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Edit Vector PDF – Know Your PDF File Types

Vector or Raster PDF?

vector or raster exampleIt’s easy to tell the difference between vector and raster PDF files by viewing them in Adobe Acrobat.  This is important since the two file types are converted differently. Vector PDF files are best transformed through data extraction. This is accurate and precise and involves minimal manual clean-up. Raster PDF files are traced since there is no data to extract. This is an approximation and requires operator involvement as well as manual clean-up. Visual Integrity is specialized in tools for vector conversion and will produce high-quality, accurate drawings from vector PDF input. If a raster PDF or scanned drawing is run through our software, we will turn the flat image into a tracing layer for manual work-up.

If you need to:

Test #1 – The Blue Test

Start by opening your PDF file with Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. Click anywhere on the drawing. If it turns blue, it’s a scanned drawing. Depending on the quality of the scan, you may have some success with a raster-to-vector tool. Alternatives are to manually redraw it or outsource it to be redrawn by a service bureau.

scanned drawing raster PDF

A scanned drawing as it opens on-screen in Acrobat (It has not yet been selected).

scanned drawing when selected turns blue raster PDF

Once you click anywhere on the scanned drawing, the entire drawing is selected and turns blue to signify this.

 

Test #2 – The Zoom Test

Open your PDF file with Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. Use the Magnifying Control to zoom in on a detailed section of the file. At 100-150%, it may be hard to tell the difference. Continue zooming until you are at a magnification greater than 400%.

When magnified, a scanned drawing will look jagged, noisy, blurry or dirty. If you are uncertain, magnify some more. The higher the resolution of the drawing, the more magnification it needs to degrade. Vector files will look perfect at any resolution.

When magnified, a scanned drawing will look jagged, noisy, blurry or dirty. If you are uncertain, magnify some more. The higher the resolution of the drawing, the more magnification it needs to degrade. Vector files will look perfect at any resolution.

Side-by-Side Comparison to See the Difference Between Vector and Raster PDF

The section of the picture should be magnified on your screen and it should become apparent whether you have a vector or raster PDF file. The Vector PDF file will look clear and smooth at any resolution while the raster PDF will become dirtier and grainier the more it’s zoomed. In the example below, the section is enlarged 400%. Sometimes, it’s necessary to magnify the file more than 1000% when it’s a high-res scan to determine the file type. It would be possible to edit the vector PDF on the left but not the raster PDF on the right.

difference between vector and raster PDF file

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There are two types of PDF files – raster PDF and vector PDF. If your drawing will not convert, it is probably a scanned drawing saved as a raster PDF file. Unfortunately, there is no useful data in a raster PDF file for us to extract about the objects or text. When a drawing is scanned, it is reduced to a flat image, comparable to a snapshot or a photocopy. There’s nothing you can do except trace over it manually or with tracing software (raster-to-vector software). One way or another, you need to recreate it.

Our software is designed to convert vector PDF files. These files are created on computers using save, export, print-to-file, etc. These vector PDF files contain a rich data set and all the information we need to accurately extract the drawing and render it in a format Visio or AutoCAD, etc can digest.

For comparison sake, below is a snip of a raster PDF file at 500% where the characteristic “jagginess” or pixelation of raster PDF files can easily be seen. Below it is a snip of a vector PDF file which is remarkably smooth and clear even though it has also been zoomed to 500%. This visual method is a very easy and accurate way to determine if your PDF file is a raster or vector. Most people get both types of files so pdf2cad or pdf2picture may be useful for some of your files.

A raster PDF (scanned drawing) – jagged and grainy at 500% – you need raster-to-vector software to trace or recreate this or you’ll need to manually redraw it.

A sample vector PDF file at 500% – notice how smooth the lines are and how clear the text is. This type of file is best converted with vector-to-vector software like pdf2cad and pdf2picture.

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Converting PDF to Visio

In order to convert PDF to Visio, you need to use a tool which will transform the PDF file into a vector graphic. Most solutions out there will only provide you with a bitmap image file. This is not useful since none of the PDF objects or text can be accessed. There are several tools available which generate vector formats for Visio. Try one of the programs below to ensure success:

  • Insert PDF, a Visio add-in that adds “Open PDF” to the Visio Toolbar
  • pdf2picture, a desktop program which transforms PDF into editable Visio formats
  • PDF FLY, an advanced conversion program for technical professionals and writers

By default, pdf2picture and PDF FLY give more control over the conversion while Insert PDF simply opens the PDF file in Visio. Both pdf2picture and PDF FLY create files that Visio can import using the native Windows Metafile format (WMF). It’s also possible for Visio to open DXF  and SVG files although we find that WMF yields the best results in most instances.

