Printing from FileMaker 7: Produces huge PDF files

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
September 13th, 2004 • 10:37 pm

I cannot quite believe this. I have a database that I converted from FileMaker 6 (i.e. 5) to FileMaker 7 format a few months ago. I’ve been adding records to it, with no problems.

Today, I wanted to print a list of the records, using a layout that I had created that lists each record on a line in a table, with a few important fields. The layout was created in FileMaker 6, but appears to have been preserved just fine. It looks the same on screen, anyway. It just consists of a table with shades of grey in the heading part and in the space between cells. Nothing fancy. No pictures. No nothing.

Actually, I didn’t want to print the records, but to save the list in a PDF file. So I went to print, and clicked on the “Save as PDF” button that’s built into every “Print” dialog box in Mac OS X.

Much to my surprise, the resulting PDF file was over 3 megabytes! All this, for just 6 pages of plain text with a few bits of grey shading! The exact same file produced from my FileMaker 6 database (with a similar number of records) weighed only about 400 KB!

I tried to tweak settings in FileMaker 7, but was unable to reduce the PDF file size. I tried to open the PDF in Preview, and then save as PDF from within Preview again, hoping that it would somehow remove whatever junk FileMaker 7 adds, but didn’t have any luck with that. In fact, the resulting PDF was even bigger.

Then I figured that Acrobat Professional 6 might be able to do something about all this. After all, it’s a PDF authoring application, which is supposed to let you edit/modify existing PDF files, provided that you have the required security rights. This was a plain PDF file produced by Mac OS X, so it didn’t have any security settings.

So I opened the 3-megabyte PDF in Acrobat Pro and started exploring its settings. I found a “Reduce File Size…” command in the “File” menu that seemed to be exactly what I wanted. I tried to run that command and… Acrobat Pro froze at the “Consolidating duplicate fonts” stage, with the spinning pizza of death. I waited and waited, and nothing happened. According to Acrobat’s Dock icon, the application was “not responding“. More junk software from Adobe. What else is new?

I ended up force-quitting Acrobat, and tried again. Same thing. I tried Acrobat a third time, this time using “Save As…” instead of “Reduce File Size“. Same thing again.

It was time for supper so, just in case, I figured I would try one more time with Acrobat and leave the application in its apparently frozen state, just in case it would somehow get out of it and actually work eventually. And it did. I don’t know how long it took, but when I came back from supper, Acrobat was back! The process had finally been completed.

Unfortunately, when I looked at the resulting PDF file, its size was still huge. Acrobat had only managed to shave off a few hundred KB.

Just out of curiosity, I went to “Document Properties” in Acrobat and looked under the “Fonts” section. To my utter disbelief, I saw that what FileMaker 7 had done when creating the PDF file was that it had actually embedded hundreds of copies of the same font into the PDF file! Normally when you create a PDF file using Mac OS X’s built-in printing architecture, it embeds one copy of each font used in the document into the PDF file. Just out of curiosity, I went back to FileMaker 6 and tried creating a PDF file with an old version of my database, again with a similar number of records. Here, the resulting PDF file was around 400 KB and when I looked at its properties in Acrobat, I saw that it only had one copy of each font (I used two fonts in the table layout) embedded.

So there you go. FileMaker 7 appears to suffer from this enormous bug which causes Mac OS X, when saving as a PDF file, to embed hundreds, if not thousands of copies of the same fonts over and over again in the PDF file, which of course causes the PDF file in question to balloon to unmanageable proportions.

Unfortunately, Acrobat appears to be unable to actually “consolidate duplicate fonts” and remove all the extra copies. The file that I obtained with the “Reduce File Size” command contained the exact same number of duplicate fonts as the original created by FileMaker 7.

I have to share this PDF file with other people via e-mail, so I cannot send a 3 MB attachment when the file only contains text. It makes no sense. I am stuck. I actually have to export my records from the FileMaker 7 file back into the FileMaker 6 file and created the PDF from there, using FileMaker 6. Grrr.

