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Acrobat 10 prints square characters instead of actual characters on paper copies

Posted on 2013-01-17
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Last Modified: 2013-01-24
Hello,
 
We use Acrobat 10 standard in a Windows 7 64-bit enterprise environment.  The printers involved are Xerox copiers using the latest PostScript 3 drivers.
 
We are currently having an issue where we print a document and on the paper copy, some of the characters are replaced with a square character.  The problem occurs when printing a PDF with Acrobat 10.  The problem does not occur when printing with Acrobat 9 but we did a company wide upgrade to 10 so 9 is no longer available.
 
I read elsewhere that one of the solutions was to use Pre-flight to check for issues prior to printing.  However, the standard version of Acrobat does not have that feature.  I also used the print as an image option, which works, however the quality is severely degraded, even at 600 dpi.  I have also tried printing to the Xerox copiers with the PCL drivers and that prints ok but the margins and character sizes are distorted so we need to use PostScipt.
 
While this problem applies to many of our documents, the most commons ones that have the issue are PDFs that have been edited to include additional pages from another PDF so they are combined into one larger PDF.
 
The current workaround I have is to save the PDF file as a PS file, then double-click the PS file to have the distiller regenerate the PDF.  Afterwards it prints just fine.  However, since we have thousands of PDF documents with this potential problem, it is quite counter-productive to have to do this workaround to each document.
 
Per Adobe support, I have tried uninstalling and reinstalling Acrobat 10, I have also tried printing with Adobe Reader 11 and same problem occurs.  However, it will print fine with Adobe Reader 9.   Updating to the latest version of Acrobat 10 (10.1.5) has had no improvement.  
 
I have included a sample attached of what it looks like on paper.  Is there a setting in Acrobat 10 standard that I could possibly try that may work for us?
squaretext.PNG
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Question by:bigeven2002
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by:jmpg_70
ID: 38792193
It sounds like the fonts aren't actually embedded into the PDF (an educated guess) and Acrobat has been emulating the the missing font information.

As there is a version issue the fault may lay in the change in the emulation characteristic. If this is  the problem you may need to process the files with an application such Enfocus Pitstop to try and embed the font ( if this is the problem).

Pitstop will be able to test for missing fonts to check this for you.

jmpg
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 38792708
Hit Ctrl-D when viewing the document in Acrobat, then go to the fonts tab. There you can see which fonts are embedded and which are not. Then use the Preflight tool (under Print Production in Pro) to embed the missing forms. That should fix your printing problem. If it still occurs after embedding the font in question, there maybe something wrong with the font - or the way the printer interprets the font.
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by:DansDadUK
ID: 38793349
To support the views of the previous two responders:

A square (or more usually rectangular) outline shape is the standard shape used for the .notdef glyph in a font.

This glyph is used when the font in question does not contain a character which maps to the character-code being requested.

It would therefore seem to be the case that the font being used on the printer is not the same as the one being used in the source document; i.e. some form of font substitution is occurring.
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by:bigeven2002
ID: 38794827
Thanks for the responses so far.  

To clarify, this is Acrobat 10 Standard so pre-flight is not accessible.  Under Ctrl+D, and selecting Fonts tab, it only indicates which fonts are used in the document, it does not distinguish which are embedded and which are not.

I briefly looked at Pitstop but is it really $719 per license?  We definitely cannot afford that if it's the case as we have over 2000 users.  It still seems like saving as PS and reprinting would be just as fast.

Ok so a glyph is used instead of the actual letter then.  So in this case the emulation of the font has become worse with Acrobat 10?  On a particular document, the letter Y is replaced with + and Z is replaced with !.  The number 7 is replaced with a square.

As for substituion on the printer, the copiers have 2 options: Substitute with device font, or download as softfont.  Neither works though.  I also tried the truetype font download and options, postscript output options.
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by:DansDadUK
ID: 38794913
>> ... glyph is used instead of the actual letter ...

Every character (letter, digit, symbol, punctuation mark, etc.) IF PRESENT in the font is represented by a glyph (just a fancy name for a character shape), but if the font being used does not contain a particular character, then the .notdef glyph is used instead.

