Fixing FileMaker PDF Crashes on Mac OS X

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5-7-2008 by Geoff Coffey

FileMaker’s Save Records as PDF script step is, like, totally awesome. But there’s one teeny tiny issue: it sure likes to crash. We use this feature a lot with our customers, and under the right set of circumstances, we can see crashing on half or more of the machines our scripts run on. Luckily, it turns out this problem is easy to fix. It is such a frequent problem that I thought I’d save the googlers of the world some time and write up the solution here.

Update 3-April-2009: I added a note below about solving the same problem on Microsoft Windows.

The Problem

First, let me clarify the symptoms and probable causes. Normally when your scripts use the Save Records as PDF script step, FileMaker thinks for a few seconds (or longer depending on your layout) and then produces a beautiful PDF document. Chances are this works perfectly every single time on your computer while you’re developing the script. But on some computers, when your script runs, FileMaker thinks for a few seconds, then “unexpectedly quits.” (Note: “Unexpectedly quit” is Mac OS X’s cute way of saying, “It did something naughty and I killed it dead.”) This almost always happens first right after you roll out the amazing new feature, leaving your users (or customers) a little peeved.

In my experience, this problem is limited to FileMaker Pro and Advanced on Mac OS X, and it seems to only happen on machines with Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Acrobat Reader installed (although it doesn’t happen on every machine with this configuration). Once it starts happening, it is typically consistent. Every time you try to save a PDF on that machine (even manually from the File menu) it will crash.

The Fix

There are two potential causes, and two simple fixes. First, if you’re using FileMaker 9 prior to version 9.0v3, then all bets are off. Upgrade to the latest FileMaker maintenance release immediately. You can find out what version you’re running by choosing the FileMaker Pro -> About FileMaker Pro menu command. And you can download the 9.0v3 updater free of charge from the FileMaker web site right here.

If you have upgraded to 9.0v3 already, then you have the other problem. A few hours of frenzied Six Fried Rice troubleshooting discovered that this file is the culprit:

[Your Home Folder]/Library/Application Support/Adobe/TypeSpt/AdobeFnt08.lst

This file gets twiddled in some invisible way, and FileMaker is no longer a happy camper. Just delete this file, and try again.

Note: Thanks to the mad debugging skillzzz of one of our readers, Hans we now know how to fix the same problem on Windows. Look for this file:

C:\Users\[Your Name]\AppData\Local\Adobe\TypeSpt\AdobeFnt11.lst

In the Adobe folder, you’ll find a Fonts folder and a TypeSpt folder. They both have an AdobeFnt11.lst file but only the one in TypeSpt needs to be deleted. Thanks, Hans!

I have encountered the PDF crashing problem about a dozen times “in the wild” and in 100% of the cases, upgrading to 9.0v3 and deleting this file has fixed the problem perfectly. Here’s hoping it helps you too.

41 Comments

  1. Jerrald Hayes

    Oh my gawd! It works! That’s great! That’s awesome, thanks so much. Strangely though the script always works for all my solution on my client’s computers but always crashed my own personal machine. It’s been driving me nuts for ages.

  2. Larinda

    Worked perfectly! this has been causing me a lot of problems. Thanks!

  3. Los Boricuas

    Excellent article. Did you know that this has been linked in internal FileMaker tech support staff threads? I have a friend there working for them who passed this on to me.

  4. Geoff Coffey

    @los: No, we did not know that. Very cool. Thanks!

    Geoff

  5. Brian Seidman

    Any idea how to keep this file from coming back? I delete it (and also AdobeFnt07.lst), but after I export the PDF successfully, it’s back again. I’d hate to have to delete the file every time I want to export a PDF from FileMaker.

  6. Geoff Coffey

    @brian:

    It will always be automatically recreated when you make a PDF, but in my experience, that is not a problem. The presence of this file is not a problem in itself. It is when you have a corrupted version of the file that you get crashing. In my experience, the one that is auto-created is problem free, so you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

    It is possible it will get corrupted again, and you’ll have to re-do the fix. But so far, in my experience, this has not happened. I suspect the corruption may have arrived from some older version of Acrobat, and stuck around until FileMaker made it obvious because in every case, for me at least, deleting this file once was a permanent fix.

  7. David

    Worked like a charm! Sure saved me a lot of aggravation. First link that popped up after I googled ‘Filemaker crashes on pdf export’ Thanks very much!

  8. Nancy

    Thanks for these suggestions. I tried both suggestions (updating to v3 and deleted that font file). Neither worked to solve the problem. I’ve now seen it on 2 computers at 2 different locations. Any other suggestions?
    Thank you.

  9. Good show geoff, we have a large pathology database we have been doing a solution for that encountered this problem last year, finally we just turned off PDF printing in FileMaker and did it through Lasso and ImageMagick.

