My Adobe Acrobat PDF Files Are Printing Garbage Text (Sometimes)

This issue when printing some PDF documents from within Adobe Reader has been one of the most vexing computer problems I’ve experienced in a while.  I think I might have just figured out how to solve it, so I’m posting a description of the problem, as well as what I believe is a solution (or at least a work-around).

Some PDF documents I try to print from within Adobe Reader will have all of their text print as garbage (“greeked” text). From the Google searches I’ve done, it seems that others have reported that this problem is not always reproducible, and that no single type of printer seems to be involved. In my experience, it is reproducible. The common thread seems to be (from what I’ve read) that all users having this problem are running Windows XP with Service Pack 2 installed.

The problematic PDFs will look just fine when you view them on your computer, but when they print, only the graphics will print correctly. All of the printed text looks like it’s just random characters of “gobbledygook”. Upon closer inspection, you can see that the characters are all off by one position in the alphabet (actually, off by one ASCII character, since symbols and numbers are also off by one). ie: “A” prints as “B”, “”e” prints as “f”, and a zero prints as “1″. Even when I select “print preview” in the print options for my Hewlett-Packard printer, the documents show garbage text in the on-screen print preview window!.

I am running Windows XP SP2, and have updated Adobe Reader to version 8.1.1, which is the current version. I use Windows Update to keep XP up to date with patches. I’ll say that I first noticed this problem with some PDFs about a year ago, but I can’t tell you what version of Adobe Reader I first noticed it with. I’m not even sure this is an Adobe Reader issue. It might be a Windows or a printer driver issue also. The latest problems occured when printing a PDF that was being viewed with Adobe Reader within my Firefox v 2.0.0.11 browser, but it has occured in earlier versions of Firefox, and I believe in Internet Explorer as well.

I’ve experienced this problem when printing to an HP PSC1210 all-in-one inkjet printer, and an HP Photosmart 7260 inkjet printer.

Today, after reprinting the same PDF several times, and getting garbage out each time, I clicked “print”, and started looking around in the print window that opens for my HP 7260 printer. When I print PDFs, I get an “Advanced” button in the bottom left corner of the print window that I can click on. There are a bunch of “greyed-out” postscript options in this window, but there is also a check box that says “Print as image”. I decided to check this box and click “OK”, which closes the advanced printing options window, then I clicked “OK” to send the PDF to the printer. I think doing this causes the entire document to be sent to the printer as “raster graphics”, rather than as PCL containing a mix of graphics and ASCII text.

Voila! The PDF printed correctly. I’m not certain that checking the “Print as image” option was the reason, but it’s worth trying if you are having this problem, and you have this option in your print setup.

If this solution works for you, please post the details as a comment to this article.

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63 Comments

Filed under Acrobat Reader, Adobe, Adobe Acrobat, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, PDF files, Personal, Personal Tidbits, Routing by Rumor, Technology, Windows XP

63 responses to “My Adobe Acrobat PDF Files Are Printing Garbage Text (Sometimes)

  1. João Pedro Tomás

    Thank you very much, guys! I searched google for this annoying problem and found the solution here. Muchos gracias. All the best!

    - Albufeira, Portugal

  2. Sean Swanson

    Worked great. Thanks!

    - Omaha, Nebraska

  3. Nasser Bahrampouri

    Thank you it works now. I have been having this problem for a while and none of the IT folks here knew what was going on. I was not getting anywhere changing from one printer to better ones. Someone was kind enough to show me this page.

    - Cambridge, Massachusetts

  4. Michael Habinsky

    I had a customer who had this issue come up when multi-page documents were printed quickly in succession.
    The issue ended up being resolved by downloading and installing a postscript printer driver for that printer from HP.

    - Aurora, Colorado

  5. Trevor Riddle

    There is another way to do it:

    When you click print, go to the preferences for Adobe PDF. Below, there is a check box that says “rely on system fonts only”. Uncheck the box and click apply. This will tend to fix the problem the fastest.

    - Flagstaff, Arizona

    • Mark Mullins

      I found that with my HP 2300L, I could Ctrl+P, click Properties, and set the Printer Features option for Send True Type as Bitmap to “enabled” rather than “disabled” and that solved my problem of weird occasional spacing in the printout when the PDF looked okay.