Send us a test PDF file to convert to Visio (Free)

Edit PDF in Visio Step-by-Step

The following steps show how to convert PDF to Visio. Screenshots are based on pdf2picture. If you are using the Insert PDF add-in, skip to Step 3 (Insert PDF add-in instructions).

  1. Convert the PDF file to WMF, EMF or SVG using pdf2picture or the Insert PDF for Visio add-in. WMF and EMF usually provide the best results. If you are using the add-in, then skip to Step 3.

  2. Open the converted file in Visio using “Insert Pictures”. You can also drag the file onto a Visio page. Adjust your paper size and orientation if necessary. You should now see the converted drawing on your screen. Important! The drawing imports as one object. You need to ungroup it if you wish to edit, remove or add parts of the drawing.

    Ungroup PDF file in Visio

  3. Ungroup the drawing and right-click on the graphic and select “Group, Ungroup” to generate objects. Now, select and change the individual elements and text. When ungrouped, Visio will highlight every individual object in pink. To deselect everything, click anywhere on the page outside of the drawing boundaries. When you convert PDF to Visio using this method, you see every object and each word outlined. Now, you can select and change the area or object you want using all the familiar Visio features. Depending on the original drawing design, when you convert PDF to Visio, there may be many levels of groups. If you find that you can not edit an object, right-click and ungroup again (and again, if necessary) until you have the level access you want.

    Ungrouped PDF file is editable in Visio
    Select and change a Visio object

  4. Save as a Visio Drawing. That’s it. Once you save the drawing, it is now in the native .vsdx format and ready to save or share with your colleagues.

Keys to Successful Conversion of PDF to Visio

Is your drawing scanned?

Before converting, make sure that your PDF file is not a scanned image. If it is, it is not editable at the object level. Only computer-generated PDF files produce editable objects. To see if you have a scanned PDF, open it in Adobe Acrobat and magnify it to 1000%. If the lines look smooth, you’ll have success but if the lines look jagged or boxy, you won’t. Understanding PDF types is crucial as you learn how to convert PDF to Visio> How to determine what type of PDF file you have.

Text as curves

Some CAD drawings use “plotted” characters. This text becomes a series of pen strokes or “curves” in a PDF losing all character information. Because you can’t edit plotted text, you will be limited to a graphical representation once you convert PDF to Visio.

Font Mapping

If you can select text in the original PDF file, then it will be editable in the Visio file. If it doesn’t look quite right, the specific font may not be on the target system or it may go by a different name. The font mapping feature handles these issues when you convert PDF to Visio. This happens because of font incompatibilities across systems. As odd as it seems, the very same font can have a different name on two different PC’s. Because of this, we offer font-mapping. Using this feature, you can create a link between the two font names so the text appears as intended in Visio.

Font Substitutes

If a font in the PDF file does not exist in Visio, we’ll choose a close substitute. This will be one of the standard PostScript fonts installed on all PC’s. Usually, it will be close enough and you can adjust the point size in order to get close. If you want the correct font, you can license it from any font supplier like Adobe, FontShop, fonts.com, or Monotype, to name a few.

Objects or shapes?

When creating a PDF, application specific definitions about shapes and scale disappear. VisualIntegrity has developed many options to recover or compensate for these limitations. More information is available on these options in the product’s Help file.

Mind your Memory

Many Visio drawings coming from PDF contain a large number of objects. This is especially true if you are trying to open a complex CAD drawing in Visio. You’ll need a well-equipped PC.  Every file is different so it’s hard for us to make general recommendations. If you find that the file is slow to open or takes a while to refresh, you’ll need more memory. It’s not unusual for a converted PDF file to contain more than 50,000 individual objects. This may sound intimidating but pdf2picture makes quick work of it!

Ungroup and Ungroup Again

One of the top questions we get if from people who open the WMF or SVG file in Visio and don’t know to ungroup the page. When first opened, the diagram displays as one group to prevent unintended editing. To start working on the individual elements, ungroup per the steps above. This is the key step for using PDF successfully in Visio.

Regroup before Resizing

If you want to scale the drawing, always “regroup”. Do this by selecting Grouping, Group so that everything. Grouping makes one entity out of many and ensures that everything scales proportionally.

