Microsoft Office 2010 and PDF Creation Problems

PDF ProblemsIn a previous post, I discussed a minor issue encountered when upgrading Microsoft Word.  In this post, I’ll describe a more serious problem with Microsoft Office 2010 and the (relatively) easy solution we finally discovered.

The Problem

We used the “Create a PDF” button on the Acrobat toolbar in Word to create PDFs.  PDFs created this way will include functional bookmarks based upon the heading styles used, a fully hyperlinked table of contents, and functional internal hyperlinks.  Shortly after upgrading from Microsoft Office 2003 to Microsoft Office 2010, we noticed that the “Create a PDF” button was no longer functional in any Office application. Nothing happened at all when we clicked it.

While our IT staff contacted both Microsoft and Adobe regarding this issue, my team began investigating workarounds to minimize the impact this would have on our publishing work.  Unfortunately, we were only able to come up with two, less-than-stellar options.

Potential Solution #1 – Print to PDF

We quickly discovered that we could still create PDFs by printing to the Adobe PDF printer, but this option is far from ideal for documents destined for an eCTD submission.  PDFs created using the Print function do not include any automatically created bookmarks or hyperlinks.  Using this option would require us to manually create bookmarks and hyperlinks in every document.  While this could be acceptable in limited circumstances, it’s certainly not a practical solution for producing eCTD submissions on a daily basis.

Potential #2 – The new “Save As PDF” Feature in Microsoft Office 2010

One of the many new features in Microsoft Office 2010 is the ability to save documents directly into the PDF format.  This sounds like it should be the answer we were looking for, but this “solution” turned out to be almost as bad as the original problem.  PDFs created using this feature had two major issues.

  1. Bookmarks were created inconsistently.  Some documents would include proper and functional bookmarks, just as if we had used the “Create a PDF” toolbar button.  Yet other documents would have no bookmarks at all.  We we unable to discover any cause for this anomaly, which made it even more frustrating.
  2. Hyperlinks were created … sort of.  The hyperlinks produced using this feature were functional in that you could click the linked text and you would be taken to the correct destination.  However, these links did not exhibit any other expected attributes.  For example, when the the Link tool was activated in Adobe Acrobat, the “links” were not highlighted as active hyperlinks should be.  So, we were unable to resize or edit these links in any way.  Also, when we used the Link Attributer tool in the ISI ToolBox to ensure that all of the links in a document were “hyperlink blue,” the tool was unable to find the links in the document and it would freeze up, requiring a force close of the ToolBox and Acrobat.

The Real Solution

Ultimately, our IT staff learned that our PDF creation problem was a known issue for both Microsoft and Adobe that is encountered with Office 2010 and Adobe Acrobat 8, the version of Acrobat we were using.  So, what was the easy solution?  Upgrade to the latest version of Acrobat – Acrobat X.  We tested things out on a single computer, and once we confirmed that we were once again able to create fully functional PDFs using the “Create a PDF” toolbar button, we proceeded with the Acrobat upgrade company-wide.


If your organization is considering an upgrade to Microsoft Office 2010, you should plan to include an upgrade to Adobe Acrobat X as well to ensure that you are able to create functional PDFs for your eCTD submissions.  Fortunately for us, our IT staff had already planned and budgeted for the Acrobat upgrade this year, and so they only needed to accelerate their timeline to solve our problem.