PDF Interoperability Problems: 6 Common Causes

PDF Interoperability Problems: 6 Common Causes

As a Product Manager for the PDF product line at Datalogics, I have done a lot of research on PDF interoperability. For example, I’ve found that some features of a PDF file may not be widely supported in the community, and certain elements might be interpreted differently by some of the more commonly used PDF readers out there. We tend to throw the word “interoperability” around, and just assume that everyone knows what we are talking about. Interoperability is defined as the ability of a system to work with or use the parts or equipment of another system. When we talk about PDF documents being interoperable, what we’re trying to determine is whether or not your PDF files are going to be reproduced the same across the variety of viewers out there. Unfortunately, the answer to this is usually NO. In this article, I’ll discuss which areas of PDFs I’ve found that commonly cause discrepancies in your documents, and how to resolve these issues.

When analyzing our customer’s problem PDFs, I often notice that the PDF file itself isn’t usually to blame, but rather a feature of the PDF file that is just not well supported by some of the viewers out there. Some of these features are very commonly used (for example: transparency, overprint, etc.), but may be causing issues within your PDF without you even knowing it. In order to ensure your PDF appears as you intended, your ultimate duty as the author of these documents is to create files that are rendered accurately and as you intended for the audience who will be viewing them.

Throughout my research, I’ve identified 6 different areas that are currently not very well supported by some of the popular end-user PDF viewing tools in the marketplace. To help illustrate the interoperability issue even more clearly, we’ve created a test file for you to use to help examine the 6 different problematic conditions – you can download the file here. We recommend opening this file in different viewers that you or your audience typically uses, and you can observe the impact that different PDF tools can have on the final viewed document. Does the color appear differently from the original? Do all the images show up? If some or all of these issues are observed, this test file provides recommendations on how to fix them. By knowing which features are not well supported by the tools your users use, or the tools you rely on internally, you can preemptively correct your files ahead of time to avoid these problems.

If you’re interested in learning more about the specific components of your PDF document, we encourage you to download our free PDF CHECKER tool. This tool enables the user to identify and flag potential problems with their PDF documents (like those shown in the test file above). Fortunately, many of these issues can be easily resolved with our PDF OPTIMIZER tool. For a free trial, click here.

We hope that by providing you with these resources, you will be able to maintain the fidelity of your documents, and ensure your audience consumes and views your PDF exactly as you intended. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

2 thoughts on “PDF Interoperability Problems: 6 Common Causes

  1. I am trying to find a way to take data from a Google spreadsheet and inject it into a PDF form I have to fill out in order to submit orders to another company. My current plan is to email the data to a website that I will create, use php on the server side to inject the data into the PDF, and then email the PDF to the google inbox. I have not found commands in php that allow easy handling of a process like this. Are you aware of a solution?

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