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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.


74 Replies

Erin, could you update this thread as well with any changes? In our case, I know some of our staff have opened cases, but I haven't been copied.  Thanks - Ira

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Hi, Ira,

Sure. The team is still working on this though. Smiley Happy



Erin, thanks for the update. Could a notification be added to SpeedGrader, maybe to the right of the Settings gear, noting that formatting should be checked within the original document?  It's also been noted that who knows what change Microsoft will make next to Word that again throws off DocViewer. Thanks - Ira

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Hi, Ira,

If needed our product team does consider making updates directly in the UI, but I'm sure that they'd rather figure out why this behavior is happening first. Smiley Happy We'll continue to keep you posted.



hi erinhallmark!

Any update on this issue?


Hi, James,

We apologize that you're still experiencing this behavior. The team has been able to start triaging why the fonts are rendering incorrectly; they're also aware of this discussion thread and want to get this resolved as quickly as they can for you! Currently this is the team's top priority and they provide us with weekly updates. When we have something notable we'll be absolutely sure to let you know.

Thank you!


Community Contributor

Hi Erin,

DocViewer's new pagination format and the addition of next-previous buttons is welcome news! Does the addition of pagination links mean that the engineering team has made progress with the page formatting issues described in this discussion page?

I opened a previous submission (from last semester) that had pagination issues with the updated DocViewer. Formatting now matches that of the original Word submission in this one tested instance. The only caveat is that marked annotations (e.g. highlights) have been shifted accordingly. 


Same good news to report on my end: my current batch of papers is all rendering correctly now in DocViewer, which it wasn't doing as recently as last week (and all of last semester). Looks like the engineering team finally solved the problem!

Hi, Joe,

They are working on it. They made a change that affects the back end mostly for testing, but they haven't officially marked the problem as solved yet. Smiley Happy I have another update with the team today and will find out more then about their progress.


Community Contributor

We are now receiving reports of this issue as our faculty try to grade final papers. I have opened a ticket with support [02641374].

Pictures, because they can say more than I can on this issue.


New semester, same issue and to be honest, our faculty (and students) are not amused.

The workarounds are not the best either.

  1. Have the students PDF the document. Well, depending on the program a student is using the PDF processes may not work the same way for each student.
  2. Have the teacher download the submissions...  it renders the SpeedGrader useless, as well as a rubric if a rubric is being used. Especially if you have a large class (and I will let you define how many is too many to download).
  3. Let's not even mention the teachers who are using the SpeedGrader/Teacher App to grade.

What I'm realizing is that Students expect that what they submit is how the Teacher is going to see it; while Teachers expect that what they are viewing is how a Student submitted it. And unfortunately this is not the case.

Just indicating my strong agreement. This is just not acceptable and makes grading in SpeedGrader a major problem for all.

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New Member

Same issue here: fonts are changed and enlarged in DocViewer, 6-page papers become 7-page papers, and I have to manually download them to check for length. Please fix!

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New Member

I have the same issue here. Word .docx submitted for APA format and DocViewer is messing them up. I would think this is standard...12 point Times New Roman, standard margins, simple headers, etc.

I will submit a ticket.

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New Member

I'm experiencing this issue as well. Essay assignments generally include length requirements. Those requirements generally specify a minimum and maximum number of pages. When font and spacing change, pagination changes as well. This makes evaluating the length of my students' essay difficult, if not impossible, unless I download the documents and load them in a different viewer -- which entirely defeats the purpose of using the document viewer.

This problem may seem small to Canvas' staff, but it's quite serious. For me, it makes the speedgrader unusable. This needs to be fixed.

New Member

We have the same issues as mentioned. A ticket has been raised. There are strict formatting rules at almost all higher education institution and Speedgrader is one of the biggest selling points of Canvas. Anything affecting grading should be a top priority in the fix list.

I agree. Our nursing institution is in revolt and demanding we look for a better alternative. And Speed Grader WAS the better alternative and one of the major reasons we moved to Canvas. This is very disappointing for all.

New Member

As we are just about to break for Christmas, I've sent Santa a note asking him to sort this out. I've been really good this year so fingers crossed he'll come up with the perfect solution... although I suspect the ones below might be his priority 262863_santa fonts.PNG

Community Member

People need to remember that DocViewer is a previewing tool. It is NOT Microsoft Word.

I have been teaching Microsoft Word since 2008, and I can tell you that even Word itself displays/renders the same file differently on different computers. Sometimes it has to do with the default printer that is connected to the individual machine. Other times, it has to do with how the planets are aligned ;-). Try it – open the same Word document on two different computers and compare them side by side. Or try opening the same document in Word and in Word Online on the same computer – they often render differently.

If exact rendering of a document is required, the only solution is to print the document to sheets of paper via a printer. If a digital copy is required, then scan those physical pieces of paper and submit as a .JPG or .PNG (if one page) or a .PDF (if multiple pages).

While I do somewhat agree with a lot of what you said, I think a lot of the anger/frustration from faculty and admins comes from the fact that the Box previewer really never had this kind of behavior (at least that I can recall).  Opening a word doc on two different computers can definitely cause it to render slightly differently, but most of those changes are minor compared to some of the issues I've directly seen in DocViewer myself.  We had one document that was 13 pages in Word, but DocViewer increased it to 18 pages, throwing all kinds of extra spaces all over the place, messing up indentations, etc.

