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cmount
Community Member

Canvas DocViewer Arbitrarily Changes Fonts and Formatting, Rendering it Useless

Ever since Canvas moved over to DocViewer, the system randomly renders Word Documents, arbitrarily shifting the fonts, line-spacing, and other formatting. This makes the Speedgrader app completely incapable of use for assessing things like document formatting. If I have to download every file just to look at them on my computer, then why should I even bother to use the Canvas application at all?

This is unacceptable, especially for classes like college research writing classes that teach MLA and APA formatting. Whatever you did to "fix" the document reading rendered it useless. I've attached a side-by-side screencapture of the original document and how it appears on Canvas DocViewer (with student identifying information blurred out). As you can see, the fonts have been shifted from Times New Roman to DejaVu Serif, which has created formatting problems in the Works Cited later on in this document, artificially lengthened the paper by 2 pages.

This is not a feature request. This is a Bug Report. Please don't treat it like it's my problem, because it is definitely Canvas' problem, as I've been using Canvas for four years without issue until the recent switch to DocViewer. Please fix it ASAP.

252687_Capture.PNG

74 Replies
nancy_lachance
Community Contributor

I received the same issue today. When I investigated, it appeared that the students whose paper displayed incorrectly used manual paragraphing and spacing options in Word rather than using the appropriate tools (like paragraph tools, page breaks, etc.)  By viewing the document with hidden formatting options displayed, I could see where they went wrong.

 

That is part of the problem, I'm sure, but it doesn't address the font changes, or the fact that the system renders the document in a completely different fashion. I will still have to download all the papers individually to see if the formatting problems are things the students have done or if the renderer has made the errors. Again, this is a new problem, and I still don't quite understand why it was decided to arbitrarily change formatting from what was uploaded.

kgroth
New Member

I also received a concern for a similar issue.  The student was marked down for formatting issues, but the download displayed correctly.  There were not Word conventions (i.e. a hard page break at the end of the document to create a separate References page) but the document went from 5 pages in Word to 6 pages in Docviewer and the font appears to be bigger than the student's original paper.  (I hope you can see the font changes in the views below).bug report doc viewer 

Paper in WordSame paper in Docviewer

I submitted a formal error report to Canvas.  I will keep you posted.

I did not find my response from the Support team very helpful (see below).  I strongly recommend you submit tickets so that this issue can be addressed. (Please note: the original file was in MS Word).

Thank you for the follow up information.  Looking into this issue, it does seem that there are minor formatting differences between what I can see in docviewer and Google Docs. Unfortunately these discrepancies are caused when files are formatted documents made from one program and uploaded to another, as there are inevitably differences in the formatting; which is due to different programs simply being built around different code. This is true for all programs; not just with the Canvas Docviewer; and some formatting changes are expected in order for the preview to display. I also tested uploading these files in the older Crocodoc file previewer, and saw the similar discrepencies. As this is the case, when exact formatting stipulations are in play; I’d advise downloading the files.

cmount
Community Member

Well, that's less than helpful. And the bit about Crocodoc is a flat-out lie. It never changed the font or added extra spacing, or any of the other issues discussed here. The rendering deliberately changes formatting settings and this is the first time this has happened since our college adopted Canvas. It is specifically a problem with the implementation of DocViewer.

If I could figure out how to submit a formal ticket, I would, but either I don't have the permissions to do so, or else I just can't find where inside Canvas they're listed. (EDIT: It appears my college has removed Report a Problem from the help links, so I can't submit an official ticket.)

If it is enabled for your college, you can go to the help icon and select Report A Problem.  This will send a support ticket.

I just submitted a ticket for this. I see exactly the same thing--very different font, line breaks and page breaks that differ from the original.  

254731_pastedImage_1.png

Update: Canvas opened a ticket with their Engineers and are working towards a resolution.

cmount
Community Member

Thank you. That's promising.

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Same issues here! Students are getting very frustrated losing points for formatting that they did correctly. 

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Jeff_F
Community Champion

Me too, me too!    That is, I also noted a formatting issue.  In fact, last night I was reviewing a submission posted in Word and thought the font was incorrect in the DocViewer.  Upon downloading the Word file, I found the font was in fact Times New Roman, however looked more like Comic Sans in the DocViewer.  Just kidding - it wasn't that drastic but it surely didn't look like Times New Roman in the DocViewer.     

