When emedding graphics in Word or Publisher documents that are destined for printing or distribution as PDFs, I use EPS format because it preserves the sharpness of the images at all magnifications. It worked perfectly in Office 2010 but since I upgraded to Office 2013 recently, I have found that EPS images are not printed properly. Publisher prints the preview instead of the image, and Word doesn't print anything.

In Word 2013, when I embed an EPS file, a placeholder is shown (just as a square, not the size the image should be). When I export the Word document to PDF, the same little black square is printed where the image should be. I have tried all the options such as turning image placeholders turned on (and off again), turning compression off (and on again), and nothing seems to work. I have made sure the EPS import option is selected in the Filters/Converters section of the installation. I have Acrobat Pro installed and am printing to an "Adobe PDF" printer, i.e. I am not just saving it as PDF using Word's built-in exporter.

In Publisher 2013, when I embed an EPS file, the preview image is shown as expected. When I print, the preview image is printed in all its jaggedness. I have tried all the permutations for creating a PDF - Save As..., print to an Acrobat printer, Export, saving as PostScript and converting with Acrobat Distiller, even tried a freeware alternative to Acrobat. Nothing works.

I'm just wondering if anyone can suggest anything else I might try. I'd like to stick with 2013 mainly for the nicer interface but if I can't get over this problem I'll have to go back to 2010.

  • I suspect this has to do with the built-in ability to open a PDF that now exists in Office. What version of Acrobat are you using? – Ramhound Sep 11 '13 at 11:26
  • Why do you think that is? I am trying to create a PDF, not open one. I'm using Acrobat Pro 9.0. – Frank H. Sep 11 '13 at 11:28
  • 2
    One of the major features that was added in Office 2013 was the native ability to not only create a PDF but to open the PDF file within Word. Have you tried to open the PDF file within Word? The only other possible explaination is that the Adobe PDF printer that is enabled by Acrobat Pro 9.0 is no longer supported by Office 2013 and you might have to upgrade to a newer version of Acrobat. – Ramhound Sep 11 '13 at 11:39
  • Yes I can open the PDF file in Word, but I don't see how it is relevant since what I am trying to do is create a PDF. I also downloaded a trial of Acrobat Pro XI and that doesn't fix the problem either, which leaves another possible explanation -- a pretty serious bug in how Office handles embedded EPS graphics. – Frank H. Sep 11 '13 at 14:29

It is well-known that the EPS import filter in MS Office is very out-of-date (seemingly was not changed much from mid-1990) and can import only limited subset of EPS files. Official Microsoft website provides little information on it but it tells us that

The Encapsulated PostScript graphics filter (Epsimp32.flt) supports the Adobe Systems Encapsulated PostScript Specification versions 3.0 and earlier.

(refs: 1, 2). The PostScript Specification version 3.0 dates back to 1992 year when it was published by Adobe. From that time it was extended essentially. Note also that PostScript Level 3 came at the end of 1997 and one should not be confused with these things: at the time of PostScript Specification version 3.0 only PostScript Level 2 was was introduced.

Besides that one should keep in mind that MS Office works only in sRGB colorspace and renders graphics in the other colorspaces (such as CMYK so much loved by Adobe) incorrectly. But since in the case of embedded EPS images it sends the original PostScript code directly to a PostScript printer (and only to a PostScript printer, other printers will receive a low-resolution raster preview!) it may be not so bad idea to work with CMYK EPS files in MS Office: despite incorrect on-screen rendering they will print nicely (but only to PostScript printers!).

As to my experience recent versions of CorelDraw and Illustrator produce EPS files compatible with MS Office (although it is necessary to turn off generation of CMYK colors and work exclusively in RGB colorspace).

If you see a placeholder instead of a figure it simply means that the EPS was not imported because the MS Office EPS import filter cannot handle this particular EPS file. One possible workaround is to import this EPS file in Illustrator or CorelDraw and then export it as EPS again. The EPS file produced in this way should be compatible with MS Office EPS import filter. You could try the same method with Inkscape although EPS files generated by Inkscape are not always compatible with MS Office. Another approach is to convert EPS to PDF using Arobat Distiller, then open it in Acrobat and export to EPS, but again EPS files produced by Acrobat are not always compatible with MS Office.

Free utilities pdftops and pdftocairo from Poppler utilities for Windows provide another option. They create MS Office compatible EPS files from PDF when are launched with -level2 -eps option:

pdftops -level2 -eps input.pdf
pdftocairo -level2 -eps input.pdf

It seems that the only difference between them is that pdftocairo produces compressed EPS file while pdftops not.

Note that if the PDF file contains transparent objects they will be rasterized when converting to EPS because EPS basically does not support transparency. In such cases Acrobat or Illustrator can be used to get proper EPS file without rasterization.

P.S. Here is published an interesting example of EPS file which can be imported in MS Office and is displayed incorrectly but can be printed to PostScript printers correctly.

  • I created a new EPS file in Illustrator CS6 and inserted it in Word. This worked - it showed the preview in Word and showed the EPS file in the resulting PDF. – Frank H. Sep 26 '13 at 11:33
  • However, the problem persists in Publisher. I inserted the same EPS file in a Publisher 2013 document. The preview is displayed correctly on screen, but the preview is also shown in the final PDF instead of the actual EPS content. I inserted the same EPS file in a Publisher 2010 document and it worked perfectly. So I think the conclusion is, there's a bug in Publisher 2013. – Frank H. Sep 26 '13 at 11:50
  • @Frank I did not work with Publisher 2013. Based on your description I suppose it is a bug. – Alexey Popkov Sep 26 '13 at 13:00

Since this thread is still seeing activity as of early 2021, there've been updates to Office that might be affecting what people are seeing recently.

At some point in the past, most of the Office apps stopped handling EPS correctly and began interpreting it/converting it to EMF on import unless you overrode this behavior with a registry setting that forced handling the EPS per Adobe spec: displaying a preview image and printing that to non-PS printers, but sending the actual EPS content, unmodified, to PS printers.

More recently, MS decided that EPS content was a security risk and elected not to support it at all. IIRC, they back-ported this behavior in updates even to older Office versions, so even Office 2010 (someone correct me if I'm mistaken) will no longer import EPS. At all.

This is true of PowerPoint and Word; Publisher may well be a different story.

  • This is sad news for EPS, and SVG (a possible alternative to EPS) is not adequately supported unfortunately. :( – Alexey Popkov Mar 7 at 18:28
  • 1
    SVG support will improve over time, but it will never equal the capabilities of EPS in a PostScript workflow (including making PDFs via Acrobat or the like). With EPS/PS being a full-fledged programming language, a bit of code in an EPS file can, for example, query the printer to learn its current resolution and adjust things like gradient fills accordingly. – Steve Rindsberg Mar 8 at 14:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.