Exporting to a PDF File (Report Builder and SSRS)

The PDF rendering extension renders Reporting Services paginated reports 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 4.0 and later versions, Reporting Services supports Adobe Acrobat 11.0 or later. The rendering extension does not require Adobe software to render the report. However, PDF viewers such as Adobe Acrobat are required to view or print a report in PDF format.

The PDF rendering extension supports ANSI characters and can translate Unicode characters from Japanese, Korean, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and Arabic with certain limitations. For more information about the limitations, see Export Reports (Report Builder and SSRS).

The PDF renderer is a physical page renderer and, therefore, has pagination behavior that differs from other renderers such as HTML and Excel. This topic provides PDF renderer-specific information and describes exceptions to the rules.


You can create and modify paginated report definition (.rdl) files in Report Builder and in Report Designer in SQL Server Data Tools. Each authoring environment provides different ways to create, open, and save reports and related items.

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 msdn.microsoft.com.

  • The Font is TrueType.

  • 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.


Although the conditions are met, there is one circumstance under which fonts are not embedded in the PDF file. If the fonts used are the ones in the PDF specification that are commonly known as standard type 1 fonts or the base fourteen fonts, then fonts are not embedded for ANSI content.

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 Fonts 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. If there are Unicode Glyphs missing on the server, you may see characters replaced with a question mark (?). If there is a font missing on the client, you may see characters replaced with boxes (□).

The fonts that are embedded in the PDF file are included in the Fonts property that is saved with the file, as metadata.


In addition to the report layout, the PDF rendering extension writes the following metadata to the PDF Document Information Dictionary.

PDF property Created from
Title The Name attribute of the Report RDL element.
Author The Author RDL element.
Subject The Description RDL element.
Creator Reporting Services product name and version.
Producer Rendering extension name and version.
CreationDate Report execution time in PDF datetime format.


Some interactive elements are supported in PDF. The following is a description of specific behaviors.

Show and Hide

Dynamic show and hide elements are not supported in PDF. The PDF document is rendered to match the current state of any items in the report. For example, if the item is displayed when the report is run initially, then the item is rendered. Images that can be toggled are not rendered, if they are hidden when the report is exported.

Document Map

If there are any document map labels present in the report, a document outline is added to the PDF file. Each document map label appears as an entry in the document outline in the order that it appears in the report. In Acrobat, a target bookmark is added to the document outline only if the page it is on is rendered.

If only a single page is rendered, no document outline is added. The document map is arranged hierarchically to reflect the level of nesting in the report. The document outline is accessible in Acrobat under the Bookmarks tab. Clicking an entry within the document outline causes the document to go to the bookmarked location.


Bookmarks are not supported in PDF rendering.

Drillthrough links are not supported in PDF rendering. The drillthrough links are not rendered as clickable links and drillthrough reports cannot connect to the target of the drillthrough.

Hyperlinks in reports are rendered as clickable links in the PDF file. When clicked, Acrobat will open the default client browser and navigate to the hyperlink URL.


Image compression is based on the original file type of the image. The PDF rendering extension compresses PDF files by default.

To preserve any compression for images included in the PDF file when possible, JPEG images are stored as JPEG and all other image types are stored as BMP.


PDF files don’t support embedding PNG images.

Device Information Settings

You can change some default settings for this renderer by changing the device information settings. For more information, see PDF Device Information Settings.

See Also

Pagination in Reporting Services (Report Builder and SSRS)
Rendering Behaviors (Report Builder and SSRS)
Interactive Functionality for Different Report Rendering Extensions (Report Builder and SSRS)
Rendering Report Items (Report Builder and SSRS)
Tables, Matrices, and Lists (Report Builder and SSRS)