Acrobat DC ends the dreaded “Renderable Text” Error for Scanned Docs

Acrobat (XI and earlier) sometimes confounded legal professionals during the scanning and OCR process with “renderable text” errors.

In older versions of Acrobat, if vector text was found outside of the page boundaries, Acrobat would refuse to OCR the document. Here’s the error message you would typically see:


Over the years, I found a variety of odd PDFs from fax systems or other systems that would add vector text or graphics in odd places on the page which would cause errors. At one time, I even helped a small law firm discover that the other side had deliberately embedded vector text to prevent OCR. Ah, the games that get played in discovery, but, I digress . . .

Adobe implemented a partial resolution and I wrote about the fix for the issue in Acrobat 8. This specific fix resolved the problem as long as the renderable vector elements were found within 20% of the page boundaries. However, we still found users that ran into this issue, especially with federal court files which contained vector stamps which sometimes were placed right in the middle of the page.

The good news is that Acrobat DC is can segment image layers from text layers in existing PDFs and OCR the image layer only.

To test this, I created a text comment on top of a scanned PDF, then flattened the file. Note that the text I placed is directly in the middle of the page (see below).

OCRs Just Fine!

Acrobat OCRd the scanned image layer and the document is completely searchable.

You won’t find this listed among the Acrobat DC new features, but here’s to progress.

Well, uh, it’s almost gone . . .

You might still run into the Renderable Text error if you try to OCR a document which is completely vector-based (an electronic PDF if you will).

An example of a document that will still trigger the error when you try to OCR is a text-only document created in Word and directly output to PDF.

From time to time, a customer will send me a PDF which generates the error. I often discover that the document isn’t a scanned document at all. In that case, you don’t need to OCR the document because all the text is already searchable.


2 Responses to Acrobat DC ends the dreaded “Renderable Text” Error for Scanned Docs

  1. Sherri says:

    Hi Rick,

    I encountered something like this today when I was working with an email that was saved as a pdf. I’m using Adobe XI and Office 2013. Is it common for emails that are saved as pdfs to have issues? This was a very frustrating afternoon!

    Also when I added my Exhibit Label and printed to pdf, all looked fine on screen. However when I went to actually print the document, the top portion of the email was stripped out. I would REALLY appreciate your input.

    Thank you!

    • Rick Borstein says:

      I don’t think that’s related to the renderable issue. I think the most likely culprit is your print settings. Make sure Shrink to Fit is checked in the Print Dialog.