Printing PowerPoint Handouts to PDF and Retaining Hyperlinks

I have to make a web and a print version of my PowerPoint presentations, which go into a student book. For the PowerPoint presentations, I prefer to use a 2-page handout format. This saves a lot of paper, and 2 slides per page is fine for classroom handouts. Since both the print and web versions are a .pdf file, I’d like to simply have one .pdf that is optimized differently for the different versions.

The Problem:
When I chose to Save as PDF, my .pdfs printed a black background on all of the .png images I used. I had to make 2 versions of my book with 2 different sets of settings. For last minute changes, now I’m changing at least three different files (the presentation, the web version, and the print version)!

Other things that I didn’t want or didn’t work:

  • Saving each slide as one page (I want the 2-page handout) offered solutions, but it doubled my print job
  • Printing to .pdf wont retain hyperlinks, so I needed to store/fix 2 different output versions of my presentations

The Reason:

I finally discovered that the problem was arising only when I had “ISO 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A)” selected under the PDF Options. Deselecting that option causes the image to be displayed correctly.

It turns out that transparency in objects is not allowed in “ISO 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A)” formatted documents, so by setting it to be ISO compliant, it will automatically add a background color to images with transparencies.

Transparency is forbidden in “ISO 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A)” formatted documents, so the transparent portions of .png and .tif files are filled in. 

You can read about other restrictions of PDF/A files on its wiki page:

The Fix:
To fix, simply deselect the ISO 19005-1 option when saving your PowerPoint as a PDF. The .png images will display correctly. Here’s how:

  1. File > Save As PDF
  2. Click Options button
  3. In PDF Options (bottom), uncheck “ISO 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A)”


I’ve been searching for this answer for years, and I finally found it on another forum.


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