And what about Acrobat? An expensive application that claims to be able to reduce PDF file sizes by removing duplicate fonts… Obviously it’s not even able to do that properly.

Some days, I really wonder whether companies such as FileMaker and Adobe actually use their applications for anything. Surely such big bugs would be spotted by real-world testers within days of using the software. I only encounter them when I need the features, but I am not a tester. And FileMaker has been out for months, and has already gone through a software update that didn’t fix anything significant.

Of course, there’s no mention of this anywhere in the FileMaker Knowledge Base. There’s not even a single tech note about FileMaker 7 containing the word “PDF”, as far as I can tell.

As for Adobe… They can’t even tell you which application their updaters apply to.

Sigh. There are days where the world of modern software is very discouraging indeed.

21 Responses to “Printing from FileMaker 7: Produces huge PDF files”

  1. Roberto Chavez says:

    Unfortunately, this is a known issue. We pointed this PDf balloon problem out to Filemaker 6 weeks ago. FM tech support has gone in circles without giving any real solutions.

    This is a big issue for us since we use FM to generate advertising quotes. The quotes can be dozens of pages long, so we can’t fax them. We used to generate PDFs and email them. When we tried using FM 7, we discovered the same problem you found.

    Our interim solution is to generate postscript file and then run the postscript files through Distiller. That’s not ideal, because of the extra steps required and because we still run into strange fonts issues every once in a while. The PDFs are much smaller though.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Roberto: “Glad” to hear it’s a known issue… Not so glad to hear that FileMaker is not giving a solution.

    I have tried your workaround with PostScript files and Distiller, but I still get enormous PDF files with multiple copies of the fonts inside. Do you have to use specific settings in Distiller to make sure it eliminates these duplicate fonts when converting the PS files to PDF?

  3. Roberto Chavez says:

    Hmm … I know this process creates huge postscript file. Multiple copies of fonts after running through Distiller is something I don’t see. Why? I’m not really sure any more. I’ve had success with choosing the Distiller setting called “Smallest File size”. The problem (or solution) is that no fonts end up embedded in the file. If the recipient doesn’t have the fonts required for the pdf file, Acrobat (or whatever program used to view PDFs) will replace the missing fonts with something you can’t control.

    I’m still in the middle of trying to figure a reliable PDF solution. I’ve just discovered what works on one workstation in our office doesn’t work on others. I hope I don’t beat FileMaker tech support to a solution.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    Thanks… That “Smallest File Size” did the trick, obviously because it doesn’t embed any fonts. It’s not a solution, but least it’s a work-around for now. Thanks again.

  5. Steve Abrahamson says:

    Actually, this isn’t FileMaker’s fault at all. When FMP presents the Print dialog and you use the PDF button, it’s the OS handling the PDF creation at that point. That’s a standard OS X dialog.

    You might want to try using one of the PDF plugins out there; they may handle the PDF creation differently.

  6. Pierre Igot says:

    Steve: I don’t think it’s that simple. And I don’t think I should have to explore third-party PDF plug-ins here. FileMaker Pro 6 doesn’t have this problem, and FileMaker Pro 7 does — so it seems quite clear that it is a problem with FMP 7, and not with Mac OS X.

  7. Todd Wiener says:

    This is a big drag. I found that your can print to Adobe PDF and it will generate a correctly sized file on the desktop. Not a great solution if you’re automating as I see know way of controlling where those files go in v6 of Acrobat.

  8. Pierre Igot says:

    Todd: I suspect the only reason you got a correctly sized file with the “Adobe PDF” virtual printer is that your settings for this printer are to create PDF files with no embedded font files — which amounts to the same work-around as the one described above with Distiller.

  9. Todd Wiener says:

    Pierre: Further problems. Today I found that after printing from Filemaker with Adobe PDF, users with both Windows and Mac versions of Adboe Acrobat were experience font corruption. Pages seemed to deteriorate with extra Asian characters appearing for no apparent reason. I am wondering what is the best channel to get Filemaker to sort this out.

  10. Pierre Igot says:

    Todd: I have no experience with Asian chars, but I am not surprised :(.