If Canvas had come with DocViewer years ago and this was always an issue, perhaps people wouldn't be as upset about it, and would have advised a workaround to require students to submit a PDF or something.  When something like SpeedGrader worked well for 4 years and then has a pretty sudden regression in basic functionality (like properly rendering a document preview), that's not a good thing.  I understand the removal of the Box was due to their change in functionality and licensing, but with such an essential part of LMS functionality, I think most of us just want the problem to be fixed and don't so much care about the cause at this point.  I'm sure this is being worked on behind the scenes at Instructure, but DocViewer has been released for quite awhile now, and it's disappointing this behavior still exists.

This isn't a matter of minor differences. Look at the image capture I provided. This is the matter of a complete re-rendering, font and line-spacing shifts, and the choices seem arbitrary. The functionality has regressed from what it used to be. It was once useful. Now it is not. DocViewer is clearly inferior to Crocodoc/Box, which experienced none of the issues now plaguing DocViewer.

Canvas wants us to use their commenting functions (highlights, point annotations, block annotations) etc, but if I have to download the document anyway, then I'll just use Word's integrated Comment and Track Changes functions instead. I'd prefer not having to take the extra steps, but since Canvas has chosen to use an inferior product from what used to be a top-notch notation tool in Speedgrader/Crocodoc, it's my only real option. It's a shame, because I used to sing the praises of Crocodoc and its integration in Canvas, and try to get other faculty to use it. Now I can only apologize to them because the product has become functionally inferior to an older product.

I was hoping this would be fixed by this semester since I'm teaching the research writing class which requires specific formatting concerns, but it's been 4 months since my initial post and no substantive progress, so I will likely not be using the DocViewer tool for paper grading at all this semester.

Community Champion

We have had several reports this week of characters not displaying correctly and being replaces by squares etc. For those instructors it affects about 1/4 submissions, but with no obvious common feature in the documents affected. 

It happens in all browsers for that instructor on their computer, but we cannot replicate it and neither can support. The common factor seems to be that the instructors are using a laptop. One of them wondered if there might be a Windows 10 issue, as they have that on the laptops but we do not on the uni pcs?  

2 egs below - 2nd showing side by side comparison of downloaded version vs docviewer

docviewer eg 1

docviewer eg2

Thanks for raising this Natalie, we are experiencing the same problems. It's causing quite a lot of confusion amongst our markers and students. Hopefully, Canvas will solve the issues soon.


We have just had an update to say the submissions have been 're-rendered' and that seems to have fixed the issue for those lecturers. Might be worth asking support to try that, if you are still having issues? 

New Member

So here is what Canvas displays for an Excel spreadsheet when I ask students to graph linear functions.  Compare that to what is actually submitted in second capture.  


In the spreadsheet


Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

Hi, everyone,

Our team has been working on standardizing the fonts that are supported in DocViewer and include Arial, Arial Narrow, Arial Unicode, Calibri, Cambria, Cambria Math, Comic Sans, Courier New, DejaVu, Georgia, Symbol, Times New Roman, Verdana, and Wingdings, in addition to several Chinese and unicode fonts. The full published list will be included in What types of documents can be previewed in Canvas? as part of our upcoming release next Saturday, March 10.

Many of you will have documents that have been resolved from this and other changes that have been made over the last few weeks, but if you have more recent examples with formatting inconsistencies, please submit a new support case and let our support team know.

Thank you!


Woo hoo, Erin!

that is very good news!

New Member

Still having issues with fonts.  I've submitted a ticket, but just wanted to chime in that we are still having issues this year.  

New Member

 @cmount ‌

I've noticed this problem too and it drives me nuts. I now convert all my docs to .pdf before submission. Canvas docviewer doesn't change the formatting of .pdf docs. 

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It appears that this is still an issue. Just had a professor advise that a student had uploaded a .docx paper and a lot of the formatting was changed, Spacing was changed, indentations removed, etc.

There must be a way for Canvas to fix this so students don't have to convert their documents to .pdf.


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New Member

Any luck?  I want my students to submit plain old boring text, not rich text, not word docs, just raw text, 


BUT ...

you must allow all of the leading white spaces and tabs to stay.  Currently, for some unknown reason, you are removing all of that - meaning, all of the formatting it being removed.  This makes the SpeedReader useless.  It takes way too long to have the students submit a file and then I open the file.  Way. Too. Long.

We use this for PYTHON code submissions.  If your tech team knows Python (I suspect they do), they will understand why one cannot remove leading TABS or SPACES.  

Thanks v much for trying.  Hope you fix this. 

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Someone showed me a solution.  You simply need to change to pre-formatted.  It appears to work!!

Thanks for the tip!

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New Member

Can you explain what pre-formatted means?

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Community Participant

We've just had a couple of instructors report the same thing.  The way it's formatting the document is rendering it useless for grading. I really do not want to have to tell my faculty they have to download all the papers to grade them.  Someone mentioned pre-formatted version. What is that and can it be "used" while in the DocViewer?  

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New Member

I have an instructor reporting the same issues. Doc viewer is changing the formatting (font, spacing, page length) of student's submitted assignments. I have reached out to Instructure support, but was wonderieng if any of you have found fixes that work for this? From what I have found the pre-formatting is for text entry and not documents. I have suggested having students submit PDFs but the instructor stated that sometimes PDFs "lock" and she in unable to provide annotated feedback.

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