Internet Explorer Does not Display PDF Files in Some Cases Even if Adobe Reader is Present



In this example we are going to perform Scenario Testing on Internet Explorer. The real world situation that we are going to use is a user trying to view a PDF file on the Internet. In order to display the file Internet Explorer has to interact with Adobe Reader 6.0, which is a PDF file viewer. If an Internet Explorer user tries to open a PDF file that contains an apostrophe in the filename, the document will not be displayed. (Source:

Application Description

Adobe Reader 6.0 is free software that lets you view and print Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files on a variety of hardware and operating system platforms. (Source:

Internet Explorer 6.0 is a web browser that can be used to view HTML documents. It can also display PDF files posted on the Internet by starting Adobe Reader and displaying the PDF inside the browser like in the picture below.

Test Design

This example demonstrates the use of Scenario Testing. To perform this type of testing we have to imagine a real world situation, which involves a complex use of Internet Explorer.

Let's imagine that there is someone named John who is trying to create his own web page. He has his resume in PDF format and he is going to link to the file (John's_CV.pdf) from his web page.

He would expect that visitors to his page will be able to click on the link to his resume and be able to read it.

Performing the Test

  1. To achieve his goal John will first put the PDF and the HTML file in the same folder.
  2. Then he would edit the HTML file (John's_page.htm in this example) to include a reference to the PDF file. For more information about HTML visit
  3. Then he will try the web page in Internet Explorer (the application under test) and some other browsers. Just as expected the web page and the link to his CV are displayed. Now he will click on the link to check if the PDF file is displayed correctly.


Surprisingly, Internet Explorer shows the correct address in the address bar but no information is displayed. In addition, right clicking doesn't work and View -> Source function is disabled.


After selecting View -> Refresh, the function View -> source gets enabled. Clicking on it shows that even though the address bar shows John's_CV.pdf, the src tag points to John (which is not an existing file) instead of John's_CV.pdf. It appears that the apostrophe has worked as a terminator character for Internet Explorer.


This is an example that is very likely to happen in the real world, and it would be hard for the average user to figure out that the problem is in the apostrophe.

Similar Tests/Additional Notes

After loading the same page and clicking on the link, Mozilla displays the PDF file without any problem.


Testing Microsoft's Internet Explorer v 6.0 on:

Created 07 June 2004 for the CSTER

All images and written material ©Copyright Georgi Nikolov 2004

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