Performance

We have seen PDF files which contain hundreds of thousands of objects. These are not the norm and require a very capable system as well as a lot of patience when ungroupng. Regular success is high with less than 50,000 objects but when the count is much higher, it can hit a wall. If you have a file that won’t open or ungroup in Visio, please contact us to see if we can help.

Choosing an Import Format

If you use the Insert PDF add-in for Visio, your diagram will open in the native Visio format. But, if you use a stand-alone program like pdf2picture or PDF FLY, you’ll need to choose a format to hand-off to Visio. The best options are WMF, EMF, SVG and DWG. Depending on the type of diagram or drawing you have, WMF is almost always the best choice because it’s closest to the Visio format. The exceptions are CAD drawings with layers. Visio has special options for converting CAD objects and they may be useful for your files. Performance may take a hit because CAD files are usually larger than WMF files.

Ask for Free Advice

If you try to convert a PDF but are not getting the results you expect, ask us to troubleshoot it for you. It’s free and we are happy to help you achieve optimal results. Send the file you are having trouble with along with any comments to support@visual-integrity.com. The most complete requests receive priority.

Contact Us About Converting PDF to Visio

Please let us know if you have questions or if you have problems finding the right steps for using PDF in Visio. We’re happy to help!

Download Tip Sheet: Using pdf2picture output (WMF) in Visio)

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SVG in Visio is a versatile format for print and Web

Now, you can easily use SVG in Visio and other ps applications. Scalable Vector Graphics, the W3C and HTML5 standard (SVG) is one of the vector output formats in pdf2picture. Just select the PDF files you want to convert and choose SVG as the output format. The resulting file can be opened directly giving you an easy and accurate way to use SVG in Visio.

Using SVG in Visio is a perfect way to unlock PDF content.With the move to HTML5 applications, more and more programs are integrating internal SVG suppport. Visio is one of them. Now, you can convert any PDF file into SVG and open it in Visio in just a few steps which are outlined below. We are finding it to be a better choice that WMF for fonts support and text placement. Here’s how you do it:

The key steps:

1.    Use pdf2picture to convert your PDF file to SVG

2.   To open in Visio, choose Scalable Vector Graphics


3.    Once in Visio, right click on the drawing and Ungroup (ignore any errors Visio may present). You may need to delete an exterior container and right click to ungroup again.

5.    When fully ungrouped, you should see pink. Click anywhere outside the margins of the drawing and this will deselect all objects.

 

6.    You are now ready to select and edit whatever you want, including the text.

 

 

 

 

 

Products for using PDF in Visio

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Sometimes there is no output file produced or it may seem as though  the software has quit working. This has to do with an invalid page range setting.

All of our products can convert one page, all pages or a page range. By default, they convert all pages. If you choose a page rage, you must reset it to all pages when done since the software remembers the last settings you used. If a conversion is attempted with an invalid page range, it will not produce a resulting file. It may seem as though it is not working. Once you go to “Options, Page” and adjust Page range to “All Pages””and re-attempt the conversion, you will produce a file.

page range options

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Evaluation Tips

Which format do I need – vector or image?

  • The image formats used on web sites are JPEG (or JPG), PNG and GIF. JPEG is best for images with many colors such as photos. GIF is best for line art, illustrations and drawings with limited color. PNG is the most versatile and can be used quite broadly on web-sites.
  • The image formats used in documents follow a similar rule. GIF, TIFF and PNG are best for images with fewer colors and JPEG is used for images with many colors such as photos. The best test is to use pdf2image to convert to a few different formats and then view them both on-screen and in print to see which gives you the desired result.
  • It’s also important to determine what formats your application can import. If the program you want to use only accepts BMP, then you need to convert to this format, even if it produces larger files than PNG.

What resolution should I choose during Conversion?

  • If you are generating images for use on web sites, convert at 72 dpi (dots per inch) or 96 dpi. These settings match screen resolution pixel for pixel for the best match and sharpest display.
  • For general office printing, choose 150 dpi. This will generate a crisp image with the smallest file size.
  • For office publishing and high quality laser printing, choose 300 dpi. The files will be larger but the images will be very clear.
  • For professional printing, choose 300 dpi – 1200 dpi. It’s best to ask your printer who will recommend the best resolution to match his equipment.

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Yes! We have developed a intelligent mechanism to “recognize” circles/ellipses out of a set of polylines or bezier curves. It’s a standard feature of pdf2cad.