... and your description of common characters being replaced by odd symbols perhaps suggests that at some point font embedding with (obfuscated) subsetting is involved - I don't know anything more since I don't use Acrobat.
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 38794932
Can you provide a sample file that shows this problem?
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by:DansDadUK
ID: 38794934
... except to say that if the source document includes an embedded font, this may only be a subset (why embed perhaps several thousand glyphs if you are only using (say) 50 different characters), and it may also be obfuscated (licence restrictions, etc.), in which case the only ways to print it would be to either rasterise it on the workstation (send as image), or download the obfuscated font subset as a soft font to match the (obfuscated) character codes used in the document.
I don't know what controls whether or not obfuscation is invoked.
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by:jmpg_70
ID: 38795107
I would suggest a license for Pitstop at $719 a license. The software rewuires quite a bit of expertise.

If you were to have enterprise based project to verify your currently existing PDF files,  one license would be required and the software can batch/hot folder process many many files.

i would look at the cost of a small project to find and correct the problem versus an continuous enterprise level cost to jury rig a work around for this issue.

There are other vendors that provide software similar to Enfocus, but I think it is the only software that can correctly embed (subsetted) fonts.
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by:bigeven2002
ID: 38795743
OK thanks, I will get a trial of Pitstop to see if it works for us.  So am I understanding that the $719 would be a site license or a license for one machine?  I saw that there was a server version too.

Unfortunately I cannot provide a sample as all the documents involved are highly confidential.

But, the print does work when printing as an image, but again it is really degraded on quality.  The printer driver offers to download a soft font to work with the font subset but the result has been the same on the printout.

But I don't think it is the printer driver's fault since I can also print the PDF to the distiller and create a new PDF which also experiences the +, Y and square.
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by:jmpg_70
ID: 38795963
I am pretty sure $719 is per seat. I haven't used  Pitstop for a while and it has changed appearance and method of the the way tasks are performed.

As the software is mainly and originally Pre-Press based there are a large number of functions that may seem rather obtuse. I would watch the tutorial movies help out.

The product range has changed a little but the server solutions are very scalable and can be configured for many scenarios' (I bet they charge for the privilege).

BTW, This going to sound a little vague but I am suspicious of the error that you are describing. I believe that a font you are using  ( even if it is part of the Windows OS roll-out) is causing you grief and will continue to until that particular font is identified. I know that Calibri caused some issues at workplace I was contracted in recently. I can't remember which PDF creation method was used or the work around but it largerly consisted of no longer using Calibri. it was a PITA.

I also believe that the manner in which some enterprises create PDF can be a problem. Coincidentally Enfocus offer some solutions as do other vendors.

jmpg
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by:DansDadUK
ID: 38796328
>> ... The printer driver offers to download a soft font to work with the font subset but the
>> result has been the same on the printout.


Which implies that either the application or the printer driver does not fully understand/implement the handling of embedded obfuscated subset fonts.
 
>> But I don't think it is the printer driver's fault since I can also print the PDF to the
>> distiller and create a new PDF which also experiences the +, Y and square ...


Which implies that the application which is reading the old PDF and writing the new one is unable to handle the obfuscation.
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 38796412
Enfocus has a 30 day eval license, so you can download the application and find out if it's working for you. If you are planning on going with the server version, you would still need one license of the Pro package to create the processing profile that the server would then use to process all your documents.

Here is what I would do: It does not make sense to invest into a solution without fully understanding the problem. Because you are not able to share a sample document, I would hire somebody with the knowledge to determine the problem, and come up with a strategy to solve it. That's probably not what you wanted to hear, but without access to the problem files, it's impossible to tell you what will or will not work.

I would also take a look at the complete tool chain - all the applications that are involved in creating and modifying the PDF. You've already ruled out the printer driver and the interpreter on the printer because Distiller shows the same problem.

BTW: When you look at the Fonts information on the Document information screen, it will show you if a font is embedded or not. If you don't see anything that is a pretty good indication that the fonts are not embedded (which is a really bad way of creating PDF documents). You may want to also talk to the vendor of your PDF tools and see if they either know about the problem, or know a way to work around the problem.

