I have a PDF that won't open in Preview; it gives this error message:

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However, it will open in Acrobat Reader, but cannot be resaved, or saved with a new file name from Reader:

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As I can see all the pages (or most of them at least!) from this PDF, there must be some way to get them into a file that Preview can open. I can do this by copying pages from Reader one-at-a-time, but the PDF has 500 pages.

What is the easiest and cheapest way to export all these pages, and create a new PDF, from Acrobat Reader?

EDIT: I'd rather not have to sign up for online Adobe services...

7 Answers 7


I just had exactly the same problem. A filled-in PDF form from our tax service displays as follows in almost all PDF readers except Adobe's:

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Not one of the normal solutions works. Every single macOS-native save-to-pdf or print-to-pdf option from within Acrobat Reader fails with "Saving a PDF file when printing is not supported."

I ended up having to use PDF-XChange Editor in one of my VMWare Windows guest images to open the offending PDF 1.7 form and then to print to the "Microsoft Print to PDF" printer driver.

A similar driver for macOS which could trick Adobe Reader into thinking that it was just a printer could also work, but I did not have more time to investigate other options.

There's NO reason for Adobe to make it this difficult to export a PDF form to read-only rendered version. Well, it could be because Reader has a truly subpar UI on macOS, so the company has to make use of alternative techniques to retain users.

  • How about Apple updating Preview so it can open everything that Adobe does? That's the real problem. We all need Adobe to handle docs that Preview cannot. Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 15:02

You could try the Ghostscript tools pdf2ps & ps2pdf from the commandline.

  • pdf2ps input.pdf output.ps to convert to a PostScript file
  • ps2pdf input.ps output.pdf to convert to a pdf file

    1. You can install Ghostscript with homebrew
    2. or use MacTeX

The MacTeX way gives you a 3 GB installer that will install by default a ghostscript package & lots of other things like a TeX folder in your /Applications folder. This may be overkill for you.
The homebrew way brew install ghostscript or brew install gs (both do the same thing) installs a much smaller ghostscript package.

Either way you'll end up with the conversion tools.
pdf2ps allows you to specify which PS-level you want your output to be in.
ps2pdf has 4 variants:

  • ps2pdf
  • ps2pdf12
  • ps2pdf13
  • ps2pdf14

From its manpage

 - ps2pdf12 will always produce PDF 1.2 output (Acrobat 3-and-later compatible).

 - ps2pdf13 will always produce PDF 1.3 output (Acrobat 4-and-later compatible).

 - ps2pdf14 will always produce PDF 1.4 output (Acrobat 5-and-later compatible).

 - ps2pdf per se currently produces PDF 1.4 output. However, this may change in the future.

There's also a pstopdf tool installed by Apple that can convert PostScript to pdf. Sometimes the ps2pdf tools are unsuccessful and the pstopdf tool works.

My experience is:

Convert pdf's with pdf2ps and convert the resulting PostScript file to pdf with pstopdf. This works the best for me without having to fiddle with the various options that these tools offer.
If you want (or need) to play with these options there is a lot of documentation & you can ask questions on tex.stackexchange.com

  • Great suggestions. It might be worth mentioning that MacPorts can install GhostScript too, in case folks have that installed rather than HomeBrew.
    – ghoti
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 22:08
  • Tried this, it doesn't work.
    – dga
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 1:08

Try printing the PDF from Acrobat Reader and then choose to print to (save as) a PDF. Note - you should not choose Save from the File menu in Acrobat Reader, instead you must choose Print. When asked which printer to print to, you can select to open as a PDF in Preview instead.

  • Hi there. This doesn't work. I get the error message: "Saving a PDF file when printing is not supported. Instead, choose File > Save." Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 9:11
  • Choose to save as Postscript instead.
    – jksoegaard
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 10:01
  • Hi there. That doesn't work either, and gives a similar error code. Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 10:10

There are a number of online sites that claim to fix a PDF you upload, free or paid, but if it has sensitive content you don't want to share, you'll want a Mac-specific repair tool. Again, there are many sites selling various tools, but here are some that appear to be good products from reputable sellers.

Finally, this Chron.com article describes how to do this with the free tool PDF Toolkit. Excerpt:

  1. Download and install the Mac version of the PDF Toolkit.
  2. Open the Terminal application.
  3. Type in pdftk broken.pdf output fixed.pdf Replace broken.pdf with the file name of your corrupted PDF.
  4. Press < Enter > and wait for the toolkit to scan and repair the PDF.
  5. Locate the folder of the original PDF file and open the fixed.pdf file. This will contain the repaired PDF document and all of the elements it was able to recover.

You can download a trial version of Acrobat to see if any of those options will work. https://acrobat.adobe.com/us/en/free-trial-download.html

If saving directly as a PDF file doesn't work Acrobat has an option to save as a Word document which you can then turn back into a PDF.


I ended up taking a screenshot of the form, pasting it into Keynote and saving as PDF. Then I could open it with Preview and fill out the parts of the form that weren't working.


This worked for me for the PDFs for which Preview gives up with a message that only Adobe Acrobat Reader is allowed to open.

  1. In Adobe Acrobat (I have the pro license), export to PS.
  2. Using CloudConvert, convert PS to PDF


  • Step 1 above is not available in Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • Trying other formats: converting to Word format did not work expectedly in my case while trying to do that with Adobe Acrobat Reader, as the formatting went haywire. For PS format, formatting was preserved.

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