Rules of Thumb for Chemical Engineers

Adobe Acrobat Bug

Acrobat has a bug that causes it to incorrectly render certain elements on an Excel worksheet. In particular, it messes up checkboxes and other form controls.

There are two workarounds:

  1. Print the worksheet to the printer then scan it.
  2. Copy the worksheet to the clipboard then paste it as a Picture into Word. [Paste Special… Picture (Enhanced Metafile)]

To distribute in pdf form, the best results are from rendering the Word document, with the pasted image, as pdf using Adobe or Bluebeam.

If you are only using checkboxes, another way to tackle the problem is to use the WingDing character set, which has unchecked and checked boxes. This results in a "WYSIWYG" pdf rendition. Click here for an Excel macro-enabled spreadsheet that gives a way to use WingDing checkboxes. Simply by selecting a checkbox it changes state (checked to unchecked, unchecked to checked). And this link is a pdf rendering of the spreadsheet.


The following examples are taken from the same Excel datasheet using various means to paste them into a Word document. We then saved a screenshot (using Snip) as a jpeg image.

Screen shot from original Excel file (created by copying the area to the clipboard, then using Paste Special… Picture (Enhanced Metafile) to paste it here).

Screen shot from pdf made using Adobe Acrobat directly from the Excel spreadsheet. NOTICE the truncated labels (“Stainless Steel”) and weakly rendered checks in the checkboxes.

Screen shot from pdf made using Bluebeam directly from the Excel spreadsheet

Screen shot from pdf made using Adobe Acrobat from the Word document after pasting the datasheet as a picture as described above

Screen shot from pdf saved from Adobe Photoshop after pasting the datasheet from Excel

Screen shot from pdf made by scanning the printed datasheet at 200 dpi. Notice that some of the labels (e.g., Stainless Steel) are truncated – this points to an issue with Post Script, the language that the printer understands

The same printed datasheet scanned at 400 dpi