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PDF Troubleshooting Tips and Tricks

This guide has been created to assist lawyers and support staff who are experiencing problems with their PDF documents. We are pleased to provide it and hope it is helpful to you.

Converting Documents to PDF

There are many ways to convert your documents to portable document format (PDF). The following instructions are for Adobe Acrobat. Check your internal procedures to see if these instructions PDF DOWNLOAD will work in your office before using them.

If you are using a temporary/ trial version of PDF software, please be sure to view your documents prior to filing your documents on CM/ECF. Some temporary and trial versions of PDF generating software programs will place an electronic stamp on each page of the document until you register or purchase the software. You may be required to refile your document if a PDF stamp appears on the document.

Things to Avoid when Converting Documents to PDF

Stick with a basic font (listed below.) Basic fonts are small in size and not everyone has the same fonts installed on their computer as you do. Acrobat will substitute fonts and your document may not resemble the document you created.

  • Times New Roman
  • Arial
  • Courier New

Avoid using special characters such as bullets, checkboxes and special symbols. PDFWriter may not know how to convert these symbols. When converted to PDF, special characters substantially increase the file size.

When error messages pop-up when viewing PDF documents, common problems are a font conflict (stick to the 3 basic fonts), an earlier version of Acrobat Reader is possibly being used to read a PDF file created with a newer version of Adobe Acrobat.

Font Substitution and Embedding Fonts

The U.S. District Court and many of its customers have recently experienced issues with some documents that have been converted to PDF format. The issues have to do with pagination and fonts displaying incorrectly. Below you will find some troubleshooting tips to assist with some of the issues.

Embedding Fonts: When documents are converted to PDF, depending on the software or tool used to convert the document, fonts my be embedded or not embedded. To preserve page layout, graphics and typography of your original document, fonts should be embedded in the PDF file. For additional information click on the link provided by Adobe.


Most scanners are set for high resolution or "photographic quality", which can make disproportionately large PDF files. Due to file size limitations (2 MB) within the Minnesota ECF system, be sure to scan your documents at 200 dpi or the next lowest resolution possible on your scanner, as indicated in the Procedures Guide. You will be able to scan approximately 30-40 pages into a PDF file and still be under 2 MB. If you are having documents scanned by a service (such as Kinko's) please instruct them to do the same. More scanning tips PDF DOWNLOAD.

Other Related PDF Conversion Issues

The District of Minnesota uses Corel WordPerfect for a majority of their word processing documents, while most law firms are using Microsoft Word. If you are viewing a document from the Court and cannot read all of the type, you may need to install the following four fonts to your computer:

Troubleshooting Questions

I can view a docket sheet in Netscape, but when I try to retrieve a document, I can't read the file?

You do not need Acrobat Writer software to view a docket sheet, but you do need Acrobat Reader to view documents. You might have Acrobat on your computer, but it may not be linked in Netscape. The solution--open Netscape: Options, General Preferences, and in the dialog box add application/pdf; extension pdf and indicate the path to the Acrobat.exe file.

Usually re-installing Acrobat reader will do this for you. If you already have Acrobat, try starting the Acrobat application first, leave it running, and then try to access the document in ECF.

I tried to scan my document into PDF, but a lot of errors appeared. What now?

You are probably trying to scan the document using optical character recognition (OCR)--don't do this! PDF can handle both text and scanned documents. It can also take scanned documents and perform OCR on them, turning the image back into editable text; but this process has many problems and should not be done before e-filing them. It is permissible to perform OCR on PDF documents after they are in the e-filing system, since any OCR errors will not placed in the official documents at the court.

My document seems to change when I make it into PDF; what's happening?

Adobe calls this "flowing". Depending on the font, the printer selected, and other characteristics of the content, a document may undergo some changes when it's rendered into PDF. Using Distiller instead of PDFwriter is supposed to better preserve the document's original appearance, according to Adobe. Adobe has a good set of technical documents at their web site. There is one that speaks directly to ways in which you may attempt to address flowing problems.

