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FAQ: Viewing PDF files

Why do some accents disappear when I print a PDF file?

This is a bug in Acrobat Reader 3 and 4 for Windows. What happens is that some zero-width characters, such as overlay or overstrike accents, do not print out even though they appear on screen (and even though they display and print fine on Macs). The solution is to download a newer version of Reader from Adobe's web site at

Here is some technical information, for the curious. This bug does not appear to be caused by all fonts containing zero-width characters (also called zero-advance-width characters). However, if one zero-width character in a font is affected, all zero-width characters in that font are usually affected. It is not clear whether there's any difference based on how the file was originally distilled or from which platform. It doesn't appear to make any difference whether the zero-width character appears before or after the cursor (applying to the preceding or following character). There also doesn't appear to be any difference between PostScript and TrueType fonts for this problem. For helping to confirm this problem and testing various solutions, thank you to Ed Bernstein, Herbert Bernstein, and Tami Kaplan.

Should I use local fonts when viewing a PDF file?

If you want to see how a PDF file will look on other people's computers and your version of Acrobat has a "use local fonts" option, turn that option off. That will force Acrobat to use the embedded fonts in the PDF file, and to warn you if some fonts are not embedded.

Why are there white lines across a PDF file on screen?

This is a display bug in Acrobat which does not affect printing. Acrobat has trouble displaying scanned images in PDF files, and often inserts white lines or stretches small stripes of an image vertically. These display artifacts change at different zoom levels, and do not print because they are not actually in the PDF file.

Why is the PDF file printing at a different size than I expected?

There is an printing option in Acrobat called "fit to page" which can shrink or expand a PDF file in unexpected ways. If you have a letter-sized PDF file printing to letter-sized paper, the "fit to page" option may print the PDF file a little smaller because it is adding margins around the outside edge to make sure the entire PDF file appears on the printout. A PDF file which has been cropped to a smaller page size will print much larger if the "fit to page" option is turned on, because Acrobat is trying to fill the page.

How else can I try to fix printing problems?

Try one of the following:

  1. Select "print as image" in the print options.

  2. Restart your computer, and turn your printer off for a full minute, then back on. Then, as the first thing you do after the computer starts up, print a single page from the PDF file that wasn't printing correctly. If that works, there's a memory problem with either your computer or your printer.

  3. Try using a different printer driver. In your printer setup, you should be able to choose among at least a couple of different printer drivers. One of them may work better.

  4. In your printer setup, try turning on PostScript error reporting. Sometimes this cures problems by itself, and sometimes it provides useful information about what is going wrong.

You can also read these pages by Adobe:

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