Notes / Help

Here are the most common problems or questions encountered with GDE, and some suggested solutions:

I get an error message from GDE

GDE error messages are plain text and prefixed with “GDE Error:” (or equivalent in your language), so it’s easier to identify them. They show up on your page where the GDE shortcode was entered, either printed on the page (default) or in HTML comments (an option on the Advanced tab). For the most part these messages should be self-explanatory, but here are some reasons why they may appear:

  • Your shortcode syntax is incorrect. The file= attribute is REQUIRED, and should be either a fully qualified URL or a path to append to the File Base URL setting in your default (or selected) profile.
  • The document can’t be found. GDE attempts to validate the URL before loading, to reduce errors and capture useful data used for the generated download links. In rare cases, GDE’s URL validation may not work with your specific environment. In this case, you can turn off this function in Advanced Settings.
  • Your document isn’t a supported file type. The file you’re embedding must end in the extension of one of the currently supported file types. If you use a shortened URL or cloud service (including Google Drive) that removes this extension, GDE will not handle this. You’ll have to turn off GDE’s error checking as above and test to see if the document works. The plugin uses Google Viewer in a standalone fashion so it must be provided a file saved in its native format (PDF, Word, etc.) rather than a cloud-based format.
  • Your document is too large. Very large documents often fail to load using this viewer because of the amount of transfer involved. This limit varies somewhat by server but is usually in the range of 8-12MB. Many source documents can be optimized for web use (lower resolution, optimized images, etc.) which can alleviate this issue. If your document goes over the maximum file size (set in Advanced Settings), the viewer won’t embed, but the download link (if selected) will still be included.

I get an error message inside the viewer window

If the viewer loads and an error message is displayed inside the viewer frame, the document passed GDE file validation (or you’ve turned it off) but Google is still having a problem loading or converting the document, or your browser isn’t configured correctly. This isn’t an exhaustive list of all the errors you might receive, but here are some more common ones:

  • “Sorry, we are unable to generate a view of the document…” This means either the URL is incorrect, or it’s unreachable by Google. While the plugin works when installed on localhost, behind a firewall, on an intranet, or in password-protected directories, the document you’re embedding must be publicly available on the internet (not access-restricted). This is the only way Google will be able to fetch the file for conversion and display in the viewer. If you’ve validated both of these, this error may be momentary based on internet traffic or routing issues.
  • “Sorry, it took too long to find the document at the original source…” Size matters when it comes to the embedded document. Extremely large PDF files in particular are going to time out before being rendered. You should optimize your source documents for web use before attempting to use this plugin. If your file size is relatively small (less than around 8 MB), again this could be caused by momentary internet load or a slow/overloaded server holding the source document. You can try hosting your file on a more responsive server – for example, on Dropbox.
  • “This content cannot be displayed in a frame” This error is generally specific to Internet Explorer and has two possible causes. The most likely explanation is that your browser has unusual browser security settings. I would recommend you try resetting your security settings to defaults (varies by version but all essentially the same). You may also have to turn off Protected Mode which is enabled by default on some systems. If you’re seeing this error (or a version of it) outside Internet Explorer, you may have a server-level setting that is preventing your content from being framed. Contact your web host for assistance.

My document won’t display in xyz browser

Far and away the most common problem reported with GDE is that it works in browsers 1 & 2 but not 3 (which one varies). This is almost always due to browser caching issues. Before reporting this issue I recommend that you clear your browser cache/temporary internet files. Be advised that modern browsers make this extremely difficult as there are multiple kinds of cache and advanced options on what kind and how much to clear, and what to exclude. The easiest way to test for a browser cache issue may be to try it in the same browser where you’re seeing the problem from another computer that you haven’t used for development. Unfortunately, failure to do this leads me to respond to most support requests with the hated words “it works for me.”

While I can’t give specific instructions for proper cache clearing for every browser and version out there, in general you will want to completely clear the “normal” cache, and be sure to clear cookies or “active logins” related to your web site and Google.