But, back to your problem, maybe we can at least get your closer to a solution.

Which tools are you using for combining the PDF documents? My gut feeling is that you are not dealing with obfuscated fonts (which are mainly used in ePub documents, and not in PDF files), but with a tool that is not able to deal with subset embedded fonts at all. It may see that both documents use e.g. the font TimesNewRoman, and both have subset embedded that font, but the tool will not combine the subset, but only copy the font definition of one file, which makes those characters that are missing from the first subset not show up correctly in the pages that are from the second file.
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by:bigeven2002
ID: 38797294
From what one of my users told me, the method they used for combining PDF docs was to Open both PDFs, and drag and drop the pages from one PDF to the other, to my understanding.  So in this particular case, both PDFs were made while we were on Acrobat 9, and as such printed fine on that version.

But doing the combine with Acrobat 10 with the same procedure, or printing an already  combined PDF with Acrobat 10, produced the square problem when printing.  

I think one thing I failed to mention, when you print just the problem pages and not the entire document, then the problem does not occur.  So lets say that it is a 12 page document (originally 3 pages and we added 9 more) and the glyph problem is on pages 4-12, then if you tell Acrobat to print only pages 4-12, then they print fine.

These are tax documents that's why they are confidential.  Our tax software vendor has provided an alternate print method to make the PDF which has solved the glyph problem with documents that were not part of a combination.  It may be that the new print method properly embeds the fonts.  If that makes any sense.

But the problem still occurs when we combine those new documents with previously created PDFs using the method in the first paragraph.  Makes me really wish we had Acrobat Pro...

As soon as I return to work Monday, I will gather a list of the fonts used in these documents, but I know that none of them are Calibri.

Thanks for the help so far!
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by:jmpg_70
ID: 38797311
After reading your last post I would suggest the error lies with the way the Taxation software generates the PDF...

I t still needs to be fixed
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 38797471
Ah, if you are combining the documents with Acrobat, then this step should also not be the source of your problems. All sight point to your tax software - especially if they've already provided a fix for new documents.

You can download a a 30 day eval license for Acrobat Pro - just make sure that you do not install it on a system that has a valid Acrobat license installed already. This will give you the tools to do a more thorough debugging. There is even a preflight check to test for invalid PDF - which may just give you some information about what's wrong with your PDF files. I can walk you through the process.
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by:bigeven2002
ID: 38801532
Ok after reviewing a couple samples I was provided, it does show (embedded subset) next to some of the fonts.  One document shows (embedded subset) next to each font.  It  contains Arial, Arial-Bold, Arial-BoldItalic, CLR Dingbats, Courier New.  Each say (Embedded Subset) next to it.

So like what was mentioned earlier, it embedded only the necessary parts of the set for the document.  So that is where the obfuscation occurs.  Am I understanding that correctly?

So when I fix the document by saving as PS and regenerating the PDF, it still shows the fonts above as Embedded subsets but prints correctly.  So that is when the distiller fixes the obfuscation?

The other sample has far too many fonts to list as it has several attachments to it.  But some say (embedded), (embedded subset), or nothing.  So only the ones that say (embedded) will truly print correctly?

I will see if I can provision a computer with Acrobat Pro so as to try Preflight and report back.  Thanks!
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 38801679
This is nothing to do with obfuscation, it's a simple problem with merging the two embedded subsets of the same font. Acrobat uses a special naming convention for subset fonts: six random characters, a plus sign and the original file name (e.g. ABCDEF+Helvetica), if you have two different subsets, the random characters have to be different in order to indicate that the subsets are different. It is possible that your software creates subsets with the same prefix, even though the subsets are not identical. I've seen this before (but not in quite some time), and it's a result of the authors of a software package not understanding the PDF spec.

When you convert the document to PostScript, Acrobat will convert that font to a valid subset font, and therefore when you merge the files, you end up with a valid and working PDF file.