    ——- strip ——
    So we are all guessing about Lumen, my guess is that it is an interface for RadiantCMS.

    ——- strip ——
    -Brian

  10. Geoff Coffey

    @nancy:

    Hmm… Bummer. It has always worked for me, so I’m not sure what to say. One time I thought I was on v3, removed the mystery file, and still had crashing. But when I looked to be sure, it was actually not v3. Maybe it is worth a second check? Otherwise, let us know if you make any progress.

    Geoff

  11. Geoff Coffey

    @brian:

    Thanks for stopping by the booth. Hope we cleared up the mystery ;)

    Geoff

  12. Stephen

    Not sure how necessary this step would be, but you could add a perform applescript step before you try to save as pdf:

    
    try
    	set bad_file to (path to application support from user domain as string) & "Adobe:TypeSpt:AdobeFnt08.lst" as alias
    	set theTrash to path to trash
    	tell application "Finder"
    		move bad_file to theTrash
    	end tell
    end try
    
  13. Geoff Coffey

    @stephen:

    Interesting idea. In my experience this sort of thing is not necessary, but if you have continued problems it might be worth doing. Bear in mind that I think that will slow things down a bit. The AdobeFnt file seems to be some kind of cache that, when not corrupted, helps the PDF system start up faster. So it would be a shame to delete it all the time if it was really fine.

    Geoff

  14. Marcelle

    Thanks for the great article. Almost ripped my hair out over this one.

    The above solution did not work in every case but in combination with deleting all adobe preferences, we are back to normal printing.

    Great detective work!

  15. instig8r

    The FileMaker knowledge base article on the subject also mentions deleting the Reader Prefs plist file. The KB’s at: http://www.thefmkb.com/6463.

  16. jason

    how about a similar solution in windows?

  17. Adria

    Brilliant – Thank you! Saved hours of frustration

  18. Geoff Coffey

    Jason:

    I’ve never had the problem in Windows so I’m not much help there. Is there a file of the same name anywhere? Or perhaps a registry entry?

    Geoff

  19. Mike Fanning

    Thanks for posting this. I was worried that Turbo Engineering had gone bonkers on me for a second there :)

  20. Jack Wrobel

    Thanks for the suggestion Geoff, it worked like a dandy for me, although whenever the file was recreated it would cause filemaker to crash again. All i did was add a folder action to move that file to the trash, so everytime filemaker goes to make a pdf, it gets emptied out.

  21. Hans

    Like Jason ..how about a similar solution in windows?

    We also experienced the same problems for years now – really frustrating.

    It seems to the biggest problem on FMPA 8.5

    Hans

  22. Hans

    Just to add some more information.

    In Windows (here Vista) you can find: C:\Users\Your Name\AppData\Local\Adobe\Fonts\AdobeFnt11.lst (a newer version Acrobat)

    If I delete this file and then create a PDF inside FMPA 8.5, then I can work for a few seconds in FMPA afterwards.

    FMPA freezes when data is committed into the system, the FMPA window turns grey and you see the time-bottle – like if you’re in the middle of a script. Theres no server involved – it just runs locally and the problem occurs every time. I have to stop the FM services and restart the system.

    If I try printing using PDFactory there’s no problems – it’s only when using the “Save as PDF”-command

    Hans

    It mostly shows that the problem is: AppHangB1

  23. Hans

    OOOPS … it seems to work on Windows also

    It seems that I should delete this file:

    C:\Users\Your Name\AppData\Local\Adobe\TypeSpt\AdobeFnt11.lst

    and not (as I wrote earlier):

    C:\Users\Your Name\AppData\Local\Adobe\Fonts\AdobeFnt11.lst

    Note that there’s a difference in the folder name – you will find both folders with same file in it but its only the “TypeSpt”-folder that works.

    To see the Users-folder on Windows you have to eable “Show hidden files and folders”-option in the Folder-Options-Show menu (under Folder settings on a folder)

    Hans

  24. Geoff Coffey

    Hans:

    THANK YOU for hashing this out. I’ve updated the article with the Windows path information.

    Geoff

  25. RIchard

    I have the same problem currently, of the font turning into gobbledygook..very frustrating. have tried deleting the file as per above comments , but it auto populates. Event removed Adobe acrobat form my machine, but it still appears because of the CS4? this is causing massive problems for us..and NOTHING seems to fix it. i have wiped the hard drive and reinstalled all software. the computer is only 2 months old (MACPRO) Auughh! any other ideas guys?
    Rich

  26. Geoff Coffey

    Richard:

    The file will reappear every time you create a PDF from FileMaker. This is a standard component of the Adobe PDF architecture, which is in turn used by FileMaker to create PDFs. So that, in itself, is not a problem. Sometimes, though, you will wind up with a copy of this file that is corrupted, and that causes Filemaker to crash. Deleting the corrupted copy causes a new clean file to be created, fixing the crashing problem.

