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Fonts Missing From PDF Files? How to Fix

written by: Bruce Tyson•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 5/25/2011

When a PDF file opens and the program reports that fonts are missing, it soon becomes clear that the file will neither display on the screen nor print properly. here we discuss the problem of fonts missing when printing PDF files and how to fix it.

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    PDF Files and Fonts

    Adobe's Acrobat PDF file format is a portable format, meaning that PDF files should be transportable between computers and should look and print in a consistent manner. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

    PDF files generally support most common font types including TrueType, Type 1, Type 3, and OpenType. In spite of the portability of the PDF, sometimes fonts are left out of the file, resulting in font substitutions or errors, making the file difficult to view and print the document in a way that reflects the original version.

    Because fonts missing when printing PDF files can produce undesirable results, mainly the substitution of built-in Adobe Serif MM and Adobe Sans MM fonts for the fonts that are missing. Let's take a closer look at the problem and how to deal with it.

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    Overview of the Missing Fonts Problem

    When attempting to print a PDF file, users may encounter a disturbing alert window from Acrobat reader that says that fonts in the document are not available on the system.

    Reasons for missing fonts

    Missing fonts usually occur when a document uses fonts that have licensing restrictions. This means that users must purchase rights to use the font on a system. Many times, publishers might forget that these proprietary fonts are on their computer and so their PDFs look fine when they review them, but end users without those fonts on their machine cannot view or print them as intended.

    Fonts not embedded

    PDF files may be deliberately created without embedding the document fonts inadvertently or to save space. This is an option the person creating the PDF chooses, and relies on the general availability of the fonts. Different versions of Windows, OS X, Linux and other operating systems may not consistently have the same font selections, resulting in formatting issues when the document is printed.

    Viewing fonts required by a PDF file

    Users with a PDF file can look to see what fonts the document requires by clicking "File" on the Acrobat Reader menu and then "Properties." In the "Document Properties" window, click the "Fonts" tab and all the fonts in the document are listed.

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    Solving the Fonts Missing Error When Printing PDF Files

    Allow Acrobat to substitute the missing fonts

    When Acrobat cannot find the fonts necessary to properly display or print the document, it will often attempt to substitute fonts that are stored within the program for the fonts that are missing. These fonts, Adobe Serif MM and Adobe Sans MM often allow documents with missing fonts to print legibly, but they may not look like they are properly formatted.

    Install missing fonts

    Fonts that are not embedded into an Acrobat PDF file, but are used in its contents will not display or print correctly on another machine that does not have those same fonts installed. Although users can allow Acrobat to substitute other fonts for those that are missing, sometimes, a better option is to install the missing fonts on their local machine.

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    Embed fonts in PDF files

    Another good way to solve the fonts missing when printing PDF files problem is by re-creating the PDF file, this time with the original files embedded.

     

    When printing to a PDF, click the "Printer Properties" button to get the Adobe PDF Document Properties" window. From there, click the "Adobe PDF Settings" tab. Here, users can check the "Use system fonts only box to maximize PDF compatibility. PDF001 

    Next, click the "Edit" button next to the "Default Settings" drop down box. This opens a window called "Standard - Adobe PDF Settings" with a vertical menu on the left. Click the "Fonts" option and click the "Embed all fonts" option. This will force Acrobat to include the fonts used in the document as part of the document.PDF002 

    Doing this can make the file size bigger, but it helps make sure that users on other computers can properly open, view and print the file.

    Another setting to check in the "Adobe PDF Settings" window is the "Never Embed" box at the bottom right. Files listed in this box will not be included as part of the file, even when the "Embed all fonts" option is enabled. Be sure that fonts needed for the document are not listed here. When the settings are complete, click the "OK" button to save them.

    When changing the settings for the PDF file, be sure to remember that each setting in the "Default Settings" drop down have their own settings when the "Edit" button is clicked. The fonts missing when printing PDF files issue can be even more frustrating when the user sets the "Embed all fonts" option in the "Standard" setting and then prints using a different setting.

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    Install the latest version of Acrobat Reader

    Sometimes, users are plagued with fonts missing when printing PDF files because they are using a very old copy of Acrobat Reader. Newer versions seem to be more compatible with certain applications such as Microsoft Office, and will generally provide a more successful PDF viewing experience. Acrobat Reader is free from the Adobe Web site.

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    Conclusion

    This information about fonts missing when printing PDF files should help users gain the insight they need to understand and resolve these font related problems.

    Image Credits: Screen shots taken by Bruce Tyson