Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Adobe Acrobat Becomes Excessively Disability-Aware

I was using Adobe Acrobat 9 in Windows 7.  Suddenly it developed a sensitivity to diversity issues, particularly in the area of disability.  That is, it started offering accessibility services that I didn't want or need.  One message come up when I printed a .PNG image file to PDF.  As soon as Acrobat opened the PDF, it said this:

This page contains only an image of a scanned page.  There are no text characters.  Would you like to run character analysis to try to make the text on this page accessible?
I clicked the "Do Not Show Again" box and then OK.  The only alternative was Cancel, and I was afraid that would be construed as "please ignore what I just said."  Wrong guess:  it ran OCR on the page, which in this case meant it completely screwed it up.  I printed it again.  This time it didn't ask.  Fortunately, it seemed to be ignoring what I had just instructed it to do (i.e., run OCR without asking):  it didn't run OCR.  Another thing it did, when I printed an HTML page to PDF, was to flash a screen that said this:
Content Preparation Progress

Please wait while document is being prepared for.
At least I think that's what it said.  It flashed by pretty quickly.  It didn't say what the document was being prepared for.  But the result was a crappy-looking PDF.

I guessed that I must have hit a funky key combination that turned on some kind of accessibility feature.  I hadn't started this post when the problem first arose, but something had caused Acrobat's Accessibility Setup Assistant to spring into action.  There didn't seem to be any option to shut it off, at least not on the dialog that popped up.  I ran a search.  In one thread, someone commented that this sort of thing happened only when they had Speech Recognition turned on.  In Acrobat, I went into Edit > Preferences > Accessibility.  I unchecked everything and then printed that HTML page again.  No improvement.  Another person in that thread suggested going to C:\Program files\Adobe\Acrobat 8.0\Acrobat\plug_ins and renaming Accessibility.api to be Accessibility.old.  I tried that.  Now I got a new message:
No Screen Reader Support

This version of the Adobe Reader does not support screen readers.  Information about downloading a version with screen reader support is available at http://www.adobe.com/go/reader_download
Apparently the step of making the Accessibility.api file unavailable was to persuade the system that Acrobat was not available for this purpose, and it should use Adobe Reader instead.  In that case, it sounded like the instructions to use accessibility settings might be coming from Windows, not from Acrobat.  I clicked the "Do not show this message again" box and tried printing the HTML page again.  No, it still displayed the page in Acrobat, not Reader -- which, when I checked in Control Panel > Programs and Features, wasn't even installed on my system.  I decided that renaming Accessibility.api to be Accessibility.old had not solved the problem, so I changed it back.  I did take a look, nonetheless, at Control Panel > Ease of Access Center (formerly Accessibility).  I went into the "Make the computer easier to see" option.  The only thing turned on there was the first option, "Turn on or off High Contrast when ALT + left SHIFT + PRINT SCREEN is pressed."  I turned that off, clicked Apply, and tried printing the HTML page again.  No, still got lousy output.

I couldn't see anything else obviously wrong in the Ease of Access center, so I went back to that discussion thread for more ideas.  But there weren't any.  A How-To Geek webpage gave me the idea that maybe the full message (above) was, "Please wait while the document is being prepared for reading."  This page said that renaming or removing Accessibility.api would kill that "Please wait" message.  And that might have been true; I hadn't looked specifically at that part.  But that wasn't my main objection. My main objection was that I was getting crappy PDFs.  And when I put it that way, I realized that it might be a problem with the PDF printer.  I was using Bullzip.  Was there an option that had gotten set wrong somehow?  In Bullzip's Options > Image tab, the resolution was set to only 150.  Was that 150 dots per inch?  If so, that could explain part of the problem.  I set it to 300 and tried again.  No change.

Participants in another thread, describing similar problems, seemed to say that the problem arose, for them, when they used Acrobat's speech tools.  I wasn't familiar with them, but thought I might take a look.  I went into Acrobat with no document open.  In Advanced > Accessibility, the only option that wasn't grayed out was Setup Assistant.  I went in there and selected "Set all accessibility options" > Next.  This seemed to be taking me through the same options that I could have gotten via Edit > Preferences.  I noticed that "Disable text smoothing" was checked, so I unchecked it; text smoothing sounded good.  In the next screen, I left it as I found it, with only one thing selected, "Infer reading order from document."  In the screen after that, the only thing selected was, again, the default, "For large documents, only read the currently visible pages."  In the screen after that, "Disable document auto-save" had somehow gotten checked.  I wanted auto-save, so I unchecked it.  Evidently the funky key that I had accidentally hit, whatever it was, had told Acrobat that I had some kind of disability, and therefore it launched into a whole menu of disability assumptions.  Anyway, the only thing I left checked on that page was "Reopen documents to the last viewed page."  By this point, I was seeing that, yes, I could have achieved these same changes by going into Edit > Preferences, but the one-size-fits-all disability assumption seemed to cherry-pick options from a variety of different Preferences submenus.  This seemed to be a better way of detecting what it had messed up.

