When I open a certain PDF file I get the following error:

For the best experience, open this PDF portfolio in 
Acrobat  X or Adobe Reader  X, or later.

Get Adobe Reader Now!

I have Foxit Reader 5.1.4 and Adobe Reader 8.3.1. Neither will open it at all, except for this error message. Brief google-ing showed that a similar thing can happen with version 9.

For the best experience, open this PDF portfolio in
Acrobat 9 or Adobe Reader 9, or later.

Apparently Adobe, in their wisdom, has invented a new format that in not backwards compatible, and someone saved this document in the non-backwards compatible mode. Spiffy-do for them. Great for Adobe in theory, but

  1. I do not want to get the new version of Adobe.
  2. I did try to download it, against my better judgement. The installer downloaded. I ran it. It failed to finish, and deleted itself as well so I couldn't just try again.

So now I am thoroughly against getting the new version, or using Adobe Acrobat at all. Good move Adobe.

Is there another way to convert this to something I can read? My first thought is to find someone who has Adobe Acrobat X, have them open it, and save it in a backwards compatible format. But I'd rather not involve others, I want something I can do myself for the next time this happens.

I tried uploading to Google Docs, to see if they would magically parse the document so I could read it in the web format. That had the same results, the dumb message/advertisement.

Since this is not something that I have to have, if I can't read it without version X, I will just go without it.

  • I'm also seeing this within Chrome at the following URL: h20564.www2.hp.com/portal/site/hpsc/public/kb/docDisplay/… Most annoying! Nov 11, 2013 at 14:13
  • Have you tried some other viewers independent of Adobe? Can you try some (at least evince; that's open-source).
    – Jan Hudec
    Jan 23, 2014 at 9:13
  • 1
    @PeterJenkins: When I open that (my system uses okular via kpart plugin) I see that message, but I also see a message "This document has embedded files. Click here to see them." and when I click that it shows me two .pdf files and can save them and when I do and they can be shown without problem.
    – Jan Hudec
    Jan 23, 2014 at 9:23
  • @JanHudec thanks for the tip ... I'm mainly using Linux so I might give Okular a try next time. Jan 29, 2014 at 19:57
  • Just to confirm that Okular can open these embeded pdf's within pdfs. There is probably a command line tool for this somewhere ... at least I've extracted embedded images before to great success. Mar 1, 2014 at 9:58

4 Answers 4


I'm 99% sure PDF's like these are assembled as portfolios of multiple standalone pdfs in Adobe Acrobat.

  • SumatraPDF (windows only), bookmarks sidebar (F12) lists embedded documents.
  • evince (gnome), sidebar (F9) and choose attachments from the heading dropdown menu.
  • okular (kde), untested but others say it works.
  • pdftk extract all pdf embedded attachments: pdftk <filename> unpack_files output .
  • pdf-tools extract all pdf embedded attachments: pdfdetach -saveall <filename>
  • 2
    On Mac OS X Yosemite, I used homebrew to install pdf-tools. This allowed pdfdetach -saveall input.pdf, which gave me access to all of the contents, which could then be opened in Preview.
    – drootang
    Sep 25, 2015 at 2:32
  • Just seconding that pdftk's unpack_files does the trick...
    – thomp45793
    Jan 26, 2017 at 14:35
  • It doesn't work in evince 3.12 (e.g. Ubuntu 14.04), but does reportedly work in 3.18.2 (Xenial)
    – nealmcb
    Jul 11, 2017 at 2:08
  • Evince advice also works in Atril. Thanks for the tip.
    – Tom Zych
    Apr 10, 2020 at 19:55
  • I can confirm that it works on Okular. You can view the portfolio files in "File -> Embedded Files" and either extract them or open them directly from that menu.
    – ave
    Dec 7, 2020 at 12:49

I'd say ditch Adobe Acrobat completely--it is just a waste of time, and they are trying to generate more sales with this new "feature" (read "bug").

You can bypass this with a conversion to ps and back:

pdf2ps file.pdf
ps2pdf file.ps

Or, avoiding creation of an intermediary file by piping pdf2ps output to ps2pdf input:

pdf2ps file.pdf - | ps2pdf - converted_file.pdf

PDF.js allows opening multi-file PDF's. It's the built-in PDF reader of Firefox, but it's also offered as a web app.

  1. Visit the PDF.js web app at https://mozilla.github.io/pdf.js/web/viewer.html
  2. Click the "Open File" icon and select your file. Open file
  3. Expand the left sidebar
  4. Click the "Show Attachments" icon.
    PDF Portfolio in Firefox
  5. Select one of the enclosed PDF's or other attachments to open the enclosed file.

The simple answer is get Adobe X or another app like PDF Creator Pro to handle the problem file. Most will have a cost associated where Acrobat reader X will not.

The event logs may indicate why the install failed and additional info on your Operating System might help get a better answer.

Consider that the version of Acrobat you have may have some significant security issues and that PDFs are a common malware vector. Upgrading to something is likely a good idea to close a security hole.

  • Can the downvote be explained. I would appreciate knowing where my answer fell short
    – Dave M
    Nov 11, 2013 at 14:34
  • 8
    When the question explicitly states getting Adobe X is not accepted, don't bother suggesting it. Joining the downvote.
    – Jan Hudec
    Jan 23, 2014 at 9:05

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