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How are you distributing the PDF newsletter (posted on web site, attached to email, etc.) ?
Is PDF opening directly in Reader or opening through browser with PDF plugin?
Where does the external file reside (website, intranet, etc.) ?
Is this truly a button with action to open external file? or hyerlink to open external file?
I distribute both by attaching the file to an email, and I upload the PDF to our internal website. The PDF on most computers the users have will open with the reader, though I'm sure there are a number of PC's company wide that may use the browser plugin. The computers I accessed to test on, however, all opened with some version of the reader. The external file I placed in the document was from a shared network drive. My quickfix was to create a hyperlink to where it is located on our intranet department page. I set it as an action button to an external file, however I think the original preset for this button was a hyperlink. Perhaps I didn't correctly change the action of the button?
if some of your end users are using Macs, it´s possible that PDF opens into Mac´s Preview, which has very poor support for interactive stuff...