Another work-around is to set your PDF printer as your "Default Printer" before opening the document, then open the document, edit it to correct any format errors, save it and try printing (converting) to PDF again.

I used Adobe PDFWriter to convert my documents. What are some of the issues with this feature?

PDFWriter is part of the Adobe Acrobat package. The Court recommends this tool for use in creating a PDF document from a word processing application because it:

  • Creates a file that is smaller in size than a scanned document
  • Creates a file that is text searchable
  • Converts the document more quickly than Distiller (see below)

To ensure that the formatting and appearance of the document remain the same when viewed through the word processor and when viewed or printed through the PDF reader, the printer (File/Print menu) must be set to "Acrobat PDFWriter" before beginning to compose or edit the document. If a document is initially prepared with some other printer specified, the ultimate conversion to PDF is very likely to introduce changes in pagination, fonts, spacing, or other formatting elements, requiring further proofreading and further editing. Once the document is saved as a PDF file, always print from the PDF reader (rather than from the word processor) to be sure that the printed copy matches the courtís official copy. If Acrobat PDFWriter is set as the default printer, no other steps should be needed.

If some other printer is set as the default, Acrobat PDFWriter must be selected as the current printer immediately after opening the word processing application (or immediately after choosing to create a new document). In WordPerfect, each time the document is opened for editing before the final version is ready for filing, the printer should be set again to Acrobat PDFWriter. In Word, Acrobat PDFWriter is retained as the printer until the Word application is closed; if just the document has been closed and then reopened, the printer will still be set to Acrobat.

The latest version, 5.0, has been tested by the CM/ECF project team; there is no difference between this and Adobe versions 3.0 and 4.0 in either docketing the PDF documents into the application or in accessing the documents from the application. Also, documents created in the 5.0 version can be accessed by earlier versions of Adobe Reader. The CM/ECF project team also tested the integrity of 32 fonts when converted from either WordPerfect version 8 or Word 97 into PDF using Adobe Acrobat 5.0 PDFWriter. The tests showed that while characteristics of some fonts were lost in the conversion, every font conversion produced legible results. The details of the tests appear below

Font Tests

Adobe Acrobat 5.0 was tested for its ability to maintain font integrity through conversions to PDF of documents created in WordPerfect version 8 and Microsoft Word 97. All of the 32 fonts tested were done with a 12 point size. The results show that while characteristics of some fonts were lost in the conversion (e.g., appeared smaller), every font conversion produced legible results and none produced a problem with either character spacing or character overlap (superimposition).

Fonts that maintained integrity in the conversion from WordPerfect 8 to PDF

Albertus Extra Bold Courier New
Albertus Medium Bold Haettenschweiler
Antique Olive   Impact
Arial Letter Gothic
Arial Black Letter Gothic MT
Arial NarrowBook Antiqua Line Printer
Bookman Old Style Marigold
Century Gothic Modern
Century Schoolbook Symbol (2 styles)
CG Omega Tahoma
CG Times Times New Roman
Clarendon Condensed Bold Times New Roman (bold)
Comic Sans MS Univers
Coronet Univers Condensed Regular
Courier Verdana

Fonts that were altered in the conversion from WordPerfect 8 to PDF

Coronet appears much larger and in a different font, an Adobe default font
Line Printer appears much larger and in a different font, an Adobe default font
Marigold appears much larger and in a different font, an Adobe default font

Fonts that maintained integrity in the conversion from Word 97 to PDF

Arial Garamond
Arial Black Haettenschweiler
Arial NarrowBook Antiqua Impact
Bookman Old Style Letter Gothic
Century Gothic Symbol (2 styles)
Century Schoolbook Tahoma
CG Times Times New Roman
Comic Sans MS Univers
Courier Univers Condensed Regular
Courier New Verdana