      Mark

      - Port Angeles, Washington

    • Terri Kate Bates

      I would like to use the method using ‘rely on system fonts’ etc..described a couple of times above. But I can’t find/work out where/how to do this. When clicking on print, I don’t see any ‘preferences’ tab anywhere. Can you give more detail? thanks, Kate

      P.S. – Where do I find the ‘preferences’? cheers, Kate (tkbates@gotalk.net.au)

      - Maleny, Queensland, Australia

  6. Cindy

    Thanks – this worked a treat! I was going to buy a new printer because everytime I went to print a stack of pdf stuff – it just came out in “gobbledygook”. The advanced option and print as an image – saved me heaps – the document print outs are perfect. Can’t thank you enough.

    Cheers,
    Cin

    -Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

    • Mike Pattenaude

      Thanks. Fixed.
      Thank you, thank you, thank you!

      Mike

      - North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

  7. Ryan

    [You are a] Genius!

    I was having to print every page individually for them to print correctly. This has definitely saved me some time. Thanks!

    - New York City

  8. Eileen Casey

    Many thanks!! This worked perfectly, just by checking the print image box. I have been struggling with it all afternoon and no one could help me. I needed to print the wording of a grant application from a pdf file. As a lark, I also tried it on a coupon I have been unable to access the past couple of weeks, and voila! Anyway, thanks again.
    PS The “Greek” description helped me, as that it what I thought it looked like too, and your site came up that wording at the #1 best choice. ☺

    - Sandwich, Massachusetts

  9. Janet Rennie

    Like so many others I have had this problem for a long time and I am delighted to find a solution which works. I have wasted hours checking for updates, etc . Most articles come as PDFs of course, and it has been deeply frustrating not to be able to print them off. Thank you!

    - London, England, United Kingdom

  10. Ian McLeod

    Thanks – IT WORKED!!!!!!!!!!!!

    - Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada

  11. Joao Valinho

    Hi, thank you for your big help, it has really solved the problem right the way!
    Still don´t know if this is some kind of “bug” with the most recent Adobe Reader version, but I don´t care since I have this workaround now.
    All the best!

    - Lisbon, Portugal

  12. Thabet

    Thank you for the “print image” idea, but still we need to find out how and why it happened, i work in an IT department and tried everything to fix this issue, using print as image will make printing very huge for documents larger than 20 pages and needs a server’s memory to print and why this particular 1/95 PC has this problem?? i even replaced it with another one with fresh OS and still the same issue!!
    is it the user or the cabling in that particular place, or maybe a virus that comes with his documents . Tizzie Chandler comment will be my next step, guess its all about the user who prints and closes before it even starts.

    - International General Insurance Company, Limited
    Amman, Jordan

    • Dave

      I am using Adobe Acrobat Pro to print documents to PDF and am having the exact same problem (this is even printing from PDF to PDF). After checking the preferences tab I found I did not have the “Print as image” option. So, I turned off the “Rely on system fonts only; Do not use document fonts”, and it is now printing fine.

      - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

      • Terri Kate Bates

        How did you turn off the “rely on system fonts only”? Can you give me a step by step instruction how/where to do this? cheers, Kate
        (tkbates@gotalk.net.au)

        - Maleny, Queensland, Australia

  13. Eleyne Sharp

    I’m so glad I found your site. I had the exact same problem today and it was resolved by following your suggestions. Many thanks!

    - North Kingstown, Rhode Island

  14. Kasun Mekhala

    it worked …thanks a lot :)

    - Sri Lanka

  15. Robert Buda

    Thanks for sharing this information. Saved me lots of time figuring this out!

    - Buda Consulting
    Princeton, New Jersey

  16. Karen Anne Kolling

    Thank you! I have been screengrabbing and cutting and pasting with Paint to get jpgs to print. After months I noticed that character off by one thing as opposed to the gobbledygook I had assumed it was, and then found your solution.

    Wow, how long has this bug existed… unfixed by Adobe ?

    - North Kingstown, Rhode Island, USA

  17. Ryan Cunningham

    Wonderful. I have been having this issue with PDF’s for Sooo long. Simple solution.