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If you want to edit the graphics in a PDF file in Microsoft Office or Visio, you’ll want to try pdf2picture. It operates in both vector and image mode and you can choose which is most appropriate at the time of conversion. Vector mode explodes the file into editable text and objects while image mode makes a high-fidelity copy of the file in an MS Office friendly format.

pdf2image is also available as a low cost option when you just need to use raster image formats. It is ideal for those who work on websites or printed publications like newsletters, brochures and customer bulletins.

To use the graphics produced by either pdf2image or pdf2picture in MS Office, you use Insert > Picture > From File… to add  the converted graphics into your document. If you used vector mode (Windows Metafile WMF/EMF), you can now edit text and graphic elements using the Office drawing tools.

Note: Neither pdf2image or pdf2picture are for converting Word documents or reports heavy in text.

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The software has been designed to be very easy to use and involves just a few simple steps:

  1. Select the PDF file you want to convert
  2. Change or customize settings by clicking on the Options button
  3. Change the name and location of the output file, if desired
  4. Convert!

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PDF Conversion Options

Below is a summary of all PDF conversion options available in pdf2cad, pdf2picture and PDF FLY. These options and more are also available to developers via the PDF Conversion SDK/API or command line tools.

Conversion options - general settings

General Settings Tab

  • Characters as Strings Combines characters into words, and words into text strings, based on context.
  • Convert Characters to CurvesCreates a visual graphic match for text defined with unknown or unavailable fonts.
  • Rotate: Rotates drawing any degree in either direction.
  • Scale Text: Enlarges or reduces the size of the text in the converted file.
  • Emulate PDF cropping: Cropping removes unnecessary outer areas of a drawing. PDF supports cropping but some vector formats (WMF, CGM, DXF and HPGL) don’tWithout cropping, these formats would transfer unwanted elements during conversion. Activate ‘Emulate PDF cropping’ to ensue clean borders. Using this feature, the resulting file will match the original.PDF.
  • Show Font Warning: If the fonts in a PDF file are not installed on your computer, the text will not look right. Font mapping ensures the closest match possible. It also compensates for different font naming conventions across systems.
  • Ignore paths, text images: Turn certain elements on or off during conversion.
  • CAD Format: Choose your output format. DWG for AutoCAD, DXF for most engineering and technical programs and HPGL for plotter specific applications.
font mapping dialog

Font Mappings Tab

Text converts fine when PDF files use standard fonts. If text converts but doesn’t display right, you have a font mapping issue.
Fonts are a tricky subject. Installed fonts differ from system to system. Sometimes, the same font may even go by different names. For a perfect conversion, the same font needs to be on the source and target system. License agreements protect font vendors from illegal use of their typefaces. Embed only system fonts and permitted fonts. For more detail on font issues, read PDF Font Mapping When Converting Files and PDF Fonts: Embedding and Substitution from Adobe
Document fonts display based on comparing the font name in the PDF file with the font name on your system. If the fonts on your PC match the PDF, the file will look perfect. Often, the font names don’t match and the text looks ‘off’ . The first thing to check is whether you have a font name mismatch. Arial Bold, for example, may be “EHJPKB+Arial-Bold” in the original file. The same font is “Arial” on your PC. When you match the two, it’s known as “Font Mapping”. In this example, map “EHJPKB_Arial-Bold” to “Arial” with font style “Bold”. If you can’t make a successful match, we substitute the closest font. This is “Font Substitution” and is automatic.
PDF conversion page options

Page Settings Tab

The Page Settings control options that apply to all files. All of the other option vary depending on whether you choose a vector or bitmap output format.

Crop Picture: Remove Margin: By default, the margins of the PDF file are used. This setting can adjust or remove white space.

Page Size: pdf2cad will automatically figure out the page size. If you want to force a standard or custom page size, select it or enter dimensions.

Convert Range: pdf2cad, by default, will convert all pages of a file. You can set a page range if you only want selected pages.

Page Mapping: By default, a multi-page PDF file converts into a vector page for each PDF page. Other choices included include merging all pages into one file and applying horizotal or vertical alignment.