    As for the best channel, I wish I knew! I do remember getting some actual feedback from FM after submitting a bug report through their web site, but that was a couple of years ago… Still, worth a try, I suppose.

  11. Ken Simons says:

    This font-embedding problem occurs for me in Microsoft Word when I have lots of equations embedded in a document. Not only do PDF files end up bloated with replicate fonts, but printed documents have the same problem. A PDF file might be several megabytes of almost entirely fonts, and printed files cause the printer to blink for a long time and then usually stop without being able to print. I talked to the technical support people at Design Science, which makes the equation editor (“MathType”) that I used in Word on OS X. Those tech support people told me that the problem stems from my (Hewlett Packard) printer driver. They indicated that even PDF file creation is done through the printer driver.

    Is everyone else with this problem using an HP printer?

    If so, that would suggest the fault lies with HP. If not, that would suggest the fault lies with Apple.

  12. Pierre Igot says:

    Interesting… Did you try with another (non-HP) printer driver? (For reasons best left unexplained, I cannot try with another driver myself right now.) If this theory is true, using a non-HP printer driver for PDF file creation should avoid the problem.

  13. Ken Simons says:

    Problem slightly-solved: I just downloaded an alternate printer driver for HP printers, following Pierre’s idea, to see if it might solve the sort of problem we all experience. And the new driver did lead to smaller PDFs and did allow me to print previously unprintable documents. There are drawbacks however: 1. Print quality is poor (like dotmatrix) when printing using the new driver. 2. PDFs do take up less space using the new driver, but not because duplication of fonts has been eliminated. To get these PDFs, I have to choose Print… and save as a PostScript file, then use Acrobat Distiller. Otherwise the PDFs end up as the old, bigger version.

    What seems to be happening is that the new driver I tried is encoding fonts differently. In Acrobat, one way to look at the embedded fonts is to choose File -> Document Properties… -> Fonts. With the new driver I see lots of embedded font subsets, with either type “TrueType (CID)” and encoding “Identity-H”, or type “TrueType” and encoding “Ansi”. With the old driver I always see type “TrueType” and encoding “Roman” or “Built-in”. I can’t say I know what this all means. However, I assume that the encodings used by the new driver take less space and suffer from lower quality. The new driver still seems to be generating as much font duplication as before (though I haven’t made a precise count).

    The new driver I tried is an open-source driver, available here:
    It was issued by HP, so unfortunately this experience does not resolve whether the problem arises from an approach taken to program HP’s drivers, versus from something in OS X. So for all readers experiencing this problem, please indicate whether you are using an-HP printer or a non-HP printer – again that might provide a clue as to where the bug lies.

    There may be other independent printer drivers someone has written that work for the HP. But I know little about printer drivers and didn’t find any promising alternatives just now (can I use a driver written for another manufacturer’s printer?). If anyone tries any other drivers, or has suggestions about alternatives to try, it would be very helpful to hear of this too.

    If you try the above-mentioned driver, beware a note that comes with its uninstaller – supposedly the uninstaller removes every printer on your Mac – so you might not want to uninstall. (Instead you might rename the printer in OS X’s Printer Setup Utility.)

  14. Pierre Igot says:

    Ken – Thanks for your extensive report. A few comments: Are you getting dot-matrix-like quality for your equations or even for regular text in your Word document? I wouldn’t be surprised if the HPIJS drivers didn’t support Word’s equations — but they should work well for less complex documents.

    If the use of another driver doesn’t eliminate the duplication of fonts embedded in the PDFs, it seems to indicate that the problem is not with the driver. It’s either with the software (FileMaker/Word) or with the Mac OS X routines that these particular software titles make use of.

    Maybe we should report this as a Mac OS X bug to Apple and see what happens :).