    Thanks much

    - Robbinsdale, Minnesota

  18. Bobby T

    THANK YOU!

    This saved me a LOT of frustration.

    - United States Department of Agriculture
    Office of Operations
    Washington, DC, USA

  19. Ranger Services

    Thank you for this. Worked perfectly.

    Someone in the comments said it would take much longer to print with this method, but from what I have seen, this is negligible. A print that once took 3 seconds to begin printing now takes about 5 seconds. Not a big deal.

    - Ranger Services, Ltd.
    United Kingdom

  20. Charlie

    I finally solved the printing gibberish problem by installing a different pdf reader. No need to print as an image. Try PDF Exchange Viewer, its free and prints well. My theory is that the way Adobe PDF Reader sent the printing data to my printer is were the gibberish problem arose. I’ve now uninstalled Adobe in all my computers and haven’t looked back.

    Good luck!

    - Adelaide, Australia

    Reply from RoutingByRumor…

    The free PDF-XChange Viewer, an alternative to Adobe Reader that “Charlie” mentioned, can be found at Tracker Software’s website.

    We have not used PDF-XChange, and no endorsement of the product should be implied.

  21. Thanks for this, have also experienced this problem with every 5th or 6th page or so printing jibberish.

    Although it’s a kludge, it works! It’s about time Adobe sorted this out.

    - United Kingdom

    Reply from RoutingByRumor…

    If you, too, are old enough to remember using a 300 baud acoustic coupler and an ASR-33 teletype machine, check out AlienNerd’s WordPress blog, and read his first post from March 22, 2010.

    • Karen Anne Kolling

      Not only am I old enough to remember 300 baud acoustic couplers (follow the link in the above comment to read about ancient technology in “aliennerd’s” blog), but I dragged an ASR-33 teletype home (picture a 1960s dressed female with high heels wrangling one of those in and out of a car) so I could work over the weekends (punching out papertape and taking it into work on Mondays.)

      - North Kingstown, Rhode Island

      Reply from RoutingByRumor…

      Not only did Karen Anne once drag home a teletype machine, but we understand that she is the person to see if you need DEC pdp-10 manuals (circa 1970) !

  22. Laura Wymbs

    Thanks for the solution- I too am running Windows XP Service Pack 2 with an HP Deskjet and only started experiencing problems today. With some documents if I saved the file and tried to reprint it would print correctly. But with one file this would not work so I tried your solution and while it took longer to print at least it is correct.
    Thanks for the help

    - Newfoundland, New Jersey

  23. Joshua Wark

    The only problem with this solution is it forces a bitmap to be sent to the printer which is a massive file. It typically makes your print job take about 10 times longer to print.

    But it’s better than not being able to print.

    - Farmers Insurance Group
    Overland Park, Kansas

    Response from Routing By Rumor…

    I’m afraid that you’re complaining to the wrong person. Tell Adobe Systems and/or Microsoft to fix this bug ! Then, you’ll be able to print your .PDFs faster and they will still be readable.

    • Karen Anne Kolling

      For the one or few pages at a time I print at home, I really don’t notice a difference in speed (when using the “print as image” workaround). Plus, it works, which is more than I can say for the faster method. :-)

      - North Kingstown, Rhode Island

  24. Michaela

    Comment translated from German…

    Simply ingenious! A fast and simple solution.

    We printed our music association notes and were surprised that the titles and instrument designation as well as the speed were not readable, even though the .pdf file was good ! Now we can finally read everything again !

    Many thanks!

    - Germany

    Original comment…

    Einfach genial! Einfache Lösung, schnell gemacht. Wir haben mit unserem Musikverein Noten ausgedruckt und waren verwundert, dass die Titel und Instrumentenbezeichnung sowie das Tempo nicht lesbar waren, die Noten blieben aber korrekt! Jetzt können wir endlich wieder alles lesen! Vielen vielen Dank!

  25. Michael Clark

    Thanks for this, really saved me a massive headache :o)

    - Brookwood, Surrey
    United Kingdom

  26. Leo Simon

    I knew about this solution for quite some time, but today it did not help me! I have two printers, and old Minolta color laser Magicolor 2300DL, and an almost brand new Canon MP620. No luck with Acrobat 9.3. Then I opened the same file on a Mac with Acrobat 9 for OS X. Not a problem! What gives?

