PDF won’t deal with Word landscape pages properly

October 11, 2012

One of my work colleagues sent me a Word 2007 document and its resulting PDF and asked me to see if I could figure out what was happening with two landscape sections.

Both sections looked like this in the PDF, though they looked perfectly fine in the Word document — notice how the two pages with the maps have headers and footers going off the page and that the page is the same dimensions as the Portrait-oriented page above:

I tried several things — re-creating the PDF using Acrobat, using Word’s PDF option, fiddling with the settings in Acrobat etc. all to no avail. In fact, for some tests, I just made it worse!

So I decided to take a closer look at the Word document, and there I found the problem. What appeared to be a landscape section wasn’t. It looked like a landscape section and when I checked the Orientation options on the Page Layout tab in Word, it said it was Landscape, but when I opened the Page Setup dialog box, all was revealed.

The first thing I noticed was that Portrait was selected, not Landscape, even though Landscape was showing as selected on the Orientation button on the ribbon. WTF?

So I checked the Paper tab settings. One of the authors had set a Custom size for the paper size and defined a width and height that matched a landscape A4 page, thinking they were doing the right thing, but in hindsight they weren’t — it was a case of a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!

Just in case this custom page size was the cause of the odd PDF, I changed the page orientation setting on the Margins tab to Landscape.

I then went to the Paper tab to change it back to A4, but it had automatically changed to A4 after I switched to Landscape:

The next test was to save the document and re-create the PDF. The landscape section that was misbehaving now worked fine! So I changed the other incorrectly defined landscape section in the document and re-did the PDF.

Everything was right with my world again! ;-) And my work colleagues were very happy.

Actually, it wasn’t quite right… I found that the PDFs I generated had a lot of excess space above the headers and below the footers throughout the document no matter which PDF creation method I used. I only did a couple of tests to see what was causing it. But I just didn’t have the time to investigate, so I opened the document on my other computer in Word 2010 and re-created the PDF from the default settings and it worked — all that excess space disappeared. I still don’t know what caused that space issue — maybe I’ll have time to investigate the reason next week when some of my deadline pressure is off.

Update: The excess space above/below the headers and footers was related to the track changes view. The document had Final Showing Markup selected on the Review tab in Word as the authors need to show the readers the tracked changes. When I changed the view to Final and re-created the PDF, all that excess space above/below the headers/footers disappeared (as of course, did the excess space on the right for the tracked change markups). But of course, the track changes weren’t visible now. I know that most of the PDFs created by my client have track changes showing and DON’T have this issue with excess space about the headers/footers, but I haven’t yet figured out why it did it with this document. More investigation required…

Update 2: Gerald (comment 1, dated 18 Oct 2012 below) suggested turning off the balloons for comments and formatting in the Track Changes settings in Word. I did, and it worked — the excess space above the headers and below the footers disappeared! This was in Acrobat Pro X and Word 2007. On my other computer, I have Acrobat Pro 9 and Word 2010 and I didn’t get the excess space issue; however, on checking my Word 2010 Track Changes settings, I saw that they were set to show balloons Never, so it looks as though that’s the critical setting. That said, why does Acrobat add space above/below the headers/footers when the Word setting for the balloons is 6.5 cm right (or left; there are no options for top/bottom)? Interestingly, I used the ruler in the PDF to measure the space above/below and both were about 3 cm, so it looks as though Acrobat is not only adding a 6.5 cm space to the right to accommodate the comment balloons, but also adding a combined 6.5 cm to the length of the page too. As a side note, when I turned off the balloons, any comments in the document remained hidden in the PDF — there was a marker to indicate there was a comment, but the comment wouldn’t display in the PDF at all.


  1. In order not to have excess space, have you tried turning off showing mark-up in balloons?

  2. Brilliant, Gerald! That worked. I’ll add it to the body of this blog post.



  3. […] Issue where you get excess space above/below headers/footers discussed in the ‘update’ sections at the end of this blog post: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/pdf-wont-deal-with-word-landscape-pages-properly/ […]

  4. thank you, thank you, saved me so much frustration. So great to have solutions for pdf ‘ing landscape pages. Although not all solutions appeared to be relevant to a Mac (most the same to similar enough) the problems were very much the same. I am speechless (almost) with gratitude.

  5. Gee thank you so much. Couldn’t figure it out.

  6. Sometimes the changes / comments refuse to “go away” when you turn off the track changes option. To fix this you need to remove the metadata from the document. Click on the office button, go down to prepare, and then select the “Inspect Document” tool. In the window that comes up Tick the box Comments, Revisions, Versions, and Annotations. Untick the other boxes unless you want to remove those items as well.

  7. Thank you so much for posting this, had been trying to fix this for hours.

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