Very simple question here all in the title. I am creating a document in Word and transferring it to PDF using Microsoft Print to PDF. Should I be worried about using cross-platform fonts? I know my prof is in Mac and doesn't have Office installed. When opening the PDF on my Windows system, everything displays exactly as it displays in Word, but I am worried the display will break if the fonts are not available on other platforms.


  • 1
    Open it with Adobe Reader you can see the embedded fonts.
    – jw_
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 3:38
  • I believe the "document info" dialog in Reader/Acrobat (control+d, way back when) will give you a list of all fonts in the PDF and their "embeddedness". Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 19:22
  • All of the answers below give good guidance, but all of them assume (as they must) that the PDF reading software at the other end handles embedded fonts correctly. Most of the programs I've tried seem to work properly, but there might be some that don't. Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 14:40

4 Answers 4


I use Word 2016. Within it's "options" button when you "save as..." to pdf, there's a check box near the bottom for "PDF/A" compliance.

PDF/A is an archive standard, a way to ensure that We'll Always be Able to Display This PDF. It requires that all fonts be embedded, among other things. If your fonts aren't embedded normally (and they probably are), you can check that box and ensure that all your fonts will be embedded. As to the other requirements, anything coming out of Word should be fine.


To ensure that fonts are displayed correctly across platforms, you should embed the fonts inside the generated PDF.

You should also avoid the PDF printer, as I believe it doesn't use these options, use rather Save As.

To do that:

  • Click File > Options
  • Go to the Save tab
  • Under "Preserve fidelity when sharing this document", select "Embed fonts in the file" and any other option that suites your case.
  • The generated PDF will now include your fonts and they will be used when viewing.
  • I imagine Word options don't affect printing to the virtual printer. I suspect you meant to include a 'save as pdf' or 'export to pdf' within word as a last step, avoiding the 'microsoft print to pdf'
    – gregg
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 1:47
  • The Save & Export of PDF in Word seem to be done by two different codes, as funny as it seems for programming it twice. I don't exactly what effect these options will have on either of them, but they can only help.
    – harrymc
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 7:51
  • Interesting. However I still think you need another bullet point added to advise to Save or Export the PDF & not to use the 'Microsoft Print to PDF' virtual printer as I'm guessing that virtual printer doesn't take into account the Word settings. Especially because the question & bounty are focused on the virtual printer
    – gregg
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 13:41
  • @gregg: Good idea. Done.
    – harrymc
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 13:47

When exporting a PDF from Word you have the option to bitmap fonts that may not be embedded. If you don't feel like using something like ttfpatch to directly edit the fonts in question to permit embedding, you can check this option to ensure readability at the expense of text selection, at least outside of OCR which is a touch more involved than I suspect you're looking to get.

Word PDF export dialogue showing 'Bitmap text when fonts may not be embedded' option



A print driver is usually designed to send all data to the printer, and to create a "hard copy" which corresponds . There are rare cases where a font would be substituted with a "use device font" flag, but for a pdf printer this would be very strange. In such sense, you can be reasonably sure that all fonts will be embedded in the resulting pdf. This would mean though to "trust" microsoft...

The pdf standard for "nothing will break" is pdf/a, which the MS "print to pdf" is NOT able to produce. So, if you want to be 100% sure, with any utility you use, you need to create a pdf/a.


You have several options to get a pdf/a:

  1. Convert your file to pdf/a using one of the many free online converters. Not good for privacy.

  2. Use a free pdf editor. It's not so easy anymore to find offline free editors, but here is one

  3. There are some pdf tools / editors that will install their own pdf printer, such as this one. They usually have more options than the MS pdf printer. Probably you can find a decent tool for free.

  4. If you use this regularly for work, buy a professional pdf creation tool. It does not need to be Adobe Acrobat. There are many one-time-payment options out there.

C) Best solution for Word 2016 & upwards

There's a correct answer alreadt from 2019:

Don't use the MS Print to pdf, but use the Save as... and choose pdf. Then, in the options, check the pdf/A compliant.

PDF/A means, among others:

All content is embedded (fonts, colors, text, images, etc.) and does not contain audio/video. Source

Firthermore, in contrast to the 'print' option (which might compress or garble some data), this should let you see the exact embedded fonts (or subsets). Also, it probably will create a smaller file and render lines much better.

  • Thanks & sorry, should have said that this is specifically for Word 2003 which doesn't offer "save as PDF".
    – David.P
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 22:46
  • @David.P see my edit
    – 1NN
    Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 9:29

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