PDF to DWG DXF format specific options

DWG and DXF Format Specific Options

The PDF Conversion Options for DWG and DXF options apply to specific CAD drawing features.
Scaling Factor:  CAD programs define dimension in units. These units disappear when creating a PDF file but the scale remains. You can set a scaling factor for the x-y relationship during conversion. You can also set the units when you open the converted file in your CAD program. By default, pdf2cad uses 1mm (0,03937 inch) = 1 unit in the CAD output. To learn more about CAD units, read Units and Scales
 
Precision Factor: The default precision is set to 10. Sometimes, it will help increase coordinate accuracy to change this to 1 or to 100. If none of these settings provide desirable results, please send us the file to diagnose.
 
Paths as Polylines/Polygons: PDF doesn’t understand objects or their relationships. To compensate for this,, use our object recognition engine. It identifies lines and curves and renders them as shapes. Polylines are a connected sequence of lines and arcs that create a single object. Polygons are shapes with straight sides.
 
Layers: By default, all objects are on one layer. You can separate layers by color, line width, PDF layers, spot colors or a combination of color and line width.
 
Minimum line width: Defines the smallest line width for each vector object in mm. The default is 0.
 
Zero line width: Removes 3D effects
 
Dashed and Dotted lines as segments: PDF sees dashed and dotted lines as lots of individual lines. By selecting this feature, the lines will converted into whole lines with a pattern.
 
Fill option: Sometimes, white fills in a PDF file show up as black fills in a DXF file. If this is a problem, use this option to ignore white fills.
Advanced PDF Conversion Options

Advanced DXF and DWG Options

Recognize Circles/Ellipses: Our object recognition engine identifies closed polygons and circular paths. Convert them into circular and elliptical shapes.
 
Recognize Horizontal/Vertical Dashed Lines: Create one line object with a line-style attribute.
 
Error Tolerance: This is a tolerance level set for recognition of CAD objects. If one point on the closed polyline is outside of the specified range, it will remain a polyline.
 
Kerning Factor: This setting controls the space between letters or characters. Apply a kerning factor to make the space between characters wider or more narrow. A factor of 1.2 would increase the space by 120%, Important Note! A spacing problem may not be a kerning issue at all. It may be due to a font mismatch and is best solved through font mapping.
 
Compound Objects: A compound object is a group of objects that make up a discreet item. The object recognition engine identifies objects to group into compound objects. If you want all graphics to remain as singular objects, turn this off.
 
Convert Hidden Text Objects: PDF files can have transparent text or text hidden under an object. This PDF Conversion Options converts all text on the page, including hidden text.
 
Fit Drawing: This option scales the converted PDF to be fully visible on the page when opened in a CAD program.
 
Include AI Prologue File: Early Adobe Illustrator files (v8 or earlier) need an AI prologue file to convert. Only use this option if needed. Starting with Illustrator version 9, the AI file is PDF compatible.
 
Custom Line Styles: Map line styles in the PDF to custom line styles in the CAD file.
 
Use True Color: Uses RGB true color values in the CAD file. By default, files use an indexed 256-color table. 

expert options

Expert CAD Options

Password Protected PDF. If the PDF file you are converting has a password, enter it here.
 
First Page Number. When unchecked, the first converted page will be the same as the file name. For example, page one of myfile.pdf becomes myfile.dxf. Checking this option adds a numeric suffix. In our myfile.pdf example, the first page comes out as myfile-1.dxf (followed by myfile-2.dxf, etc.). 
 
Number of Digits. If you choose the ‘First Page Number’ option, enter the number of digits for the suffix. A value of 0 makes page 2 of myfile.dxf will come out as myfile-2.dxf; page 3 as myfile-3.dxf, etc. Setting this option to 4, will add a 4 digit suffix (myfile-0002.dxf). Using this feature ensures logical alphanumeric listings in document management systems.
 
Filename is directory. When checked the file destination is a new directory. The directory is the chosen output name with no file extension. The converted files save to this directory using only their page number.
 
Show image warning. Check this option if you want alerts when the input file (PDF, EPS or AI) contains images. Images appear in the CAD output as non-editable IMAGE objects.
 
Z-Order Image Objects. Z-Order refers to the order of overlapping objects. The order in the PDF file is the default. You can place images at the back or reversed at the back of the drawing. This is useful when PDF images are transparent since IMAGE objects in DWG or DXF are opaque. 
 
Convert cropped images to color lines. DWG and DXF don’t support image cropping. Using this option is useful with small cropped images. It converts them to color lines and crops them that way.
 
Ignore Image Objects Size Less Than. This option strips small image objects during conversion.

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Converting multiple files is also called batch mode and all of our products support it. To specify more than one file, use the “Add” button. Once you have specified your first files, you can remove files and add files until you have the batch of files together that you want to convert.

