No 3. Problems opening PDFs
I keep getting the message "file does not begin %PDF" when
I try to open files. I've made sure the name ends .pdf.
What is wrong?
The message is a very simple one, but a lot of people miss
the point of it. It isn't complaining about your file names,
at all. It's complaining about the contents of a file. PDF
files, inside, will start %PDF, on the very first line.
Acrobat is saying, in effect: "this is not a PDF file".
There isn't much more Acrobat can do, but you may be able
to work out why this is happening. Here are some steps to
Are you sure the file is supposed to be a PDF file?
Double check your information. If the file isn't a PDF
file and Acrobat Reader is starting, this can happen on
both Mac and Windows because of accidents in the way your
system is set up. In this case, you probably don't have
the right software to read the file. Check with the place
or person providing the file, see what they say you need.
Don't be fooled by the Acrobat icon. In Windows that just means
that the file name ends ".pdf", and that doesn't prove anything
either! Microsoft include files named like this with several of their
products, but they have no connection to Acrobat - they aren't
documentation at all.
Is this a PDF file you viewed in Microsoft Internet
Explorer? If so, I'll bet you used SAVE AS to save a copy
of the file. Only, for reasons best known to Microsoft,
it does NOT save a copy. It saves something useless instead.
To save a PDF file in Internet Explorer, look at the page
with the link (before or after viewing the PDF). RIGHT
click on the link. A menu will appear; select SAVE TARGET
AS. On the Mac, press and hold the mouse instead of right
Was this file e-mailed to you? Unfortunately, e-mail
programs don't always talk to each other well. What you
receive is not necessarily exactly what the sender meant.
Before blaming Acrobat, try some experiments with e-mail.
The sender may need to use different settings; at worst,
one or both of you may have to change e-mail programs.
If you are on Windows, and the file was sent from a Mac,
the file may be "binhexed". You can get some free software
from www.aladdinsys.com that will get back the
None of the above? Well, I've never known Acrobat to
be wrong about this. If it says a file doesn't start
%PDF, then it doesn't! If you're feeling adventurous,
try and open the file in something else, like a word
processor. You should be able to see what the file really
starts with. This may be a clue! For instance, a file starting
with the two letters "PK" was made with PKZIP and needs
to be un-zipped before use.