A titillating tale of tech troubleshooting

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If you’ve paid any attention to my life in the past few years, you know that I transitioned to become the new print shop manager at my office after 25 years in the Communication Department. In the years following, I worked with PageDNA to develop and launch a web site for submitting print jobs and managing billing. It’s working out well, though it will always be under incremental improvement for easier use and new features.

A Canva.com PDF rendering incorrectly in the PageDNA preview window.

PDFs exported from Canva.com are always shifted downward in the preview when uploaded to PageDNA.

Lately, many of the documents I print come from Canva—an online design tool that has become extremely popular, especially in my office since we have a free Pro account tied to our nonprofit status. Soon after people started submitting PDFs exported from Canva, I started receiving reports that the preview was wrong—the art is shifted downward such that there’s white space at the top and bottom is cut off and not visible. Only Canva PDFs exhibited this problem. PDFs from any other source have previewed properly.

Fortunately, the actual PDF is still completely usable and I can print the job, but it’s understandably unnerving for customers to see this error thinking it’s how their job is going to print.

Acrobat's Page Box controls.

Acrobat’s Page Box controls only avail CropBox, ArtBox, TrimBox, and BleedBox. MediaBox is not available here.

The suspicion early on from PageDNA support was that one of the PDF document’s boundary definitions was incorrect, and the programmer was fairly sure it was the MediaBox definition. The problem is that we weren’t initially sure how to check the MediaBox’s defined values. Within Acrobat, the only four Page Boxes accessible are CropBox, ArtBox, TrimBox, and BleedBox. No MediaBox.

After a few rounds of dialog with the support teams for both companies, a programmer from PageDNA made a discovery today. He opened the PDF in a text editor and found the embedded Page Box values, including MediaBox. The values are left and right coordinates, width, and height. Canva’s PDF had MediaBox values identical to the CropBox, but left and right coordinates properly are both supposed to be 0.0.

Page Box values after opening a PDF in a text editor.

Opening the PDF in a plain text editor and searching for “MediaBox” found these embedded values.

I was instructed to manually change the incorrect right coordinate back to 0.0, save the PDF, and try uploading it to PageDNA. Lo and behold, the preview was at last correct!

To doubly confirm the problem’s cause, I created a fresh document with Adobe InDesign with bleeds and exported a PDF. I opened that PDF in a text editor, found the MediaBox values and confirmed the left and right coordinates were both correctly set at 0.0 and didn’t need to be edited.

A Canva.com PDF rendering correctly in the PageDNA preview window after the MediaBox right coordinate value was adjusted to 0.0 as it should be.

A Canva.com PDF now renders correctly in the PageDNA preview window after the MediaBox right coordinate value was adjusted to 0.0 as it should be.

Naturally, there is zero chance I’d ever tell customers who use Canva that they should open their PDFs in a text editor, fix the right coordinate value, and then upload the PDF to my web site. Therefore, it’s now a game to see if I can convince Canva’s support team to acknowledge their system is exporting PDFs with this error and hopefully rectify it in a reasonable amount of time.

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