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There are two basic formats for graphics – vector and image. Vector graphics are made up of objects, lines, curves and text while images are made up of a collection of dots or pixels. Images are also referred to as bitmaps or rasters.

Visual Integrity can convert most PDF files into either vector or image formats. It’s important to know which is best for the job you are doing.

If you need to break a PDF file down into objects and text for editing, then you want to choose a vector format. The vector formats supported in our software are DXF, PDF, PS, EPS, SVG, WMF, EMF, CGM, HPGL and MIF.

If you do not need to edit the file and simply want a sharp copy to insert into a document or to publish on a web-site, you’ll want to go with image formats. The image formats that we support are TIFF, GIF, PNG, JPEG and BMP. If you will be printing the graphic on a laser or ink-jet printer, convert at 150 or 300 dpi (dots per inch) resolution. If publishing to a web-site, use 96 or 72 dpi is best for screen display. Keep in mind that the higher the dpi (resolution), the larger the file size. It’s best to use the lowest resolution which achieves the level of quality you want.

Note! Scanned images can not be transformed by vector mode into lines, text and other vector objects because they are not vector source files. Instead, you will get an exact replica of the PDF as an image that can be used as a tracing layer which aids in the duplication effort. To convert scanned images into vector objects, you need a special class of software called “raster to vector”.

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When adding files, pdf2image, pdf2picture and pdf2cad will only display files with a .pdf extension. If the file you want to convert has a different extension, but you are sure that it is a PDF file, you should rename it to include a .pdf extension. PDF FLY is capable of digesting more input formats so it expects files with a .pdf, .ps, .eps or .prn extension.

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pdf2picture converts PDF files into bitmap images as well as WMF, the native vector graphics format for Microsoft Windows. All of the Microsoft Office applications, including PowerPoint and Visio allow import of a variety of graphic types using “Insert, Picture from File”. Depending on the job, you’ll want to convert using either vector or image mode:

Vector Mode– If you want to edit text or modify the graphic, you’ll want to choose a vector format – either WMF or EMF. Once you have your scalable file, follow the instructions to insert it onto a slide as editable objects. If you notice any problems with the appearance of your text, please see our font troubleshooting tips for how to map them. The fonts defined in the original file may not be on the target system or have a slightly different name.

Image Mode – If you want a true replica of the original file and do not have a need to modify the information, then choose image mode (PNG, GIF, JPEG). It will create a smaller file with high-fidelity.

In pdf2picture, WMF or EMF should be chosen if any of the following are of primary importance:

  • scalability
  • editability
  • ability to magnify with losing sharpness

In the following case, image mode should be chosen when:

  • No further editing is required
  • Image will not be scaled up in size
  • An absolutely identical match is required
  • to lock or protect the information from editing or copying

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WMF, or Windows Metafile, is the original 16-bit metafile format. It is the native vector graphics format for the Microsoft Windows platform. It is also the standard format for scalable graphics in Microsoft Office and many other Windows applications. Even though it has been enhanced and extended as a 32-bit format (EMF -Enhanced Metafile), WMF is still the most widely used and supported metafile format on the Windows platform.

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Several vector formats such as WMF, CGM, DXF and HPGL do not support cropping. This is the act of cutting away and discarding the unnecessary portions of the picture such as extraneous fills and other elements. PDF and PostScript, both very robust and complete formats, do support it. To bridge the gap, Visual Integrity has developed a proprietary method to simulate cropping. When applied during conversion, the resulting file will appear cropped just like the original.

To apply it, select the “Emulate PS/PDF cropping” feature in the General tab of the Options menu.

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Probably. The file format used by Microsoft Office does not embed fonts. Instead, it loads fonts based on reference when the file is opened. If the font specified does not reside on your system, the closest will be substituted. To add to the challenge, it expects the fonts on you system to use exactly the same name as the fonts in the file which is often not the case. Two different applications may define the exact same font with slightly different names. When you want to ensure a great match, you need to create a font mapping.

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PDF Fonts Not Displaying Correctly?

Using the perfect font can make or break the impact a document has. Fonts are also complicated. If you have a PDF file which is not displaying well, it’s likely that PDF font mapping is the culprit.

