Bizarre Font Distortion When Generating PDFs

This was a very strange issue, so the title of this post is equally strange.  I don’t really expect anyone else to ever see this problem, but just in case…

We use an older application to generate catalogs where I work, and there has been a long-standing issue that has come up from time to time for particular users (since before I even started there).  The problem was that specific users would find that the font did not render correctly when generating the PDF version of the catalog.  This was a non-standard font that was used, which had to be installed, but the font was installed correctly for these users (this was over remote desktop on one computer, and it worked for all other users).

Everything was the same for this user until the PDF was generated.  It was hard to describe (basically the letters seemed squished together), but the font was clearly not the same when compared to a correct version.  To make sure it wasn’t just a display issue, it would be saved to be viewed on another computer, but it looked incorrect wherever else it was opened.  The temporary solution for this user was to run the application locally, which seemed to work.  Each time the problem came up again, I would spend some time troubleshooting, and I thought I got close with an Adobe Reader plugin for MS Word that seemed related, but I always came up short.

Fast forward 3 years later, and another instance of the issue arose, and I spent a little more time troubleshooting.  I can’t remember what I did to cause the error, but playing around with things led me to a message about some “ActiveReports” VB6 control.  Not having anything else to go on, and thinking that anything saying “reports” might be related to generating this PDF, I started Googling.

I managed to come across this post:  This page described my issue exactly, and even had example screenshots to prove it!  That post pointed me to another forum:  It suggested changing the computer’s (local computer, not the computer being connected to) screen resolution, which seemed strange, but I gave it a shot.

It actually worked!  I found that certain aspect ratios caused this problem.  For whatever reason, this control generated the PDFs and distorted fonts if run over RDP with a widescreen monitor (or at least having that aspect ratio for screen resolution).

So, in case anyone else out there ever sees distorted PDFs generated by some application they run over RDP, or any other bizarre font distortions, it might be worth checking out your screen resolution and aspect ratio.

1 Response to “Bizarre Font Distortion When Generating PDFs”

  1. Harry

    One of our clients is having the same issue while watching print previews from a certain software via RemoteApp (RDP). One forum suggested to change the local resolution of the server for the user to match the aspect ratio used on the client computer.

    To do this we had to change the display adapter to the server, since the integrated display adapter didn’t support any 16:9 resolutions (which are the most common among the users).

    Unfortunately even after changing the display adapter and local resolution, the fonts were still distorted via RDP. Microsoft: please fix this already! It’s really frustrating!