Workarounds for Mac Users Unable to View PDF in Blackboard

Attention, Mac users and instructors preparing Blackboard courses! Mac users are having problems viewing embedded PDF files with both Firefox and Apple’s Safari web browsers. Clicking on a PDF file content item gets this error message “A plug-in is needed to display this content. Install plug-in…” Following the link to locate a plug-in will result in a “No suitable plug-ins found” message. The PDF will display correctly inside the browser window for Windows XP and Windows 7 users and certain other Mac web browsers. Information Technology is in the process of working with Blackboard to find a solution for us. In the meantime, please consider using the workaround listed below.

If you have PDF files that are NOT within a Learning Module in your course:

  1. Navigate to the PDF document link, click the action menu button and click “Edit”.
  2. Scroll down to the option to “Open in a New Window” and click “YES”.
  3. Click Submit.
  4. Now your students using Macs will be able to open the PDF document.


If you have PDF Files that ARE within a Learning Module in your course:

  1. Enter your Learning Module
  2. Find the PDF document link and click the action menu button and click “Edit”
  3. Notice the name of the file
  4. p2

  5. Click Cancel
  6. Click “Build Content” and “Create Item”
  7. p3

  8. Enter appropriate text, such as the name of the file.
  9. Scroll down to “Attachments.”
  10. Click “Browse Content Collection”
  11. p4

  12. Find the PDF file and click “Submit”
  13. Click “Submit” once again.
  14. Locate the original PDF document link and delete it.
  15. Now the students can open the PDF file by clicking the file link inside the content item:
  16. p5

Workarounds for Students:

  1. View the document in another browser such as Opera or Google Chrome.
  2. Download a third-party PDF plug-in such as the Schubert PDF Browser Plug-in from Schubert-IT, which is free for educational, non-commercial use.

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