A PDF document expects to have its fonts installed wherever it’s viewed. When it’s opened, the PDF matches its referenced fonts to the local system’s fonts. If all the fonts are available, the document looks great. Success relies on the set of fonts available of the viewing PC. Using standard system fonts as much as possible will help prevent font mismatches. An exception is branding, where the font used is a valuable, recognizable asset. It should never become compromised.

Listing of standard fonts by system

Top 5 Reasons Fonts Don’t Display Right

1. Font Substitution

When the PDF file can’t find the same font on the reader’s PC, it will choose the closest substitute. This may be almost impossible to see or very obvious. It all depends on the font chosen as a substitute. There are three basic options when dealing with font substitution:

  • Accept the substitution if it’s a minor difference
  • Buy the missing font and install it on your system
  • Define a font-mapping (see below) if possible

Example of a font substitution with a minor difference.  Adobe does a very good job when substituting fonts. They get close in most cases. Close enough that there’s no need to purchase fonts or spend a lot of time troubleshooting. In the example below, substituted text (yellow) is placed over the original embedded font text (red). The visible red marks show where the substitution deviates from the original font.

font mapping example of embedded text

Example of original embedded font text

font mapping comparison of substituted text to embedded text

Yellow substituted font text is placed over original red embedded font text.

2. Embedding Fonts to Avoid Font Substitution not Possible

Several PDF creation tools allow you to embed fonts or font subsets. Embedded fonts travel with the PDF file and ensure accurate display on any system. Be careful because they will increase file size, usually at least doubling it. Due to license restrictions, embed fonts at your own risk. You can only embed fonts with permission. Even free, open source fonts can have restrictions. Example of Adobe’s Font Embedding Policy

A note about Visual integrity Software and Embedded Fonts. In compliance with font rules, our programs do not embed fonts by default. We reference the fonts by their names. If fonts, with the same names, are on the target PC, the file will open and display as intended. If the same fonts are not on the PC, which is much more likely, the text includes the closest allowable font. If you need fonts embedded for a project, we can do that for you as a custom service, with proof of license.

How to see what embedded fonts your document contains.
Open the PDF in either Reader or Acrobat. Bring up the document properties (Ctrl-D or Cmd-D), then go to the Fonts tab. Here, you can see the state of each font. The two examples below show the same font when it’s embedded and when it has been substituted.

embedded font

Embedded Font

Substituted Font - Adobe Sans MM

Substituted Font – Adobe Sans MM

3. When PDF Document Font Names Don’t Match PC Font Names, Use Font Mapping

For fonts to display as intended in a PDF file, the same font with the same name must be on both systems. Unfortunately, the exact same font may go by several different names. Arial Bold on your system, for example, may be “EHJPKB+Arial-Bold” in the original file. Even though these are identical fonts, the PDF does not know it because they have different names. You have to tell it with a PDF font mapping. In this example, map “EHJPKB_Arial-Bold” as “Arial” with font style “Bold”.

font-mapping

Mismatches are common. Resolve them whenever possible through font mapping. If mapping the font is not possible, it’s substituted as described above.

4. Unknown Font in the PDF Document

Ensure an exact match by converting formatted text to bezier curves. When you need a precise match, but the source font is unknown or not available, it’s best to convert the text to a graphic. This is an excellent approach for logos and other brand assets. It’s also recommended for technical text like equations and formulas. Once converted to graphics, they are no longer editable and there’s no possibility to introduce error during font substitution.

A note about Visual integrity Software and Text as Curves. Our programs offer a “Characters to Curves” option. Using it, each character renders as a bezier curve object. This graphical representation of the character uses font information stored in the PDF. If the font was not embedded in the PDF, we refer to the /fonts/ directory in the installation folder. Add Type 1 or TrueType fonts to this folder as needed to ensure a perfect match. To outline specific fonts during conversion, contact us.

5. It’s a Kerning Issue, Not a Font Issue

When PDF is converted into vector formats such as SVG or EMF, kerning may be the culprit if the text doesn’t look right. Kerning is the process of adjusting space between characters to make the text more visually appealing.  This feature is only available for use with proportions fonts; not fixed width fonts. Please contact us if you need more information how to configure thus. Turning this option on could improve the WYSIWYG matching of the text strings.

In Summary….

Look for Font Warnings. Many programs that output PDF produce error and warning logs. Check these if you create or receive a PDF file that doesn’t look right.

Contact Us. We have 25+ years of expertise built up around PDF, file formats and fonts. We may be able to help you make sense of your font issues.

