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Google Drive Bug

There is a possible bug in Google Drive for Android Devices that may affect portions of this web site. We have not tested the impact on iOS devices.

This does not affect web site visitors using a computer.

If you are having any problems opening PDF files from our web site, please take note of the following.

If you are getting the message "Cannot Display PDF" (or something similar, it may vary by phone model, browser, and version), you may have run into a possible bug. The workaround we recommend is to open the link to the PDF file in a New Tab; however, don't use the Incognito Tab or Private Tab options, as those may not work. Further details are below.

If this solves your problem, and you're not interested in any more technical details, stop reading now!

We believe this problem is due to a bug in Google Drive for Android, which includes a PDF viewing app. On many modern phones Google's PDF viewing app is the only one installed that serves in this role. It's part of the main Google Drive app that's in very common use. Even if you are not actively using Google Drive itself for your Google Account, the Google Drive app may be pre-installed on your phone by the manufacturer, and therefore it's taking care of displaying PDF files for you.

We discovered this problem on March 16, 2016 using a stock Samsung Note 5 (Verizon). Google Drive was up to date, i.e. there was no further update available as of this date. The internal version is # 2.3.583.20.40 dated February 23, 2016. On another phone, a stock HTC Desire Eye (AT&T), we updated Google Drive to this exact same version, and it had the exact same problem.

We found this problem applied regardless as to whether Google Chrome or another browser was used.

Un-installing all updates to Google Drive solved the problem since that reverts to an older version, but we do not recommend rolling back to older versions of Google Drive unless you know what you are doing. You may expose yourself to other bugs more serious than this minor annoyance!

If you have another PDF viewer installed, and don't have Google Drive, you may not have this problem. If you have Google Drive and another PDF viewer installed, you may only experience this problem if your phone's browser is configured to use the Google Drive PDF viewer. If it's configured to use the other viewer, you may not have this problem. We haven't tested any other viewers, so YMMV.

To open in a new tab in Google Chrome, do the following:

  • Press and hold your finger on the file link found above until a box pops up with some options.
  • Choose the option to Open in a New Tab.
  • Switch to that new tab unless your mobile browser already did that for you automatically.
  • If it asks "Do You Want to Replace" (or something similar) say OK, Yes, Replace, or whatever makes sense in your specific case. There may also be an option to Create a new file, but it's really not necessary to have duplicate copies of the same exact file!
  • You should get a message box indicating the file was downloaded, and that should include a button to open the file. NB: This box may disappear within a few seconds; if that happens, just go back to the first step and repeat.
  • Click the button, and the PDF will open in your phone's preferred PDF viewer. If there is more than one, it might ask which to use; that's your choice.
  • If the PDF doesn't open, then you might not have a working PDF viewer. Solving that is beyond the scope of what we can explain here.

For other browsers we recommend the same first two steps, since that seems to avoid the bug. The details after that point may vary. For example, some browsers will not pop-up a button to open the downloaded file, but there will be a notification on your home screen that you need to look at outside the browser. Opening and clicking that will open the PDF.

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