    - Boston, Massachusetts

  27. Steve Montgomery

    I’ve had this same problem for over a year now and none of our IT people could solve it. In our small office of 5 only I had the problem and we all have the same printers and their setups are identical. What really perplexed me is why a few pages would print correctly and then the “gobbledegook” would start but if I would reprint just the bad pages more often than not the rest would print correctly. Very strange but thanks for the fix! Don’t forget to check print image after Adobe updates.

    - Diebold, Inc.
    Canton, Ohio

  28. Jaclyn Poyta

    YOU ARE MY HERO!!! I have been dealing with this for a loooong time. I thought it was my printer, so I got a new one. I thought it was my computer, I tried my husbands.. Nothing seemed to work. Printing as an image WORKS!! Now I can finally print the slides for my classes without pulling my hair out!! THANK YOU!!!

    - George Mason University
    Fairfax, Virginia

    • Pedro Mateo

      Excellent post. Thanks so much for taking the time to explain all this! God bless you!

      - Ogilvy & Mather, Inc.
      New York City

  29. Jon Wright

    How about from a new Mac? I have a client who recently purchased a new Mac notebook with the snow leapord OS and it prints just adobe pdf’s from a website in greek gibberish. I don’t have it in front of me, but will your solution work on a Mac?

    thanks!

    - Duluth, Minnesota

    Response from Routing By Rumor…

    What’s a Mac ???

    …Just kidding ! We have absolutely no idea whether .pdf printing problems on a Mac are related to the problem/solution described here. It would be interesting to know whether the gibberish being printed on the Mac is also the desired text shifted by one character, as it is on a Windows computer. For instance, is “HELLO” printing as “IFMMP”, or is “a1234″ printing as “b2345″ ?

  30. Mary Choate

    I could kiss you! This has been driving me mad when trying to print out hiking maps and trail details from Appalachian Mountain Club guide online.

    Thank you thank you thank you!

    - Lisbon, Maine

  31. Tizzie Chandler

    I also had this problem – occasionally – and sometimes part the way through a longer print job. When I thought back there was one thing in common … I had closed the document down before the print job finished.
    So, now I make sure I leave the document open until I have finished printing it.

    - Preston, Lancashire, UK

  32. Carol A. Little

    So glad I found this answer. I have been trying to print PDF docs from Adobe through a VPN interface to a local printer for a year and kept getting the Garbage print. I was told by my help desk that I needed a new print drive. Even that didn’t work. Had to download a copy of whatever doc. I wanted to print to my local PC to get a good print. This really solved the problem. Thanks for posting.

    - Dearborn, Michigan

  33. Jirka Chadima

    Great solution, we’ve had this problem for quite a while and everybody thought it had something to do with fonts. This is great workaround. Thank you so much!

    - SAS Institute, Inc.
    Prague, Czech Republic

  34. Just hit the same problem at work, our receptionist was baffled (as were we all). Many thanks for your insight and workaround. 21st century and we can’t print reliably!
    Spacing seems to be correct for the character required, not actually printed, hence it looks a bit weird. Our name was printed as SPMMB (with the MM too close) instead of ROLLA.

    - Rolla, Ltd. (view photo)
    London, England

  35. Sue

    Thank you for posting this.

    I have the same problem (using Firefox and Adobe Reader) intermittently. I think it has to do with the version of Adobe Reader the PDF was created with vs. the version you are using to print it.

    Unfortunately, the Advanced Option of Print as Image gives me the same Gobbledy Gook — so I still don’t have a solution. I’ve searched Adobe Reader Support. I can’t believe this isn’t addressed there- but it doesn’t seem to be.

    - Rochester, Minnesota

  36. Gerrit Cloete

    Thanks a million. It worked like a charm.
    Our admin lady says you rock.

    - Pretoria, South Africa

  37. Thomas Victorio

    Dude (I’m assuming you’re a dude), thanks!