Also, this morning I noted a document had the sources misaligned in the references section.  Much like what appears above.  

curtain
Community Participant

We have an example also that I have filed as a support ticket.  We have a faculty promotion and tenure process that uses a Canvas course.  Faculty must upload Word docs and some have formatting and length limit requirements.  In this case, the doc can be no more than one page.  But after display in DocViewer, it expands to 2 pages as you can see here:

254601_Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 11.00.58 AM.png

We have a rash of emails from faculty who are seeking tenure who now want to know why there carefully formatted one page doc (with a one page requirement) is showing up as two pages!

tellison
Community Contributor

I just had a faculty member walk in an report the same problem with viewing an excel document.  I have had students email me to say that they knew how to do the citation I require but when they uploaded the view is off.

Thank you for posting and working this up to the engineers.

erinhmcmillan
Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

Hello, the font rendering behavior should be resolved. If you have existing documents that aren't rendering correctly, let our support team know and they can re-render them for you. But new documents should not be seeing changes in font.

Thanks,

Erin

Thank you Erin. I will follow up if I see any other problems.

Thank you Erin. For clarification, does this also include the formatting and skewing of text? Or just Microsoft-owned fonts changing?

sipej1
Community Member

I did some testing and it looks like all is fixed. Thanks

Jamie

saltman
Community Participant

I haven't found everything fixed for me.  I copy and paste my documents into grammarly, and the paragraph breaks (and sometimes line breaks) don't transfer when copied and pasted.  I have to go into grammarly and manually re-enter the breaks.  I understand that this is a slightly different issue.  But it is still a formatting issue.

Hi Erin - we have recently reported this issue, last week, and again this week, and it looks like there are continuing problems with Formatting that need resolved - do you any further information on this ?

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Hi, Larry,

Currently our support team is tracking user reports with formatting discrepancies so we can work on a list of supported fonts for document parity. As you reemphasized, the more cases we get that show different types of files actively being used and submitted, the quicker our teams can make a resolution. DocViewer is a previewing tool and cannot support all formats and fonts, though we'd like to give you as much flexibility as possible with supported previews. 

Even if the preview is not completely accurate, you can still download the file and view it in your word processing software. Or, you can use the workaround you already mentioned, which is to submit PDF files.

I can check with our teams tomorrow to see if any additional progress has been made. If I have any notable updates I'll include them here.

Thanks!

Erin

hallmans
Community Contributor

We had reports of this over the weekend- final papers for the mod with strict page limits and the students were all showing going over the limit in Speedgrader

lauren_bates
New Member

I just want to jump in here and add that I have had the same problem. It is very frustrating when I am trying to grade students' APA formatting in Canvas and it is consistently messing up their formatting. Please fix this!

erinhmcmillan
Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

Hi, all,

Just a reminder that submitting a support case to show our teams what exactly you're experiencing helps us triage more quickly and resolve this behavior for you. We do want to help and don't want you all to be frustrated, and specifics definitely help speed things up.

Thank you!

Erin

kellyah
New Member

I just submitted another support request. It looks like Garamond in MS Word gets rendered to Courier or Linotype.

257313_pastedImage_1.png

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larry_kirk
New Member

I have registered a Ticket for this, and asked for priority being given to a fix. There can be severe formatting issues due to this, and the more Tickets raised, the more attention will be paid to getting it fixed quickly, so I would encourage that approach, as already suggested here. For some areas, where there are severe issues, we are working round the issue by only submitting PDFs. In fact, if there is no satisfactory update from Canvas, we may have to adopt this approach for all submissions. 

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hansardc
Community Participant

Does anyone know if submitting as a PDF yields the same problems? We have reported this several times and each time, Canvas Support closes the ticket telling us that it has been fixed. I do not believe it is.

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Hi, Carey,

There are still some behaviors regarding annotations in PDFs when downloaded, but I don't see any current tickets related to display rendering with PDFs in general. The previous update didn't specifically relate to PDFs, but just to special characters, which I think is part of your concern. That behavior has only been corrected for future submissions; older one may still display the previous characters unless they are re-rendered by our next level of support (or the student can resubmit the file).