Fonts that were altered in the conversion from Word 97 to PDF

Albertus Extra Bold

bold characteristic lost, appears in a different font, an Adobe default font

Albertus Medium Bold appears in a different font, an Adobe default font
Antique Olive appears much smaller and in a different font, an Adobe default font
CG Omega appears much smaller and in a different font, an Adobe default font
Clarendon Condensed Bold appears much smaller and in a different font, an Adobe default font
Coronet appears much larger and in a different font, an Adobe default font
Line Printer appears much larger and in a different font, an Adobe default font
Marigold appears much larger and in a different font, an Adobe default font
Modern appears in a different font, an Adobe default font
Times New Roman (bold)  appears in a different font, an Adobe default font

I used Adobe Distiller to convert my documents. What are some of the issues with this feature?

This tool can also be used to create a PDF document but is not recommended unless there is a need for embedding fonts and images in the document because there are a couple of drawbacks to using this tool:

  • It creates a file significantly larger than that created by PDFWriter
  • It takes significantly longer for the file to be created
  • Set up Adobe Acrobat for use with ECF and Internet Explorer

    Before accessing any documents on the ECF system, please review the following info:

    1. The current version of the ECF system fully supports Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) version 5.5, and we have no reports of problems with the latest version, 6.0.x. The ECF Helpdesk currently recommends using IE rather Netscape (although Netscape 4.6x and 4.7x are still supported) since IE is a little easier to use.

    2. Sometimes the automatic integration between Adobe Acrobat Reader and your browser (Netscape or IE) will cause difficulty when reading PDF documents within the ECF system, therefore the ECF Helpdesk highly recommends disabling the Adobe/Browser integration of Adobe Acrobat Reader.

    This procedure is for Adobe Acrobat 5.0 & 6.0. If you are using an older version, please update your Adobe reader.:

    1. To start Adobe Acrobat Reader, click: Start=>Programs=>Adobe Acrobat. Adobe will open with a blank grey screen.

    2. In Adobe, type Ctrl-K (or click Edit=>Preferences) to bring up the "Preferences" section of Adobe, then select...Options (for version 5.0), or... Internet (for version 6.0).

    3. UNCHECK the box that says "Display PDF in Browser".

    4. Click "OK".

    5. Close all IE browsers, then open a new one and go to

    6. Click on "LOGIN HERE", then please enter your PACER login/password (not your ECF login/password).

    The PACER login has the format: 2-letters + 4 numbers (such as "ab1234") and has its' own password. It is used only for viewing dockets and retrieving e-filed documents and is usually shared with an entire entity (firm, department, company, etc.)

    The ECF login has the format: attorney's last name + some letters and numbers (such as "smithab12") and has its own password. It is used only for submitting case documents and is connected to an individual attorney. All logins & passwords are case sensitive. (ABC is not treated the same as abc).

    7. Once the blue-bar is at the top of the screen, click on Reports, then Docket Sheet.

    8. Enter in the case number with the format

    2 digit Year-case Number (YY-NNNNN).

    Example 03-00123.

    9. Click [Submit] to see the entire docket.

    10. When accessing the document, you will then get a choice to: OPEN / SAVE / CANCEL / MORE INFO.

    11. Choose SAVE and save the document to anyplace where you can find it later, such as your desktop, hard drive, network, etc. (You can also try OPEN to open the document directly in Adobe, but this may not work on large files.)

    12. When the download has completed, open Adobe Acrobat Reader and then open the downloaded file from within Adobe. Remember, you can not open PDF files with WordPerfect, MS-Word, etc.; you must open them with Adobe Acrobat.

    A cheatsheet PDF DOWNLOAD for working with Adobe Acrobat 6.0 and ECF.

    Password Protected Files

    Don't forget that documents converted cannot be password protected or encrypted when uploaded to ECF.

    Other Resources

    A website called is another great location for useful PDF issues.

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