Many, many applications and scripts can create PDFs, but not all with equal quality.
Do you know what application made those PDFs?
Can you view the contents of those PDFs in other views (Preview on the Mac, for example, or within the Chrome web browser)?
Can you open them in Acrobat or Illustrator on another computer?
I have to assume all sorts of different versions of pdfs come to us from hundreds of clients. This has existed for years. Problems only in recent months.
I have tried opening/viewing the PDFs in all the applications you mention, and on other mac computers - with no success.
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In general, Acrobat is very good at identifying corrupt PDF files. If it claims that the file is not valid, it's usually right.
If this is a new problem, and the files used to open without any error messages in the past, there may be something wrong with how the files are transmitted. Are these files attached to emails? If so, is it possible that the email system is corrupting them? Is it possible that saving the PDF attachments is causing problems? If it's not email, is it possible that something else is corrupting these PDF files? If you are downloading the files, is it possible that you are not downloading PDF files, but e.g. saving error messages that were generated while attempting to download the files?
The first thing I would do is look at the size of these PDF files. I've seen instances where files were saved with the ".pdf" extension, but all that was stored on the disk was an empty file (0 bytes). A PDF file can never have 0 bytes, even if there is only the bare minimum of information in the file, its larger than 0 bytes. If that's not the problem, I would try to open one of these corrupt files in a text editor (e.g. Notepad on a Windows computer or TextEdit on a Mac). What do you see? If it does not look like this, you are not dealing with a PDF file:
The actual data you see will be different, but there should be a "%PDF-" with a version number in the first line, some strange characters on the second line, and then some gobbledegook on the following lines. If you see something different, you are not dealing with a PDF file.
One more thing: Especially on the Mac, when you display a PDF file in the browser that you want to save, do not use the File>Save As function. This will always end up creating a zero byte long file. Instead, move the mouse cursor in your browser towards the bottom until you see a bar with controls being displayed. The left-most button is the save button. When you use that, you are saving "good" PDF files:
Thanks Karl. Good to know that Acrobat knows it's corrupt files well; but why am I getting so many lately? All thru email; none downloaded. It has occurred to me that some translation or corruption is happening at transfer. We use Outlook for Mac 14.6.0 - so maybe I should go to them and see if they've had similar complaints. . .
I like your tip about "0" bytes.
Per your suggestion, I tried opening up one of these bad files in TextEdit. I did get a lot of "gobbledegook" but no "%PDF" at the beginning.
Typically with PDF's I will double-click for a quick view. Then open from inside illustrator to save.
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If they don't have %PDF at the beginning, the files are not PDF files. Is it possible that they are compressed, and the file name/extension was not correctly changed?
Are you comfortable with the terminal application on Mac OS X? If so, start a terminal session, then type "file " (without the quotes), and then drag and drop one of these files from Finder into the termainal session. If you don't feel comfortable with Terminal, give it a try, because you can drag&drop to get the filename, it's not too complicated. What does the file command report?
BTW: Opening PDF files in Illustrator and then saving them is a dangerous process. It will only work correctly if the original file was created in Illustrator and saved as PDF with Illustrator's editing capabilities enabled. Otherwise Illustrator will only interpret the small subset of PDF features it knows about, and will ignore the rest. In such a case, you will always end up with a lower quality PDF than what you started with.
Thanks for the directions for "Terminal" I will give that a try.
Meanwhile. . . . one of the pdfs we were having trouble with, came from a client - to a sales rep - to me. I had the client send the SAME FILE directly to me and it opened beautifully. No problems. What does that tell you?
If it was a forward of an email, I would blame the email application that was used to forward the original email. You may want to check with the sales rep to find out exactly how the document was handled.