Common problems encountered using PDFs

There are several issues which we have become aware of when using Acrobat Reader with current versions of Internet Explorer (vers 4.0) and Netscape Communicator (vers 4.0). For the convenience of our customers we have provided information on work arounds to some of these problems. The user accepts all responsibility when using any of the suggestions presented here.

NOTE: Many problems may be corrected by downloading the most current version of your Internet browser. Remember, you must be using Adobe Acrobat Reader version 3.0 or better.

In addition to the solutions here you may also wish to check-out Adobe's Top Issues for Acrobat Reader home page, or the home page for your Internet browser.

Index of problems:

Problem: Links not active in PDF (On-line Catalogue for example)

When a PDF loads into the browser window the last part of the document to become active is the links. This means that until the all graphics, text, and any multi-media elements have loaded for the current page, the links remain inactive. Depending on the speed of your Internet connection, and the amount of traffic on the Internet, and because PDFs by their nature tend to be larger files, it may take several minutes for a single, information-rich page to load.

Before searching the remainder of these suggestions please be sure you allowed enough time for the page you were viewing to completely load.


Problem: Weblinks don't work, or you receive the error message "Cannot follow this relative link"

If, when you click a Weblink in a Web-based PDF, nothing happens, or you receive an error message: "Cannot follow this relative link" or "There was an error while performing an action. Invalid file specification object", it is likely that Adobe Acrobat has been set up as a "helper application" instead of being installed as a "plug-in".

    FYI: Internet browsers use a variety of "add-on" software packages to present the wide range of materials which are available via the Internet. The two most common ways your browser uses these other applications is as a "helper" or a "plug-in". For Adobe Acrobat to be used effectively it must be installed as a "plug-in", not as a "helper".

Solutions include:

  • Install the Web browser plug-in included with Acrobat 3.0x. You can download Acrobat Reader 3.01 free of charge from Adobe's Web site (

    • To install the Web browser plug-in, install Acrobat Reader after you have installed your Web browser; or

    • If you are using a Web browser that supports the Netscape API architecture, copy the Web browser plug-in to your browser’s Plug-in folder. If you are using a Netscape Navigator browser, the Acrobat installer attempts to install the plug-in for you.

      To install the Web browser plug-in (Windows):

      1. Open File Manager or Windows Explorer.
      2. Locate the Acrobat3\Exchange\Browser folder.
      3. Copy the NPPDF32.dll or NPPDF16.dll file to your Web browser’s Plug-in folder.

      To install the Web browser plug-in (Macintosh):

      1. Open the Web Browser Plug-in folder within the Adobe Acrobat 3.0 folder.
      2. Copy the PDFViewer plug-in to your Web browser’s Plug-in folder.

      To install the Web browser plug-in (UNIX):

      1. Run /Browsers/netscape.

      For more information, see the Adobe Acrobat Installation guide for your operating system.

    FYI: When you use Acrobat as a helper application, the viewer downloads a copy of the PDF on to your local drive and then opens it in a new window, rather than opening the remote PDF file within the browser window. When you click a Weblink in the downloaded PDF file, Acrobat expects the linked file to be in the same directory on your hard drive containing the PDF file which is originating the link. Because the linked file doesn't reside on your hard drive, the viewer does nothing or returns the error message.

    When you install the Acrobat browser plug-in, the Acrobat viewer opens the remote (i.e., Web-based) PDF file within the browser window, instead of downloading the file to your hard drive. Because the linked documents are in the expected location, the viewer opens Weblinks as expected.


Problem: "Save File" is unavailable in Internet Explorer menus

This problem may occur if the Content Advisor is enabled. Content Advisor allows the user to control the types of content their computer has access to on the Internet. Depending on how the Content Advisor is configured it may not allow you to save PDF files.

Solutions include:

  • Disable the Content Advisor:
    1. In Internet Explorer, choose View>Internet Options
    2. Click on the content tab.
    3. Click Disable.
    4. Save the changes.

