All the things that can go wrong with Word files

I'm wondering who has tried and tested workflows for dealing with MS Word files to get usable PDFs for four colour print from them.

We're often getting Word files of unknown provenance. Sometimes they already reflow when we open them in Word 2004 on the Mac. The users are clearly not sophisticated ("oh, I want to start a new page ..." *sound of return key banging repeatedly*)

All the work has been black and white until now, so we have got away without Pitstop or pdfColorConvert ... but I will be telling my boss we absolutely need those in future in case colour jobs come in.

Our usual practice is to convert to grayscale in Acrobat and save as PDF-X/3 (we do this more to embed the fonts than for anything else).

We are still seeing bizarre behaviour of type when the job goes on the RIP. Things like bullet points disappearing; text that should be bold is not bold; kerning is all to pot causing lines of text to be strangely spaced out and longer than they should be. I'm inclined to think this is something to do with the fonts but exactly what, I can't say.

Any tips on making rock-solid PDFs greatly appreciated.


Well-known member
Re: All the things that can go wrong with Word files

One tip is to print the word files from PC to distiller, not MAC, for some reason the MAC version of word always produces 4 colour black text and objects, the PC version works OK. Then, I would do a text to outline conversion and you should be safe, distiller should have converted images to CMYK, text should be black and fonts should'nt be a problem. Now, if i had 8 more hours I could start on Publisher conversion!!!!! (screw you Bill!!!!!)

Dov Isaacs

Well-known member
Re: All the things that can go wrong with Word files

First of all, if you want Microsoft Office print jobs, get over the fact that the files come from Windows systems. You must assume that Microsoft Office on Windows is really a totally different product than the similarly-named Macintosh product. The character sets are different, the base fonts (such as Arial, Times New Roman, etc.) are +very+ different. The means of recognizing fonts and font names is different. The layout is different. Other than that, they are the same. :8}

Furthermore, even on a Windows system, Office is totally inconsistent from one system to another and even on one system, simply changing the current print driver and resolution specification on the current driver can easily result in relayout with different line breaks and page breaks. There is nothing that any PDF generator (including that of Adobe or any third party provider) can do to get around these fundamental architectural, implementation, and marketing shortcomings of Office.

The most reliable PDF print publishing workflow from Microsoft Office applications effectively requires that you generate the PDF file +on the same system on which the Office document is created and edited+.

If you have Acrobat properly installed, all black or gray text and vector graphics yield grayscale in PostScript and the subsequent PDF generated from that PostScript from Office applications. You can use customized Distiller joboptions or the color conversion feature of Acrobat Pro to convert other RGB to CMYK although in modern PDF workflows, such conversion is better done by the RIP.

If a Word or PowerPoint file contains any transparency (yes, Office supports transparency), you can get live transparency into the PDF file b using the PDFMaker feature of Acrobat and (a) check the "Accessibility" option and (b) select a joboption that supports PDF 1.4 or later.

Also make sure that you have the AdobePDF PostScript printer driver instance set to a resolution that matches the resolution of the "current printer" used during document creation and edit to minimize the possibility of text reflow.

- Dov


Active member
Re: All the things that can go wrong with Word files

Do NOT open PC Word files on the mac, you are simply adding another area for things to go wrong.

We have very little problems with Word files using Prinergy. Install Word on the PC, then install Adobe Acrobat with the Word plugin. This provides a little button in Word (and PowerPoint and Excel) that you click to generate a pdf. Make sure you have all the standard Windows system and Microsoft Office fonts installed on the system and it will work quite reliably (not perfect all the time, but most of the time). People using Word very rarely have other than these fonts so you should be fine.

For a list of all the fonts you need go to:

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