I'm frequently given PDFs with images where the images are not (or not properly) rendered on macOS (or iOS), but which others say that they can read on other OSs. These files are always readable in Acrobat, but the Images do not show in any other app or browser (neither Preview nor Skim or PDF Expert).

From asking around it's clear that I'm not the only person with this issue.

What's going on here and how can I, or the creators of the PDFs, fix it?

  • By „can‘t be read on macOS“ you mean „can‘t be opened in Preview“, right? Is there any kind of error message, or something of interest in the system logs? – nohillside Dec 24 '18 at 21:56
  • @nohillside: No it can be opened, but images are corrupt or absent. It's my fault that some people here are confused and defensive I think. I had assumed from past experience that this was a common well known problem: it's apparently easy to inadvertently create a PDF that works on Windows but is only readable on macOS using Acrobat. I was wondering what could be done about that (either by the recipient of the file or the creator). There's even an answer to this buried somewhere in LaTeX SE if I recall, but I can't find it. – orome Dec 24 '18 at 23:12
  • Please provide a (link to a) sample PDF document. Then describe what exactly in this file is not viewable or readable. Otherwise you'll not get responses which provide an answer, only ones which consist of pure speculation. – Kurt Pfeifle Dec 24 '18 at 23:23
  • The trouble with the PDF spec is that it's massive and convoluted, and everyone other than Adobe tends to only implement the 80% of it in their reader apps that they think most people will need. Of course, not everybody picks the same 80%. – calum_b Dec 26 '18 at 21:57


Using the example PDF in the comment below I was able to confirm that some images do not display correctly on my iPad:

Compare the "sidebar" images on page 12-14 for some that are either missing entirely or display incorrectly.

Compare this:

enter image description here

To this:

enter image description here

However, they were able to be viewed using PDF Viewer Pro by PSPDFKit

(Note: I tested using the free version of the app. There are additional features available as an in-app purchase but they are not needed to view these images.)

Unfortunately I was not able to get PDF Viewer Pro to export the PDF into a more 'universal' PDF.


When I opened the same PDF in Preview on my Mac (running High Sierra), it appeared to show the images just fine, even the ones that did not appear correctly in iOS, so I'm not sure why you're having issues viewing it on macOS, unless you are using an earlier version?

  • Sorry, the example links got deleted with the comments. Here's an example. There are several others with the same issue on the parent page. All have many images that don't display. – orome Dec 25 '18 at 0:33
  • I have tested the example image on my iPad, and can confirm that in Safari, there are some missing images. However, in PDF Viewer Pro, all of the images appear to display just fine. – TJ Luoma Dec 26 '18 at 17:06
  • Guys, it would help a lot if you posted (links to) sample PDFs which contain hundreds of images and you then explicitly pointed to the specific page and image which are not displayed correctly. While I'm prepared to try help you with the problem (and may even be qualified enough to do this in a meaningful way), I'm NOT prepared to search my way through hundreds of pages with thousands of images with problems of display in some PDF viewers and some not.... – Kurt Pfeifle Dec 26 '18 at 17:56
  • 1
    @KurtPfeifle Good point. It was difficult for me to tell at first what was missing until I noticed the "captions" with no pictures. I've added a couple screenshots that hopefully make it easier to spot the differences, and also some page # references in case others want to check. – TJ Luoma Dec 26 '18 at 18:13
  • Everything I'm using us the latest version. – orome Dec 26 '18 at 19:19

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