    But this is only a fix for crashing in FileMaker. I have never seen (or heard about) the problem you describe, so it almost certainly is caused by something else. Are you using an unusual font?

    Geoff

  27. Burrowing Owl

    Muchas gracias! It works!

  28. david

    This procedure didn’t work for me…. but did lead to a solution.

    So I performed a quick hunt for other *.lst files in the subfolders of \Users\YourName\AppData\Local\Adobe\

    I found this one (it comes back after you create your pdf)

    C:\Users\YourName\AppData\Local\Adobe\Acrobat\8.0\Cache\AcroFnt80.lst

    and also this one

    C:\Users\David\AppData\Local\Adobe\Fonts\AdobeFnt11.lst

    Which has also come back, and needs to be deleted before you next are able to create a pdf.

    Note.

    I am trying to print a copy of the relationship table, which I would prefer to output directly to jpg, but that option doesn’t seem to exist anywhere from the relationship tab. For me this is a fiddle as I would like to create, and print, a single chart for each of the databases I have. And then be able to present them together / singularly / joined with others etc. In jpg I can be sure that everyone can see them (and I can trim / edit them as required, publish the graph easily on the local intra-web).

  29. Jessica Reed

    Brilliant!

  30. Julien Mac

    Thanks a lot !!!

  31. Lauren Kuhlman

    Geoff,

    Once again, you rock.

  32. Hildy Essex

    Hi – do you have any suggestion as to what to do if the file you mention isn’t actually there? I’m on Mac OSX.

  33. Michael Maher

    I am having mixed results with this. If it helps to solve it here is my experience.

    I have two layout options – one includes an inserted Word doc, and the other a PNG version of the same.

    Once I deleted all the AdobeFnt11.lst files I could find in the Adobe folder the Word version layout works fine, but the PNG crashes.

    The unfortunate thing is that Word doesn’t reproduce well via ‘Save as PDF’, but does via print to PDF using Distiller. The PNG reproduces well via ‘Save as PDF’ when I test it as a single record save, but crashes FMPA once I use it in the full set save (which is very large).

  34. Ryan Moriarty

    Failed on two machines here.

  35. Shiv

    Hi, I used Filemaker 9 pro to convert the records of a particular layout to pdf on Windows XP. It did fine converting. But during printing the pdf files, it gave out a warning message as ‘the document cannot be printed’. Do you know the reason why I am facing this problem? The pdf files when printed on another machine gives out the same message of being unable to print. The preview when printing shows exactly like how it is. Any solution you can suggest?
    Thanks

  36. Kees de Visser

    Great thread, thanks !
    Another workaround (for me) is to launch Acrobat Reader before saving the pdf in FM. Perhaps AR rewrites the pref. file(s) and fixes the problem?
    I’m using OS 10.4.11 and Adobe CS2 Illustrator/Indesign/Photoshop, so quite a mix of old and more recent Adobe/pdf applications. I’ll investigate further and report here if I find something interesting.

  37. bernd scheurer

    great work! thanks!

  38. Kees de Visser

    For some reason the AdobeFnt08.lst can get corrupt again after a fix.
    Once you have a working file, making it locked (read-only) seems to solve the problem, but I don’t know if there are downsides to this workaround.

  39. Tux

    I’m running into a hang (not a crash) in FMPA 11.0v4 when using the “Save Records as PDF” script step. I’m on an Intel Mac, running 10.6.8 – I get the ‘ol beachball of death and FileMaker starts maxing out the CPU. The only way to stop it is to force quit FileMaker. I’ve tried deleting various Adobe .lst files I found in my library but nothing has worked so far.

    FileMaker has gotta get its printing system fixed. We can’t combine print jobs, PDF export is borked (why would the presence of PDF reader software interfere with FileMaker’s writing of PDFs…?) we don’t even have an easy and quick way to show “Page X of Y” on printed output… all the same problems since I began developing in v8.5 4 years ago. That’s 3 milestone versions of FileMaker with the same bug! Get off your butts and do something about it, FileMaker Inc.!

  40. Sparky

    Similar issue here with FMPA 11.0v4 and 10.6.8 only it crashes. Removing above font did not solve it. My only option appears to be to move to Windows as I’m on a deadline.

  41. Adam Glick

    hi, this issue can STILL OCCUR with Filemaker 14. However, removing the .lst files under OS X 10.9.5 had no effect. What did fix it was using FontBook to validate all fonts and then removal of the ones flagged yellow and red followed by a reboot fixed it. So it could be caused by a corrupt or duplicate font issue. Just wanted to post an update on this as I found this thread when trying to figure out what was going on, and sure enough, found a helpful tip at 6FR.

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