Does that information help at all?

Erin

j_smulders
New Member

Having the same problem, but rendering here is completely different: a 9 page document ends up as 26 in speedreader...259754_Knipsel.JPG

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agb16a
New Member

We are having the same problem as well. Just submitted a ticket yesterday! You can see on the left the docviewer and on the right the original word document the student submitted. Not only to did change the format of the header, but also the number of pages. It also moved up the student's reference page to the same page as other text. 

259735_pastedImage_1.png259760_pastedImage_2.png

259761_pastedImage_3.png 259762_pastedImage_4.png

lukeprather
Community Member

We are also currently experiencing formatting/rendering issues with word documents. Reports from faculty include changes in text formatting and spacing as others have mentioned, but also malformed tables, charts, and other graphical items such as shapes and smartart.

260066_Canvas corruption.PNG

I was told this was a critical bug that's being worked on, but that is as much of a status as I'm aware of. Does anyone know if there is any official documentation that I can point our faculty towards? I don't see this listed on the known issues page in canvas labs.  I'm not huge on creating a secondary known issues page for our campus, but I believe this problem is big enough to warrant some proactive communication.  

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Hi, Luke,

Although our teams are trying to figure out why this is happening, the number of issues that are truly affecting the majority of Canvas institutions and get put on the Known Issues list is actually pretty low. The best workaround we have right now is to have students submit PDF files instead of native files for submissions, which is a good thing to communicate to your campus.

For everyone else reading this, the best thing to keep doing (if you haven't already) is submit a case to Canvas support so that our teams can more accurately know how many people are being affected and can view actual files that you're trying to generate to help with triaging. While the community is an amazingly helpful resource that we all love, support cases help our product and engineering teams with prioritization and give them specific information to help properly triage and replicate what you're seeing.

We're sorry you're experiencing this behavior and our engineering team is working to find a solution as quickly as they can.

Erin

jfahs
Community Contributor

Hi Erin,

We are experiencing the same sporadic issue. The case number for your reference is 02619907. I just received another and will also submit that to Canvas support.  

Joe

jfahs
Community Contributor

Hi Erin,

The second case is 02623301. In this instance it appears to be the text layout. 

Joe Fahs (11-20-17)

cmount
Community Member

The problem with document formatting has come back. Sometime between last week and today Canvas has either reverted to a previous build or reintroduced its problems with a new build. All fonts in Word docs are being re-rendered into DejaVu. Serifs (Cambria, Times New Roman) are in DejaVu Serif, and sans (Arial, Calibri) are in DejaVu Sans. I'm not sure why DocViewer has been programmed to render fonts differently from the ones submitted, but it was either a bad decision or a bad omission.

I can't submit a ticket, because my college has removed that functionality (and that's a completely unrelated issue that I disagree with Canvas on. If Canvas wants end users to submit official bug reports, then it shouldn't allow administrators to remove that functionality.).

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jfahs
Community Contributor

 @cmount   and erinhallmark ,

Likewise, we have encountered a re-occurrence of DocViewer incorrectly formatting Word documents during the same time frame (early to mid-November). We submitted a case on November 20 that has been placed on hold. As of today (November 29) the issue is still occurring so I opened a new case with examples. 

The instructor does not want to require students to submit as PDF and is currently opening the original Word submission side-by-side with the DocViewer layout to determining if APA formatting is correct. Obviously a time-consuming process for the instructor. 

Joe Fahs (11-29-17)

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Hi, Joe,

Cases are put on hold when they're pending on the engineering side of things. Engineering is still working on triaging the behavior, which is why you haven't seen any changes yet. We do apologize for the trouble, and our team is trying to review all the cases that have come in as quickly as they can to find a solution. When an update is available, your support case will be updated and information sent to you right away.

Thank you!

Erin

jfahs
Community Contributor

Erin,

Thanks for the update.

Joe

erinhallmark‌  Any updates from Engineering on this issue? It is a real killer at end of term when tons of instructors are trying to grade final projects and papers.

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