The fonts that will print correctly are definitely the ones that are marked as "Subset", but you may also get the correct output with non-embedded fonts if those fonts are installed on the printer. The fully subset fonts will always print correctly, regardless of what's installed on the printer.
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by:bigeven2002
ID: 38802112
Ok so this has nothing to do with obfuscation, I had no idea that Acrobat created random characters for naming convention.  For the first problem document, I attached a screenshot of the fonts used.

They each have Subset next to them.  So is there a difference for Subset and Embedded Subset?  How can I tell if it is fully subset?
fonts.PNG
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 38802161
These fonts are all subset-embedded. There is either nothing mentioned about embedding, subset or embedded. If it says embedded, it's fully embedded.
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by:jmpg_70
jmpg_70 earned 167 total points
ID: 38803196
The fonts that will print correctly are definitely the ones that are marked as "Subset", but you may also get the correct output with non-embedded fonts if those fonts are installed on the printer. The fully subset fonts will always print correctly, regardless of what's installed on the printer.

If the fonts are correctly embedded and/or embedded subset the need for Postscript Printer installed fonts is irrelevant – the need for fonts to match the limited selection that is installed on Postscript Printers hasn't been an issue for a long time (prior to 1998) – as the font information is included in the postscript file  sent to the printers RIP.

Also when the font are embedded an entire copy of the embedded copy of the font is included within the PDF When the font is subset each character or glyph essentially becomes a single "Font" with the font title obfuscation. Each occurrence becomes it's own unique identity and is contained uniquely within the PDF.

When looking at the file property pane you see the fonts that are embedded and embedded subset ( if included) fonts that aren't embedded are listed. The Pitstop tool (or similar) will identify the missing fonts and attempt to embed them if available locally.

So if you have PDF files that aren't embedding fonts, correctly Acrobat doesn't tell unless you run one of the in-built Pre-flight checks ( included) or run software such as Pitstop.

I think the answers that are being posted are pointing the fact that the PDF files you have are faulty and need correcting. The manner in which the files are created is appearing to be the Taxation software.

Another issue that hasn't been mentioned is if Acrobat has been emulating the missing fonts and you print these PDF files the missing fonts that are emulated will print but they will loose there dimensions are such character spacing, height etc,. when printed (seen as your error) the characters bunch up and print as boxes etc. This is because Postscript files are far fussier than screen renders. This issue partially hides missing and emulated fonts. Again it points to needing some level of flight check being done on the PDF files generated on your network and network configuration and the Taxation software.

Hopefully this feedback is helpful and not re-stating anything obviously said previously.

jmpg
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 38803295
I just noticed I made a mistake in one of my comments: Imwanted to say "The fonts that willmprint correctly are definitely the ones marked as 'embedded'" - and not 'subset', these are the ones you are having problems with. Sorry about that.
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by:bigeven2002
ID: 38803503
Ok I think I'm starting to understand.  On the tax software, one print method produces embedded subsets while the other method produces a fully embedded font.  I think I can get my users to use that method instead.

I am in midst of getting Acrobat X pro on a spare machine to try preflight.
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by:DansDadUK
DansDadUK earned 166 total points
ID: 38803529
I think that the crucial phrase is "Identity-H" encoding, as used with CID (Character IDentity) fonts.
This encoding appears to be an Adobe-defined 16-bit encoding which maps to the Unicode code-space (because PostScript, and hence PDF don't directly support Unicode?).
If you search for "CID Identity-H", there are hundreds of web pages outlining problems with applications misunderstanding the multiple levels of encoding required (TrueType fonts usually include (as a minimum) a Unicode-indexed 'cmap' table).
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by:bigeven2002
ID: 38803719
Well so far the preflight seems to work with the default profile and analyze and fix, it did for one document so far, I'll have to test the other in the morning.
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by:DansDadUK
ID: 38805292
Just another comment regarding the underlying problem:

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_Document_Format#Encodings :

