaw that other people can dislike.
    I am however greatly critical of non-proportional scaling. Gives me the shivers.

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