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After conversion, if you can not edit text, chances are that the text was already stored as graphics in the PDF original. It was probably converted to curves or plotted as pen strokes when the PDF file was created. It is no longer text, just vector curves that look like text. This often happens for example with PDF drawings are created from CAD, EDA or GIS applications as well as with print advertisements from a DTP-package to ensure font display accurately. Text is often converted to curves to ensure accurate print results and to protect against font incompatibilities. Once the text has been turned into curves, there is no way for pdf2picture to retrieve it as real text. If the text is still searchable in the PDF file, we can produce it as editable text in the conversion output.

Tip: To see if the text is searchable and convertable or not, open your PDF file in Acrobat Reader and try to “Select” some text. If you can mark it, you can convert it.

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Try deselecting the “Convert Characters to Strings” option in the General tab of the Options menu. Doing so will carefully place every character individually in the output instead of trying to recreate the actual words as objects. This option is turned on by default to combine individual characters into words and words into lines during conversion. This is a nice option to ease editing when it works but is dependent on the perfect alignment of inbound text. When turned off, every character will be placed precisely as it was in the original.

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If the characters are converting but not displaying properly, you likely have a font mapping issue. To comply with the licensing regulations of font suppliers, our software can not embed fonts in the vector output formats. Instead, we reference the fonts by their names. If the fonts, with the same names, are on the target PC, the file will open and display perfectly. If the same fonts are not on the PC that opens the file, which is much more likely, the text will not display properly. To complicate things, often, one font may go by several different names. Arial Bold, for example, may be referenced as “EHJPKB+Arial-Bold” in the original file. This font may be normal Arial Bold but the target application does not know it unless you tell it. This is known as font mapping. If the font is not mapped correctly, the closest font will be substituted. In this example, “EHJPKB_Arial-Bold” must be mapped as “Arial” with font style “Bold”. In order to learn more, please read the Tech Note: Font Mapping

In case of SVG or EMF as output format we support kerning. Please contact us if you need more information how to configure thus. Turning this option on could improve the WYSIWYG of the text strings.

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There are two important issues at play here.
First – make sure you choose the correct image format for your file type. If your PDF file is mostly text, you should choose GIF or PNG since they render images with few colors sharply. JPEG is better suited for photographic images which use many colors.

The second consideration is resolution or “dots per inch” (dpi). The resolution you choose determines the quality (and the size) of the output. Although a high resolution will yield a super-sharp image, it will also product a large file size which may impact performance. The rule of thumb is to use the lowest resolution which delivers the quality you need. Some guidelines are:

  • For screen display (web or office) – use 96dpi.
  • For images that will be printed on laser or inkjet printers – use 150 dpi
  • For images that will be printed professionally – use 300 dpi

If you want to adjust the resolution, simply increase the dpi setting in the Options menu.

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The font glyphs of the 13 standard PostScript fonts are included.

If you need to convert to an image format or the text to curves/polys (= emulate) in a vector format either the font must be one of the 13 standard fonts or the font should be embedded within the PDF or PostScript file. Contact support@visual-integrity.com if you want to add font glyphs.

13 Standard PostScript fonts:

  • Courier (Regular, Oblique, Bold, Bold Oblique)
  • Helvetica (Regular, Oblique, Bold, Bold Oblique)
  • Times (Roman, Italic, Bold, Bold Italic)
  • Symbol

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  • The image formats used on web sites are JPEG (or JPG), PNG and GIF. JPEG is best for images with many colors such as photos. GIF is best for line art, illustrations and drawings with limited color. PNG is the most versatile and can be used quite broadly on web-sites.
  • The image formats used in documents follow a similar rule. GIF, TIFF and PNG are best for images with fewer colors and JPEG is used for images with many colors such as photos. The best test is to use pdf2image to convert to a few different formats and then view them both on-screen and in print to see which gives you the desired result.
  • It’s also important to determine what formats your application can import. If the program you want to use only accepts BMP, then you need to convert to this format, even if it produces larger files than PNG.

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  • If you are generating images for use on web sites, convert at 72 dpi (dots per inch) or 96 dpi. These settings match screen resolution pixel for pixel for the best match and sharpest display.
  • For general office printing, choose 150 dpi. This will generate a crisp image with the smallest file size.
  • For office publishing and high quality laser printing, choose 300 dpi. The files will be larger but the images will be very clear.
  • For professional printing, choose 300 dpi – 1200 dpi. It’s best to ask your printer who will recommend the best resolution to match his equipment.

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