For large fonts or fonts with non-standard glyphs, the special encodings Identity-H (for horizontal writing) and Identity-V (for vertical) are used. With such fonts it is necessary to provide a ToUnicode table if semantic information about the characters is to be preserved.
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 38805332
That's correct, but something the software that creates the PDF has to do. I don't see a reference to Identity H or V encoding anywhere. And, that's a more complicated approach, so I would assume that we are not dealing with such encoded fonts. Also, the list of fonts supplied for on job does also not suggest that an Identity encoding is used.
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 38805336
So it looks like you got preflight to work. Which version of Acrobat are you using? I can walk you through some tests to see what's gong on.
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by:DansDadUK
ID: 38805497
The reference to Identity-H is in the details of the fonts provided by the question author in fonts.png
It shows that the (sample) document is using 5 fonts, all of which are "embedded subset" using font type "TrueType (CID)" and encoding "Identity-H".
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 38805501
I must have missed that. Thanks.
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by:DansDadUK
ID: 38805512
You're welcome.
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by:bigeven2002
ID: 38805989
Ok well...Preflight only worked for one document.  The other document I have still prints incorrectly after running preflight.  I compared the original to the preflight version and they are identical.  While it was running, if shows invalid font on the page but looks like it was unable to fix it.  This is the document with the embedded subsets screenshot that I posted earlier.  The profile it used was called "Magazine Ad" which I guess is default, not sure how to change the profile or if that will even make a difference.

If preflight cannot fix the font, then I guess chances are pitstop can't either?

This was done with Acrobat X Pro 10.1.5.  Preflight version is 10.1.3.

Before
Error
Compressed object streams used
Font is not valid (96 matches on 1 page)
Object uses RGB (4 matches on 1 page)
OutputIntent for PDF/X missing
PDF version is newer than 1.3
PDF/X version key (GTS_PDFXVersion) missing
Page does not have TrimBox or ArtBox (1 match on 1 page)
Trapped key not true or false

Warning
Black text knocks out and is smaller than 12 pt (82 matches on 1 page)
Text smaller than 9 pt uses more than 1 colorant (3 matches on 1 page)

Open in new window


After

Fixups
Convert to PDF/X-1a (2001) (1 object)
Set black text to overprint (93 objects)
Set Trapped key to "false" if Trapped key is neither "true" nor "false" (1 object)
Auto-correct nesting of page geometry boxes (1 object)
Save as PDF 1.3 (Acrobat 4) (1 object)
Discard all form submission, import and reset actions (1 object)
Discard all external cross references (1 object)
Remove document structure compression (2 objects)
Compress all uncompressed objects using lossless ZIP compression (1 object)
Recompress LZW as ZIP (1 object)
Convert alternate color space for spot colors to CMYK (Coated FOGRA39) (149 objects)
Results (Summary)

Error
Font is not valid (96 matches on 1 page)

Warning
Gray object is set to overprint (93 matches on 1 page)

Open in new window

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Karl Heinz Kremer earned 167 total points
ID: 38806229
There are other pre-flight options that are better suited for your problem:

Open up preflight and make sure that "Profiles" is selected at the top of the page, and that "Show All" is selected in the drop down just below that, then expand the "PDF Analysis" section. Select the item "Report PDF Syntax Issues" and click on the "Analyze" button. This will report any syntax issues with the documents. It will give you a better understanding what exactly is wrong with the document.

I don't know if this will work (without access to any of your faulty documents, that's impossible to say), but I would then try to run "Analyze and fix" on the same preflight profile.

Then you can try to run the "Embed fonts" profile under "PDF Fixups". If any of these work, you have a way to fix your files. You can then create a preflight droplet (more about that once we know that you can actually fix your files) and process files by dragging and dropping them on the droplet.

If you are still not able to print your files, let's try a custom fixup:

Next the the drop down control that should still be set to "Show all" are three buttons: Select Profiles, Select single checks and Select single fixups. Select "Select single fixups", then go to the "Options" menu and select to "Create new preflight fixup...". This will bring up a new dialog. Type "Font" into the "Find" field - this will show the font related fixups you can create. Pick the first one, give it a good name (or, if you want to just reuse this fixup, call it "Fix Fonts") and click on OK. Then select that fixup and click on the "Fix" button. Save the document and test it. If it's still not working, create a new fixup with the next font related fix (or edit the "Fix Fonts" and just pick the next one on the list after searching for "font" again). If one of these works, you are in luck. Again, let me know and I'll give you further instructions.