  15. Ken Simons says:

    Pierre: To answer your first question, the fuzzy printout quality with the alternate HP driver occurs even for regular text. Regarding your second point, I agree that probably the problem lies in OS X (unless both drivers suffer from the same problem, which is conceivable since they both seem to have been developed by (possibly the same?) staff involved in HP). While we may not be 100% certain, this indeed seems a good time to report the bug to Apple. I suspect many other users have experienced these problems and it would be good to resolve them soon. Below is a suggested bug report. Could you add your own information as appropriate – e.g. at the end of the report, the system configuration and programs under which your problems occur – and then either submit this to Apple or repost for me to submit? And thanks, by the way, for working on this problem.

    Suggested bug report:

    title: massively redundant font embedding when printing (yields inability to print and gigantic PDFs)

    Printouts in OS X, under multiple printer drivers and multiple programs, suffer sometimes from massively redundant font embedding. This can cause inability to print documents and gigantic PDF files. I and other users have noted this behavior in at least two situations: (1) printing FileMaker 7 documents to PDF, (2) printing Microsoft Word documents with many embedded equations to either a printer or PDF. I and other users suspect, after some discussion and trial and error, that the problem stems from inside OS X. A discussion of these issues is available on the following web page: Also I am happy to provide examples of Word files that can be used to illustrate the problem, and of pdf and postscript files enlarged by the redundant font embedding.

    Since the end result is that users are unable to print and unable to create PDF files, in a range of situations, this seems an important issue.

    The problem occurs for one user under Mac OS X 10.3.7 on a PowerBook G4 with 1GB RAM. (We suspect that the issue is independent of printer drivers and other software, but the problem occurs for files printed in Microsoft Word X for Mac service release 1, regardless whether using Hewlett Packard’s standard printer driver for the LaserJet 1300 (maybe v.1.1.1) or instead use the open-source HPIJS driver v.1.5 with ESP Ghostscript 7.07.1 or instead switch the setting to an HP OfficeJet 7110 (driver v.6.3.4).)

  16. LoonyPandora says:

    Ken, you mention that you would be happy to provide example word documents to Apple – would you be willing to send them to me? I can test them on a wide range of OS / Printer Driver combinations and narrow the fault down a bit, as I work for a Service Provider.

    From experience, I know Apple doesn’t like bug-reports as ‘vague’ as the one you propose.

    Email me from the URL below, and I’ll respond so you can attach the files, if you are interested :-)

  17. Remo says:

    Hello together

    I had the same problem with 10.3.7/FM 7.03 and Distiller 5 and 6.
    Any answers so far? PDF without embedding is no alternative.

  18. Jimbo says:

    I have exactly the same problem with FM7 and pdf files. I’m running a PowerMac G5 dual processor with OS 10.3.7. and HP printers. I’m with a large school district and we distribute all of our FM generated reports to our schools via pdf.

    The only work-around I have found is to tell the people opening the pdf’s to select “Print as Image” in the print dialog (in Windows OS). They are able to print s-l-o-w-l-y. I have some reports that are over 500 pages, so that’s not feasible for those.

    I contacted Filemaker tech support. They said they were aware of the issue. They suggested that I create an ODBC link to FM6 and print the FM7 data in FM6, or create an export/import routine to move the data to FM6. Translation – We know FM7 has this problem and you’re screwed.

    I sent the issue to Filemaker via their web site and indicated that the resolution is to go back to FM6.

  19. Pierre Igot says:

    Jimbo: That FileMaker is aware of this issue and not doing anything serious about it is simply unforgivable. What are we supposed to do? Launch a petition?

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  20. Jimbo says:

    Pierre – As you can tell I am very frustrated. FM7 has the potential to make my FM development much more efficient and effective. It’s inability to print PDF’s neutralizes ALL of the new features and enhancements in FM7 for me.

    I feel like I just bought a new car and then found out it has no reverse gear.

    I’m thinking about writing a letter to Dominique Philippe Goupil at Filemaker.

  21. StephenMetcalfe says:

    I’ve recently begun to experience this problem. Did anyone ever find a solution? I’m creating PDFs from FInale (music software) and I end up with hundreds of redundant embedded fonts making the files impractical. I’m working with Tiger and Acrobat 7. I’ve noticed one other comment on the web from someone else having problems with music fonts but that thread has gone quiet too. Any help gratefully appreciated.

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