Only the download link displays (no viewer)

There are currently only a few special situations in which GDE will display the download link and not either the viewer or an error message:

  • Your document is too large – specifically, larger than the “max file size” setting on the “Advanced” tab in GDE Settings. Compress/optimize your document for web use, split it into multiple documents, or try raising the “max file size” setting (though this setting exists for a reason and it may not work, even so, if that’s the case).
  • Your local computer is having a problem displaying the viewer because of browser cache or Google cookies that are in a corrupted or conflicted state. See the previous question for more information about this latter problem as they are one in the same.
  • Recent browser updates (notably Firefox 23 and higher) have implemented “mixed content blocking.” Make sure that if you’re loading GDE on a secure page (SSL, https://…) the document you’re embedding must by default also be loaded via SSL, or the browser may block it.

The shortcode displays instead of the viewer

Under normal circumstances, no plugin’s shortcode should be displayed on your WordPress site outside of the editor. If you’re seeing the shortcode on your page, one of the following may be to blame:

  • The plugin is not properly installed or activated in your plugin list
  • Your shortcode has bad syntax, such as double brackets ([[...]]) or HTML embedded in it. Please use the Text tab (rather than the visual editor) to ensure there is no hidden code embedded in your shortcode.
  • Another plugin or theme function is interfering with plugin or shortcode operation in general (probably not GDE specifically)
  • You are trying to use the shortcode in a widget or template, etc. (outside of the WordPress “Loop”). If you want to do this, take a look at the do_shortcode command.
  • Something about the theme you are using fundamentally breaks shortcode functionality in WordPress. Try temporarily switching to another theme to see if the problem can be isolated to the specific theme you’re using.

The viewer is the wrong height

While GDE supports width and height settings in either pixels or percentage, it’s important to realize that in CSS, a height set to a percentage means that the element will be that percentage of the height of its parent div, not of itself. Meaning, setting height="100%" in your profile or shortcode will not make the viewer the height of the entire contents of a page in the viewer, but the full height of the parent element (usually the content block of the page itself). Since most often the content block of a page does not have an explicit height set – it’s supposed to get taller or shorter based on the actual content on the page – CSS then does not know what height to use. Effectively it asks, “100% of what?” and will give you the default height, which is the minimum possible given the contents.

The short answer here is that height="100%" does not work the way you might expect it to, because of the way CSS works. Either the parent div has to have an explicit height, or you should consider setting the height to a pixel value instead.

The viewer asks me to log in to my Google account

It is not necessary to have a Google account, or to be logged in to it if you have one, in order to view documents with GDE. However, Google in its infinite wisdom has added a third state of authentication (besides “logged in” and “logged out”) which, for lack of a better term, means “logged in – but only kinda.” Occasionally this “stale” (timed out, or otherwise conflicting) Google login will cause problems. This may result in an error message or a login screen in the viewer area. You should completely log in or completely log out of your Google account in this event.

The viewer loads my document(s) very slowly

As noted above, this is usually caused by poorly web-optimized (or not optimized at all) source documents, or slow/overloaded servers hosting the source document. It can also be a side effect of extremely long documents even if the file size is relatively small, because each page is being individually rendered as an image. If you find this load time to be unacceptable in your environment, use the Standard Viewer option if possible as this will always load the fastest. Otherwise, use an Enhanced Viewer profile that does not enable features you’re not intending to use.

The document is loading but doesn’t look right

GDE embeds the Google Viewer service, with some additional features. As such it inherits the same quirks and limitations of that service. Most documents will display very well; however, if you find your text appears shadowy or illegible, or certain images or blocks of text do not appear, try experimenting with your PDF creation techniques. All PDF creation software is different, but for example people using Photoshop have found that using the “smallest file size” preset, and adjusting the image quality setting as necessary, helped their documents load correctly.

There are sometimes other issues with Google’s document display that can be considered bugs. I keep important announcements about these at the top of the GDE home page, but here is a full list of currently known issues.

Please note that GDE works to avoid the necessity of browser plugins by using Google’s viewer service to convert it to flat images. As such, certain features such as form fields in PDFs or animations in PowerPoints are not supported.

I want to translate GDE into my own language

GDE is fully localizable and a .POT file is included in the distribution to get you started. I strongly welcome any new language additions or corrections to existing translations. Please send your translation or request for help with this to me using the email address found in the GPL statement near the top of the file gviewer.php.

I have some other question or problem and need help

The plugin is free and I do my best to provide timely free support. The preferred support contact is the Support tab in GDE Settings, as this asks for specific information that helps me assist you with your particular document or environment. I also monitor the support forum for GDE on the WordPress Plugin Repository and emails sent to the address in the GPL statement near the top of the file gviewer.php.