If this is still not working, try to unembed the fonts and re-embed them:

To unembed (unfortunately there is no pre-flight profile for that) you need to save the file as an optimized PDF, so select "File>Save As Other" and select "Optimized PDF". On the new dialog that gets displayed, unselect all checkboxes with the exception of "Fonts", then select the "Fonts" item and select one font after the other and click on "Unembed". Click on OK to save the file.

You may have to do this with either the combined file, or the files before you combine them. I don't know which one will work better (or work at all).  

You can then re-embed the fonts by running the "Embed Fonts" under the "PDF Fixups" section in preflight (select the "Select Profiles" button at the top of the dialog to see that).

Again, you may have to play around with the original files and/or the combined file to see which one works better.
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by:bigeven2002
ID: 38807270
Using Profile Report PDF syntax issues - no problems found.
Using Profile Embed fonts - no problems found.
Using Custom Fix up (Fix Fonts) - no problems found.

Odd that previously it showed 96 errors but now there are no problems???  I made sure it was checking the original document.

There was no other font solution in the list.  Embed fonts was the only type available and the category was set to all.

For Save As Optimized PDF, I deselected all except Fonts and selected it.  The embedded fonts field is blank so I can't unembed any.  This document is not the combined one.  Acutally the combined one was the successful one after the first preflight attempt.  

The one I am addressing now is just one page.  It still shows embedded subset next to each font but strange how it shows nothing in the save as optimize pdf window.

Sorry for the trouble.
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 38807359
Looks like you are using Acrobat X - XI has a few more font options for custom fixups. It does offer for example several "Fix Font Encoding" options, which would probably be useful for your documents.

It's surprising that you are not seeing any problem reports anymore.

Unfortunately I am running out of ideas about what I can do without access to the document (there are a lot more things that can be determined by looking inside the PDF document and inspecting the fonts directly). So I am returning to my earlier suggestions of either having the vendor of your taxation software come up with a fix for this problem (they must know what the problem is, and how it can be fixed), or by hiring somebody who can sign an NDA and give that person access to your documents. I've done worked with companies in the past who had privacy concerns (HIPAA and other privacy laws), and we've always found a way to make sure that private information stays private. I am pretty sure that somebody who has access to these files and understands the PDF file format should be able to come up with either a fix, a workaround, or a clear statement that it cannot be done (that's unfortunately always an option).
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by:bigeven2002
ID: 38807661
Ok I really appreciate the help and suggestions.  I think we have an idea now on where to look.  Seeing as preflight was partially successful shows that combined docs could be fixed.  The taxation software already has a workaround with the alternate print method for uncombined docs.

The next thing I will try is with a specific user, replace their machine.  We printed the same document to the same printer using the same driver, I printed successfully and she had square characters on some of the pages.  And I already tried uninstall/reinstall the printer and uninstall/reinstall Acrobat and our plugins are identical.

My testing will continue but I think we have exhausted all Acrobat specific solutions.  Again many thanks for the help.
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by:jmpg_70
ID: 38808908
Bigeven

The next thing I will try is with a specific user, replace their machine.  We printed the same document to the same printer using the same driver, I printed successfully and she had square characters on some of the pages.  And I already tried uninstall/reinstall the printer and uninstall/reinstall Acrobat and our plugins are identical.

This won't work, it's the pdf that has the error.
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by:bigeven2002
ID: 38816783
Noted.  I think I will skip that then.
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This Micro Tutorial will go in depth within Systems and Security in Windows 7 and will go into detail regarding Action Center, Windows Firewall, System, etc. This will be demonstrated using Windows 7 operating system.
In this fourth video of the Xpdf series, we discuss and demonstrate the PDFinfo utility, which retrieves the contents of a PDF's Info Dictionary, as well as some other information, including the page count. We show how to isolate the page count in a…

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