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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.


68 Replies
Community Member

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.

Community 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

Community Member

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

Community Member

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.

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.)

Community Member

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.  


Community Member

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