    In my case I had to do about the same thing:
    1. File -> Print -> Properties…
    2. Go to the Advanced tab -> open the Image Options tree
    3. Change the field PostScript Pass-through from Enabled to Disabled

    I took a peek at our Printer’s Help files and found that disabling the thing in step 3 essentially means letting the printer driver generate the PostScript file instead of letting the application (in this case Adobe Acrobat) do this.

    Our printer is a Xerox WorkCentre Pro 232.

    - Paris, France
    (IP: Wuppertal, Germany)

  38. Shannon Collette

    Thank you so much for such a simple fix… just as an added note this fix worked with PDFXChange Viewer and a Konica Minolta copier/printer.

    - Omaha, Nebraska

  39. Toki Tover

    Finally! I have been having my friend print out my pdf’s at her work because mine would print in “greek” language! This worked for me and I am happy!

    Thank you very much for explaining step by step how you did it.

    Toki

    - San Jose, California

  40. Morgan

    Unfortunately printing as image did not work for me, all I get is giberish text mixed up with symbols either way.

    - The Netherlands

  41. Samir Savla

    Thanks for this article…I’ve never had this problem before but this form wouldnt print anything legible until i read your article.

    - Brocade Communications Systems
    San Jose, California

  42. Jack

    Fantastic work. I’m running Vista and thought I’d dropped a required font or so. Works beautifully now – Thanks heaps

    - Queensland, Australia

  43. Ryan

    Worked like a charm for me. I was getting some text as webdings and wingdings. Print as image solved the problem!

    - Somersworth, New Hampshire

  44. Tonia Ricciu

    I have been having a similar problem printing from Adobe 7.0… was driving me nuts! Specific documents have messed up text every time! Printing as an image worked!!! Thanks for writing the article.

    - Brisbane, Australia

  45. Tracy

    You rock! I work for a law firm and we are always having to print forms from state agencies. For some reason DCF forms always print gobbledygook and this method finally fixed it. Thank you so much for posting this!

  46. Nia Wagner

    Thank You So Much!!! I work in an office where I use templates viewed by Adobe quite often. This has been bothering me for months! However, thanks to your pertinent information, I’ve finally found a soulution to the “Wing Ding” problem:) I will be sure to inform my collegues of the information that was discovered in this article! Thanks Again!!!

  47. Peter Seymour

    I have only ever experienced this problem with Brother Laser Printers, but none the less have not been able to resolve without changing the driver for a post script one. This of course isn’t always practical!

  48. Mark Freedman

    Thanks for the suggestion. At one time, my computer using Acrobat 7.0 was the only computer out of 5 that was able to print out a document without the garbled text. In an attempt to print a special document, I was forced to install 9.0 and then I encountered this problem. Printing as an image worked! Thanks again.

  49. Paul Berger

    Tried Foxit instead of Adobe Reader?

  50. Winston Tamisin

    Printing as image worked, you ROCK!

  51. Joe Mail

    I had same problem even after installing 9.0. I was opening document from desktop and trying to print. I clicked on “print as image” and it worked.

  52. Andrew Rausch

    I have the same problem, but only with printing out from google documents. Printing a second time fixed the problem, but one in 4 or 5 documents is messed up. Is your letter spacing also based on the actual text? For me, the new letters are spaced based on what they should have been, causing some to spread out, and some to bunch together oddly.

    Response from RoutingByRumor…

    We didn’t save any of the garbage that Adobe Reader was spewing to our printer, but your comment about character spacing sounds correct. We do recall that much of the text was bunched together. Perhaps it is related to the use of a proportional font, and had the correct letters printed, perhaps the spacing would have been correct. Next time we have a .PDF that prints hieroglyphics, we’ll check out the character spacing.

    Yours observation is interesting, but quite honestly, considering the fact that the entire document is printing garbage, character spacing seems to be the least of Adobe’s problems !

  53. Peter Wang

    It worked for me as well … but only prints out grey scale. I have not been able to find a solution for this problem either. I have the issue of printing PDFs created on Mac on a PC.

  54. Hi there

    Thank you SO much for posting your article. After waiting on hold with Adobe tech support, I found your article. I had the same problem of garbage text printing, and printing it as an image worked. You rock.

    Thanks!

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