PDF now unreadable in Preview or DTPro

Knowns: pdf doc was readable before DT in Preview and Adobe Acrobat.

Problem: 1) No text is visible in DT; images only; 2) pdf doc is readable still in Adobe—all ok; but 3) pdf doc has what I can only describe as if one used a black-highlighter accross all text. That is, where test should be, there’s only black think lines.

What I did prior to this:
I’m somewhat new so I’ll try to use the correct verbage here. I indexed the pdf. Inside DT, I moved it around from folder to folder, still fine. But then I renamed the file, and all trouble began.

Troubleshooting: I opened the pdf under a different user with Preview and it looks fine, so I know that there’s a connection between what I changed to an indexed pdf from within DT and its now corrupted view within Preview.
I used the detect and repair in DT, but all says is ok. I deleted the file from DT and from the computer, and downloaded again. No go.

My remedy: I finally decided to reboot the whole computer. I seem to remember someone at AppleCare saying something about how system things are rebuilt “on the fly” if they had become corrupted. This fixed the issue, but brings up a host of above questions as regards, what did I really do incorrectly?


keywords: pdf corrupted unreadable reboot


I’m not sure I understand everything you did, but see if this helps.

When you Index PDF files the DT Pro database links to the still-externally located PDF file and displays a PDF+text view of the file.

You can change the DT Pro document name without creating any problem.

But if you change the name of that external PDF file, the DT Pro’s Path to the file is broken and it can no longer obtain information from the PDF. DT Pro will simply display an icon, which is an image of the first page of the PDF. You will no longer be able to read the PDF document in DT Pro.

The same problem (a broken path to the PDF file) will happen if you delete the PDF file, or move it to another volume on your computer (another partition or an external drive).

In DT Pro, select a PDF document. Press Shift-Command-I to open the Info panel for the document. Take a look at the Path field. The Path contains the information needed by DT Pro to find the external PDF file.

Similar problems for all file types captured by Index will result if the Path to the external file is broken. So never rename, delete or move to another volume files that have been captured by Index.

I have a similar case, but I think the PDF is obeying my preference to be embedded in my database – it’s not a link. Doing a get info shows that the type of hte file is read as “PDF+text,” DT understands there to be 66,412 words in it, and I can even do things like run a concordance on it, so I believe the text is there… but I can’t get to page two to find out! The preview makes it look like it’s an image: Unresizable window, no page forward and back buttons…

Probably the file wasn’t stored in the database package and now the original is missing - could you please check the path in the Info panel (if there’s one and if the referenced file is still there)? Thank you!


This is what I did.

  1. I indexed the PDF file.
  2. I changed the name of the PDF file from within DT (leaving the external name alone).


  1. Within DT, the PDF would open, but only the a graphic inside of the PDF was visible; In fact the text supposed to be over the graphic was missing. The rest of the 15 or so pages of the PDF were blank.

  2. Using Apple Preview: I opened the original PDF with Preview. What appeared were thick black lines where the text used to be.

  3. Using Acrobat Reader: I opened the orginal w/ Acrobat Reader and everything looked normal again.

Solution & Outcome:

  1. Deleted index item from DT. Preview still should corrupted view of original; Acrobat ok.
  2. Deleted original, logged out/logged in. Same as above
  3. Opened PDF under a different user: all worked ok again.
  4. Rebooted OS X, acquired PDF again, opened w/ Preview, OK, and then just imported to DT, OK.

I haven’t yet tried indexing, and am really shy about doing so. I think i’ll need to get an extended trial license. I leave my programs open, and I think I’m probably using up my trial time.


That’s fine. You are free to name the PDF document anything you wish in DT Pro.

That was not the result of changing the name of the PDF document in DT Pro. Something else has to be going on.

In DT Pro, select that PDF document and open it’s Info panel (Shift-Command-I). In the Info panel, examine the contents of the Path field. That describes the location on your hard drive where DT Pro expects to find the external PDF file. Select the content of the Path field, press Command-C to copy it to the clipboard and paste it into a TextEdit document, so that you can easily see the entire path.

Now go to the Finder and select that corresponding external PDF file. Press Shift-Command-I to open the Info panel. Near the top of the panel you will see a field named “Where”. Although in a slightly different format, that shows the actual path of the file (its file name is in the panel’s “Name & Extensions” field).

My guess is that you will find that you have deleted, renamed and/or moved around the containing folders in such a way as to break the Path that’s expected by DT Pro.

If the Path was broken, which I believe it is, and you used from within DT Pro the Launch Path or Open With command to open the PDF in Preview, that’s what I would expect to see in Preview.

But if you selected the PDF in the Finder and opened it under Preview and got your described result, that may be a different case, a version of the PDF file format that’s unreadable by Preview (and DT Pro).

You can send me such an “unreadable” PDF file as an attachment to an email to DEVONtechnologies Support.

You indicated that you like to move your folders and files in the Finder sometimes.

Don’t do that if you are going to use indexing. Personally, I do all of my organization in DT Pro. I don’t care about how the files are organized in the Finder; I usually dump them into a folder named “Fodder for DEVONthink” and don’t rename it. I use the Import mode in most of my databases, actually copying files into my database or database Files folder with, of course, the exception of Word files, which remain externally linked.

If you want to plan to be able to move your database to another computer one of these days, it’s best to keep your database package files and linked files in your Documents folder. At move time, just move your Home directory to the new computer and DT Pro is up and running.

christian, there is no path in the Info window. Also, if it were a reference, wouldn’t it have a symbol next to it?


Thank you very much for explanation. It seems that I need to get an extension on my trial—I left the program running for days. I’m thinking I will end up getting this program for my school paper.


As the path is missing, no symbol is displayed so it might be a reference or not.

However, if there’s no path, then the PDF document (either the original or the one in the .dtBase database package) can’t be accessed anymore and this is causing the display problems you’ve experienced. Maybe you’ve deleted the path accidently?