Anyway, that was the last screen.  I clicked Done, and tried printing my HTML document again.  This time it was better.  The font looked good.  So part of the solution was to go through the Accessibility Setup Assistant and reverse some of its settings.  I was still getting that message, "Please wait while document is being prepared for."  I renamed Accessibility.api to be Accessibility.old again and reprinted the HTML document.  No more "prepared for" message.  So the other part of the solution was to kill Accessibility.api.  Ah, but now I had a new problem.  When I tried to go into Edit > Preferences, I got an error:  "Failed to load an application resource (internal error)."  I restarted Acrobat and tried again.  Same error.  Apparently it couldn't go on living without its Accessibility.api.  I renamed Accessibility.old back to Accessibility.api and tried again.  Yes, now I could go into Preferences.  So it seemed I might have to cope with that "document is being prepared for" message.

One poster in that thread seemed to say that, if Microsoft Magnify was turned on when Acrobat started, Acrobat would detect it and would assume that the user had a disability.  This was an interesting possibility.  Was Acrobat detecting some running program and inferring disability from that?  I went into Start > Run > taskmgr.exe > Applications tab and took a look.  Nothing obvious.  Well, the Ease of Access Center was open.  I closed that and tried printing my HTML page.  Nope, that wasn't the answer; I still had the problem.  I right-clicked on an empty spot on the Taskbar and went into Taskbar tab > Customize.  I looked at the System Tray utilities shown there.  A couple of possibilities but, again, nothing obvious.  There was a troublesome utility that I'd had a hard time deleting, DropCommand, but I was able to delete it now.  I doubted it was the problem.

I rebooted into Safe Mode, thinking this would tend to simplify the picture somewhat:  fewer programs would be loaded and running.  Instead, Safe Mode gave me a new cluster.  No PDF printers installed.  I didn't know that about Safe Mode.  I tried installing Bullzip, but got an error when I got to the part of installing the Ghostscript part:  "Unable to register the DLL/OCX:  RegSvr32 failed with exit code 0x5."  I started Acrobat, but within a few seconds I got an error message there too:
Licensing for this product has stopped working

You cannot use this product at this time.  You must repair the problem by uninstalling and then reinstalling the product or contacting your IT administrator or Adobe customer support for help.
So, OK, at least this gave me an opportunity to reboot.  Back in Normal Mode, thankfully, I did not get a licensing error message.  So then, to return to the question:  what programs might be running that would trigger a belief, in Acrobat, that I needed a bunch of disability options to be installed without asking me?

I wasn't sure how to get an answer to that, short of a potentially very time-consuming process of eliminating programs, one by one, and rebooting, and seeing what happened.  This was problematic now because, for some reason, when I tried to print my HTML page, I didn't have any problems.  So it seemed that I might have fixed the symptoms, at least.

Instead, a day or two later, there were new developments.  Now Acrobat's toolbars were no longer functioning properly.  They had been erratic in Acrobat 8; less so in Acrobat 9; but now the Crop option was gone, and other toolbar settings would be disregarded.  I tried a repair:  Control Panel > Progams and Features > select Adobe Acrobat > Uninstall/Change > Repair.  This repair called for a reboot.  I'm not sure how that turned out; my notes are weak at this point.

I also had another problem.  When I opened a newly downloaded PDF, I got this message:
Reading Untagged Document

This 133-page document is untagged and must be prepared for reading.  While the document is being analyzed, your assistive technology will not be able to interact wiht this application.
I canceled out of that and went through the steps I had figured out so far:  change things back the way I wanted them in Advanced > Accessibility > Setup Assistant.  Then I reopened the PDF.  Still got that same "Reading Untagged Document" dialog.  I had that DropCommand program installed on that machine too, so I deleted it.  There wasn't an uninstall option that I could see.  As on the other machine, I had to move the executable to the Recycle Bin folder and then delete it after a reboot.  A couple of days passed before I did that reboot.  The problem was still there.

This problem was one of several, along with some major hardware changes, that prompted me to give up and reinstall Windows 7.  My best guess was that this problem was related to a sticky Shift key problem, and that several such issues ultimately stemmed from a failing KVM switch.



A search led to an Adobe webpage that offered several fixes. I tried Edit > Preferences > Reading > uncheck "Confirm before tagging documents."


Regarding the Acrobat message, "Licensing for this product has stopped working," in my case the solution was that FlexNet Licensing Service was disabled in Start > Run > msconfig. I had to enable it there; then I ran services.msc, changed the two FlexNet entries to Automatic, and clicked Start for each.