Designing for PDF Output

The PDF rendering extension renders a report to files that can be opened in Adobe Acrobat and other third-party PDF viewers that support PDF 1.3. Although PDF 1.3 is compatible with Adobe Acrobat 4, Reporting Services supports Adobe Acrobat 6 or later. The rendering extension does not require Adobe software to render the report. However, PDF viewers such as Adobe Acrobat are required for viewing or printing a report in PDF format.

The PDF rendering extension is based on the Image rendering extension, with some differences. For information common to the Image rendering extension and the PDF rendering extension, see Designing for Image Output. This topic describes features that are specific to the PDF rendering extension.

The PDF rendering extension supports ANSI characters and can translate Unicode characters from Japanese, Korean, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and Arabic.

Font Embedding

When possible, the PDF rendering extension embeds the subset of each font that is needed to display the report in the PDF file. Fonts that are used in the report must be installed on the report server. When the report server generates a report in PDF format, it uses the information stored in the font referenced by the report to create character mappings within the PDF file. If the referenced font is not installed on the report server, the resulting PDF file might not contain the correct mappings and might not display correctly when viewed.

Fonts are embedded in the PDF file when the following conditions apply:

  • Font embedding privileges are granted by the font author. Installed fonts include a property that indicates whether the font author intends to allow embedding a font in a document. If the property value is EMBED_NOEMBEDDING, the font is not embedded in the PDF file. For more information, see "TTGetEmbeddingType" on
  • Font is TrueType.
  • The characters in the string that has the Font property set are Unicode, not ANSI. No font embedding occurs for ANSI characters.
  • Fonts are referenced by visible items in a report. If a font is referenced by an item that has the Hidden property set to True, the font is not needed to display rendered data and will not be included in the file. Fonts are embedded only when they are needed to display the rendered report data.

If all of these conditions are met for a font, the font is embedded in the PDF file. If one or more of these conditions is not met, the font is not embedded in the PDF file.

Fonts on the Client Computer

When a font is embedded in the PDF file, the computer that is used to view the report (the client computer) does not need to have the font installed for the report to display correctly.

When a font is not embedded in the PDF file, the client computer must have the correct font installed for the report to display correctly. If the font is not installed on the client computer, the PDF file displays a question mark character (?) for unsupported characters.

Verifying Font Use in a PDF File

Differences in PDF output occur most often when a font that does not support non-Latin characters is used in a report and then non-Latin characters are added to the report. You should test the PDF rendering output on both the report server and the client computers to verify that the report renders correctly.

Do not rely on viewing the report in Preview or exporting to HTML because the report will look correct due to automatic font substitution performed by the graphical design interface or by Microsoft Internet Explorer, respectively. It is when the report is exported to PDF that unsupported non-Latin characters are replaced by the question mark character (?) when PDF doesn’t automatically substitute fonts.

To view the list of fonts that are embedded in a PDF file, open the file in Adobe Acrobat and from the File menu, view Properties. The Fonts tab displays the list of fonts that are embedded in the file.


The PDF rendering extension writes the following information to the PDF file.

PDF property Created from


The Name attribute of the Report RDL element.


The Author RDL element.


The Description RDL element.


Reporting Services product name and version.


Rendering extension name and version.


Report execution time in PDF datetime format.


Font name and properties for each embedded font.


The PDF rendering extension renders the document map as PDF bookmarks. Only bookmarks for items in the rendered pages are included. Bookmarks are not included if the report is a single page.

Hyperlinks are rendered by the PDF rendering extension. When a user clicks on a hyperlink, the linked pages are opened in the browser. Drillthrough links are not recommended for PDF output. Consider using hyperlinks for PDF reports that link to other pages.


If an image in the report is originally stored in JPEG format, the rendered PDF will contain that image in JPEG format. Images originally stored in other formats are rendered in PNG format.


When you render a report using the PDF rendering extension, you can specify several device information settings, including the following:

  • A range of pages to render.
  • Page width and height.
  • Margin size.
  • Number of columns and column spacing.
  • Resolution of the PDF.

For more information about device information settings, see Reporting Services Device Information Settings.

See Also


Design Considerations for Report Rendering

Help and Information

Getting SQL Server 2005 Assistance

Change History

Release History

17 November 2008

Changed content:
  • Fonts Embedding.

12 December 2006

Changed content:
  • Font requirements.