  • If you opened the PDF file by clicking on a link to it in an HTML page, save the PDF file to your disk as follows:
    1. Use the Back button in the Internet Explorer toolbar to return to the HTML page containing the link.
    2. Click the link to the PDF file using your right mouse button to display a drop-down menu.
    3. Choose Save Target As and save the PDF file to your hard disk.
      NOTE: this solution will not work with our catalogue index because the index itself is a PDF, however, if you are having difficulties saving other PDF documents on our site you may use this work-around.

  • Alternatively, you may choose to use another Web browser (Netscape Navigator, Netscape Communicator, Internet Explorer 3.0x). Various browsers use different techniques for saving files; check your browser's help screen for more information.


Problem: "How do I save a PDF file to my own computer"

You can download PDF files to your hard drive either from a Web page's link or using your Web browser's Save As command. After you download a PDF file to your hard drive, you can copy text, distribute the file, or save the file to a disk.

  • To download a PDF file from a link:
    1. Right-click the link to a PDF file, then choose Save Link As from the pop-up menu.
    2. In the Save As dialog box, select a location on your hard drive, then click Save.

  • To download an open PDF file:
    1. Choose File > Save As.
    2. In the Save As dialog box, select a location on your hard drive, then click Save.

    Tip: If you regularly save PDFs, you will likely benefit from creating a special folder/directory to keep all of the documents you gather. This way you will always know where to look for that important document. By doing this, you also avoid the possibility of having numerous, potentially very large, documents forgotten on your hard drive and taking up space.


Problem: Microsoft Internet Explorer does not serve PDFs one page at a time (ie. the entire PDF must load before displaying the opening page of a PDF)

Microsoft Internet Explorer (version 4.x or higher) downloads PDF files completely before displaying them, rather than downloading and displaying them a page at a time (i.e., byteserving). This problem appears to occur when using Adobe Acrobat Exchange 3.0x or Adobe Acrobat Reader 3.0x as a plug-in with Internet Explorer.

Solutions include:

  • Install the updated Adobe Acrobat Control for ActiveX. You can find out more about this update and download the control from the following location:
    you may ftp the file directly from:

  • To install the control:
    1. Exit all applications.
    2. Double-click the Ocxinst.exe file.
    3. Follow the on-screen instructions.

    Additional information on installing Adobe Acrobat as either a "plug-in" (for viewing PDFs on-line) or as a "helper" can be found here:

    FYI: Internet Explorer 4.0 doesn't download PDF files a page at a time unless the Adobe Acrobat Control for ActiveX is installed. Also, if you upgrade or re-install Internet Explorer the Control for ActiveX will need to be re-installed.

    The control installer will install the Microsoft Foundation Classes 4.21 runtime libraries. With this control, which is intended solely for use with Internet Explorer 4.0, you won't be able to navigate PDF files using keyboard commands in Internet Explorer 3.0x.


Problem: PDFs saved from Microsoft Internet Explorer are incomplete (pages appear to be missing, or there is only the first page of a multi-page document)

When you view a PDF file in Microsoft Internet Explorer, the entire PDF file is not downloaded in the background, even though you selected the "Allow Background Download of Entire File" option in Acrobat Reader.

Solutions include:

  • Manually select (view) all pages while viewing a document in the browser; wait for all pages to fully load, then use "save as" command to save a copy of the document to your local hard drive. (This work-around is not practical on very large documents)

  • Use Netscape Navigator to view Web pages containing PDF files.

  • Manually download PDF files from the Web server, and then open them in your Acrobat viewer.

    FYI: When the "Allow Background Download of Entire File" option is selected, an Acrobat viewer should download an entire PDF file after receiving and displaying the first requested page within a browser. Internet Explorer ignores this option, however, so the Acrobat viewer has to download pages from the Web server as you request them.


Problem isn't listed on this page?

If you encounter problems not listed here please check the Adobe Technical support database to locate information on using Acrobat Reader. You may also contact Canadian Learning at