I created a document in MS Word (2007) and then published to PDF with the intention of creating a document that looks the same regardless of platform or pdf reader choice.

It looks fine on a couple of windows machines, but when I open it in ubuntu (using acroread) the original font, arial, gets replaced with some ridiculous frilly font that is totally inappropriate.

This has me worried that this document might have its font rendered in some crazy random way depending on whatever the recipient is using to open it.


  1. I don't understand how fonts work in pdf but I've heard about "embedding" fonts in the pdf. Does this ensure that whatever font I choose will be rendered the same way always? If so, how do I do it?

  2. Is there an alternative sure-fire way to generate a simple pdf whose fonts "behave" properly? I'm not tied to any particular tool like MS Word. My paramount concern is that the pdf document looks the way I intend it to look.

3 Answers 3

  1. Yes embedding fonts ensures that all recipients will be able to display the PDF as intended. You have to make sure you have the right to embed a commercial font, there are lesser restrictions for embedding subset fonts. See this article for some idea of the options in Word 2007.

  2. Restricting your document to the PDF base fonts should help. There is another set of fonts known as the web-safe fonts that appear on most platforms and ought to be safe to use in PDFs too.

  • 2
    In addition to this advice, IF you have Adobe (Acrobat) Distiller installed, you have the option to print to PDF using the printer dialog and choosing the Adobe PDF printer driver. In the properties of this driver, there is a check box to specify embedding of fonts. This is usually unchecked by default for copyright reasons. There may be freeware PDF printer driver options as well.
    – horatio
    Sep 8, 2011 at 16:48
  • @RedGrittyBrick : Thanks! I now have good starting point with your suggestions.
    – Angelo
    Sep 8, 2011 at 18:51

Since you do not require MS Word -- how about using OpenOffice.org or LibreOffice?

Both these have a menu item 'File -> Export as PDF...'.

Make sure you activate the checkbox PDF/A-1a -- this will guarantee compliance with the PDF/A-1a standard which requires all fonts to be embedded. This way the files display and print the same across all platforms (The 'A' in PDF/A means the file meets the 'archiving' standard.)

  • Unfortunately this is not guaranteed for fillable PDF forms (see bug 50879), as they cannot be saved as PDF/A. May 14, 2019 at 14:33
  • @AntonSamsonov: True. But who needs exact font rendering in fillable forms, anyway? May 14, 2019 at 14:37
  • Those millions (billions) of people who happen to use non-latin scripts. Existing bugs in both PDF-generating and PDF-viewing/editing software result in that non-latin symbols are either not rendered at all or garbled. May 15, 2019 at 15:46
  • @AntonSamsonov: Oh!, thanks for reminding me! I admit that I tend to be dump enough to forget the fact that the world is not using latin scripts only. May 15, 2019 at 22:01
  • @AntonSamsonov: PDF/A-1b/1a (basic/advanced) however does not support fillable forms at all. In order to preserve the contents of a filled form, the form has to be "flattened" first (integrating its content into the standard PDF contents) -- where it will have all font support as usual. May 15, 2019 at 22:05

Sure-fire way: Scan the printed document, or convert it to an image (not a modified hypertext image like Excel does sometimes, but a JPG or BMP) and then pdf that.

By converting to an image you're working with a picture, not code that can be misconstrued or mistranslated by other systems.

Of course, doing it this way will result in generally larger files and depending on whether you have to scan a printed document to create the image, you may end up with a lower quality output. But you will never have to worry out Arial being converted into a frilly odd font.

  • Yes, I think that would be the only true "future-proof" way to display exotic/rare fonts.
    – Angelo
    Sep 8, 2011 at 18:42

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