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About PDF files

Printing problems
Download problems
Getting free Actobat Reader
Getting the PDF onto your hard disk Your web browser can handle the pdf file in one of several different ways
  1. it may simply save it to the disk in the spot you indicate
  2. it may launch the viewer application
  3. it may view the pdf 'through' the browser
  4. other alternatives for true anoraks

We find option 1 to be the easiest, but whichever you want you have to tell the browser what to do (unless of course it does the correct option without further ado). To change things you need to configure your browser, e.g. configure for option 1 to "Save" rather than "Launch Application" for the file type "application/pdf,". To do this you need to fiddle with the "Helper Applications" options.
What is PDF? PDF stands for Portable Document Format . It is a cross-platform, open file format that retains the layout of original documents. PDF is independent of computer platforms and distribution media and therefore it is the ideal basis for long-term document distribution, archiving and retrieval. So a PDF file contains a document that can be transferred to other computers, displayed and printed, all while the original layout and looks are retained.
What is Acrobat? Acrobat is the name of a software package, developed by Adobe Corporation, to generate PDF files and to display and print them. With the freely available Acrobat Reader program you can view and print existing PDF files.
Where can I get this Acrobat Reader program? Acrobat Reader is available for many computer systems, a.o. Microsoft Windows (3.x/95/NT), OS/2, Apple Macintosh, SunOS, Sun Solaris, RS6000/AIX, Digital UNIX, Silicon Graphics IRIX, Linux and HP/UX.
The latest edition can be downloaded from Adobe’s website in the Acrobat Reader download page .
I get error messages such asThere was an error processing a page” orThere was a problem reading this document” Older versions of Acrobat Reader than 3 are not able to deal with these new facilities, which in most cases will result in an error message.
Please check out the version of your Acrobat Reader by selecting “ H elp • A b out Acrobat Reader...”. If the version is anything lower than 3.0 (e.g. 1.x or 2.x), we urge you to get the latest version of Acrobat Reader by downloading it from Adobe’s website.
How come that I see gray lines instead of text? When (mostly) smaller texts display as a gray horizontal line, you should deselect the “ G reek Text: Below ... pixels” option in the General Preferences window.
Alternatively, using the magnifying glass results in readable text too.
How do I get better text rendition in Acrobat Reader ? To get smoother, better readable texts in Acrobat Reader , you should enable the “ Smooth T ext and Monochrome Images” option in “ F ile • Pre f erences • G eneral...”.
For some PDF files font smoothing doesn’t appear to help, although these files print fine This could either be the case for PDF files which were created with an older font technology (font smoothing doesn’t work on these older fonts), or the PDF file was created retrospectively by scanning original paper pages.
My printer doesn’t print all characters correctly or words are misaligned, although the text appears fine on my computer display Experience teaches that a printer using another printing language than PostScript, such as Hewlett Packard’s PCL, will usually provide an accurate rendition of the PDF pages, except that some special symbols may not be interpreted correctly (or not at all in some cases, resulting in undesired blanks), and there may be some misalignment of words.
If a printer supports both PCL and PostScript printer languages, switching to the PostScript driver will solve this problem.
Help with Printing
What is the ideal printer for printing PDF files? For printing PDF files it is recommended that you use a PostScript printer with at least 2 Mb (preferably 4 Mb) of memory, ideally a model with a so-called Level 2 PostScript interpreter, since this will result in a significant increase in output speed.
In the latter case, please verify that “ Level 2 only” is selected in “ F ile • P rint... • PostScript Options”.
  1. You must upgrade to at least version 3.01 of the Adobe Acrobat Reader software.
  2. Try printing one page at a time.
  3. Try printing to a newer printer. (NOTE for Macintosh users: A number of users have reported problems printing PDFs with the LaserWriter Driver version 8.4. BMJ suggests using an earlier or later version.)
  4. Try saving the file to disk before printing rather than opening it "on the fly." This requires that you configure your browser to "Save" rather than "Launch Application" for the file type "application/pdf," and can usually be done in the "Helper Applications" options.
  5. Are you getting Postscript errors on your Mac? A frequent cause is a lack of communication of postscript commands between your computer and your printer. Postscript communication on a Mac is handled by the Control Panel called ~ATM. To see if you have installed ~ATM, go to the System Folder / Control Panels folder and look for ~ATM. If the control panel is not present you will need to install it. If the ~ATM is installed, please check to make sure that you are using the most recent version, v4.0 or higher. You can check the version number by selecting the ~ATM icon and choosing Get info from the File menu. If you do not have ~ATM installed or need to upgrade to the latest version, you can get this software from the Acrobat web site. If you recently downloaded Acrobat, you may already have this Control Panel on your computer and just need to install it. When you download Acrobat, ~ATM comes along in a folder called Fonts and will be located in the Acrobat folder. Drag the ~ATM icon onto your System Folder to install it.
  6. Are some lines on each page getting cut off? Are you running MacOS version 8? The default paper size is "Letter Small." Change this setting to "US Letter" in File/Page Setup and you should be able to print full pages.

  • "Can I use the Adobe Acrobat Reader Plugin?"
    The Windows 3.x , Windows 95 , and Windows NT versions of the Acrobat Reader Plugin seem to be reliable, however BMJ doesn't recommend using the Macintosh version. Use the Acrobat Reader application instead.
  • "Why can't I just check a box next to all the papers I want PDFs for and download them all at once?"
    Unfortunately, there's no way to implement a feature like this; Web browsers currently do not support automated simultaneous downloads.


  • "When I try to print PDFs, I get an error saying Acrobat Reader can't write to the file (i.e., the printer), that the disk is full. What can I do?"
    It's possible that your printer doesn't have enough installed memory to handle an entire PDF, especially one that contains a lot of images. Try printing the file to a printer with more memory, or, alternatively, print the PDF one page at a time.
  • "After downloading, I can't open the PDF file with Acrobat Reader. I get a message: 'There was an error opening this document. Could not repair file.'"
    It's probable that the file was incompletely downloaded, or corrupted during the network transfer. Your best bet is to try a fresh download of the file.
  • "I'm having problems downloading PDF files. My browser downloads about 20% of the file and then stops. Any suggestions?"
    Some people have trouble downloading files. The best solution seems to be to try downloading the files at a time when transatlantic network traffic is lighter -- generally when the east coast of the US is not at work.