Random things I’ve learned this week: Converting a Word doc to PDF without losing your fonts, your links, or your patience

Image of Pee Wee Herman, saying: I meant to do that.
(Courtesy imgflip)

This week I discovered some very strange behavior in Word. It’s so strange that I suspect it’s a bug, although you never know with Microsoft.

This happened while I was converting a Word document to PDF–something I’ve done thousands of times. But this was the first time I’ve encountered this particular problem.

The setup

I like to use open fonts–fonts that are licensed for use in pretty much anything. Sometimes the license requires attribution, but many open fonts are just free to use wherever you want, for whatever you want.

One of my favorite fonts is Oswald, and I was using it in two variants: Oswald Light and Oswald Regular. I set up my Word document and had it all pretty and ready to print;  I did my usual thing and chose “Save as PDF.” It did, and I was happy and ready to send the doc off to to be read.

But then I opened it up in Acrobat Reader, and saw that all of my Oswald Light had somehow been converted to italic.


The next step

Like I said, I like to use open fonts, but sometimes either Microsoft or Adobe doesn’t recognize them, and substitutes some other font. I’ve seen this before, and thought I knew how to solve it–using Export instead of Save should embed the fonts.

But… it didn’t.

Save options: File -> Options -> Save

So I went into the Save options to see if anything looked likely. I did some Googling and found that there was supposed to be an option to embed fonts in the file on save, so I chose it.

But that didn’t work either.

So I went on to the last option: Print to PDF.

And it worked! Oswald Light was no longer italic.

But some of my hyperlinks were broken. Not all of them; just some. Upon inspection, I realized that any links whose text didn’t have “www” at the beginning were not clickable. Those whose text did have “www” were clickable.


In the end, I decided to go ahead and use the “www,” even though I don’t think it looks as good for something like a Twitter handle (usually written “@username” instead of “www.twitter.com/username”). I’d rather have it look a little awkward than have unclickable links.

What’s bugging me

Here’s why I think it’s a bug: I went back to one of the documents I had saved with Save As or Export–the ones with the italic Oswald Light. And oddly, all of the links were clickable, no matter what the text said. I could substitute any text, and as long as I was using Save As or Export to turn it into a PDF, the links were clickable. It’s only in Print to PDF that the links require “www” in the text. All of them were using the Hyperlink style, so I knew it wasn’t a style issue; it had something to do with the contents of the text field. I can’t think of a reason that behavior would be intentional, but of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

I might go try to submit this as a bug report, but in the meantime, I’m leaving this here in case anyone out there is trying to figure out why some of their links aren’t working when they use Print to PDF in Word.

UPDATE! 3/2018: A fellow editor pointed out to me that the reason Print to PDF doesn’t save the links is that it’s intended for print. It’s Reader that’s making those links live, and it only recognizes them if they’re in a certain format. So it’s not a bug after all.