Recently when working with a client, I ran across an issue that I hadn’t seen before but we were able to quickly resolve it with PDFs and SharePoint Online.

Hmm... looks like this file doesn't have a preview we can show you error SharePoint Online

My client has over 1 million files that they were scanning to PDF to move to SharePoint Online in Office 365 as a digital records archive.  Yes that’s right, over 1 million files.  We did some initial testing of the scanning to upload process and quickly ran into an issue.

SharePoint: This File Doesn't Have a Preview, Word Online Ran Into a Problem Opening this PDF

Danger Will Robinson!

This problem exhibited itself in two different error messages:

  1. If you clicked on the file from the library, it would try to open Word Online in a new browser tab, and would give the error message in the image above: “Hmm… looks like this file doesn’t have a preview we can show you”.
  2. When you clicked the Details panel in the library, it fails to render a preview and gives the error “Sorry, Word Online ran into a problem opening this PDF”.

Sorry, Word Online ran into a problem opening this PDF SharePoint Online

This required users to save the PDF to open it.  Clearly not an acceptable solution when we're trying to improve productivity.

The Easy Fix

The client was using a Xerox high-capacity scanner / printer device to scan the documents to PDF.  The default save type was just PDF.  We changed the option PDF/A, and after uploading the file, it rendered fine!  I love easy fixes. 

I've used other scanners and PDF worked fine, so I don't know exactly why the PDF/A worked magic on the Xerox scanner.  But it’s an easy and quick test to see if this fixes it for you. 

 

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