With Export, I am generating pdf files with pdf version 1.5. Is there a way to generate them with pdf version 1.4 instead?

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    $\begingroup$ There is a file "\SystemFiles\Converters\Binaries\Windows-x86-64\PDF.exe" that be used from PDF creation. Possibly replacing this file with one from an older installation may work. Remember to make back-ups if you try this! $\endgroup$ – Mr.Wizard Sep 18 '14 at 10:39

AFAIK, the only documented options to Export pdf files are "ImageSize", "ImageResolution" and "AllowRasterization", so my answer would be no, natively. Mathematica graphics

You could down-convert the Mathematica pdf file using Ghostscript (I haven't tried that myself)

Run["gs -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dSAFER -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 -sOutputFile=output.pdf input.pdf"]

There is currently an open case "CASE:1570212" about metadata in pdf export, and I hope they will work on other Export options too. You could write to support@wolfram.com requesting that feature.

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    $\begingroup$ Your linux command works. It is a tremendous help. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – dantopa May 26 '15 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ @rhermans Your gs command created huge files for me (pdf 1.5 was at 75K, pdf1.4 after conversion was at 1.9M). Luckily, I didn't use any features new to Mathematica 10, so I could just recreate the plots in Mathematica 9, which exports to pdf 1.4. Is it possible to alter the gs command such that the size of the file stays small? $\endgroup$ – Neuneck Jun 5 '15 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Neuneck, no idea, I copied theis from old notes without much context. $\endgroup$ – rhermans Jun 5 '15 at 10:10

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