Using BinaryWrite to output PDF to IE


Alec MacLean


I've created a small application for our company extranet (staff bulletins)
that outputs a list of links to PDF's that are stored in a SQL table. The
user clicks a link and the PDF is loaded into a new browser window.

This works as expected on the test PC (using forms authentication, but no
SSL) using IE. It also works as expected on the production server when
using FireFox. The production server environment is using forms
authentication and SSL.

However the PDF load fails when using IE as the browser to access the
production server (which my users/staff colleagues will be doing).

I have also tested it without using SSL or Forms authentication by putting
it on our public site on the production server.
This also means you can (temporarily) see the problem for yourself

The error seems to be generated by Adobe Reader rather than specifically IE,
but as the system works using FireFox, I am guessing it is the relationship
between IE and Adobe Reader that is the problem?

The Adobe Reader error message provided is:
"There was an error opening this document. This file is already open or in
use by another application."

I am using VB.NET 1.1 on IIS 6 (win 2003 svr).

Code snippet that outputs the PDF from the DB:
'The required file ID comes from the querystring.
If Me.Request.IsAuthenticated Then
If Request.QueryString.Count <> 0 Then
'Get the (pdf) filename to display
Me.FileID = CInt(Request.QueryString("doc").ToString)
Dim ds As New DataSet
Dim PDFfileSize As Long
Dim db As Database = DatabaseFactory.CreateDatabase
Dim cmd As DBCommandWrapper =
cmd.AddInParameter("@BID", DbType.Int32, Me.FileID)

Me.lblErr.Visible = False
'Load the record (PDF file) into local dataset
db.LoadDataSet(cmd, ds, "theBulletin")

'Resize the byte array for file
PDFfileSize =
Dim thePDF(CInt(PDFfileSize)) As Byte

'Put the PDf into the byte array
thePDF = ds.Tables("theBulletin").Rows(0).Item("BFile")

'Send the file to the output stream
Response.BufferOutput = True

'Try and ensure the browser always opens the file and doesn't just
prompt to "open/save".
Response.AddHeader("Content-Disposition", "inline")

'Set the output stream to the correct content type (PDF).
Response.ContentType = "application/pdf"

'Output the file

thePDF = Nothing

Catch ex As Exception
Me.lblErr.Visible = True
Me.lblErr.Text = ex.Message.ToString

'Tidy memory
ds = Nothing
cmd = Nothing
db = Nothing
End Try

End If
End If

Kevin Spencer

It didn't fail on this client. Are you sure that the Adobe acrobat reader
was installed on the machine on which it failed? Can you describe in detail
what you mean by "failed?"


Kevin Spencer
Microsoft MVP
Professional Numbskull

Show me your certification without works,
and I'll show my certification
*by* my works.

Alec MacLean

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your feedback. You don't mention your OS/browser versions - this
might help me a bit. I know it works when using Firefox.

Yes, Adobe Reader (v.7) is installed on all the machines accessing the

The Adobe Reader error message provided is:
"There was an error opening this document. This file is already open or
in use by another application."

I've been searching further afield and note that a few people have logged
similar problems, particularly for PDF output.

One suggestion is to alter the metabase.xml file to allow greater sizes of
AspBufferingLimit, e.g. set it to "2000000000" (2Gb).
However, the test files I'm using are only in the 85Kb range, so clearly
shouldn't be a problem for the default limit of 4Mb.

Interestingly, the XP PC I'm using to develop on doesn't have a
metabase.xml - presumably one of the differences between the versions of IIS
for XP and Windows Server 2003.


Kevin Spencer

Hi Alec,

I was able to duplicate the problem by making multiple requests for the file
with multiple browser instances. I'm running XP/IE 6, BTW. I was able to
reproduce the problem on both IE and FireFox. The error is coming from the
Acrobat Reader, alright. I can only guess at the cause, as it doesn't give
any additional information, or log the error. You may want to contact their
support group.


Kevin Spencer
Microsoft MVP
Professional Numbskull

Show me your certification without works,
and I'll show my certification
*by* my works.


It worked for me as well. Running XP Pro SP2 with all security
updates. Adobe 7.0 and IE version 6
(6.0.2900.2180.xpsp_sp2_gdr.050301-1519 to be exact). Hope this helps
you find your problem. And it also worked for me via FireFox.

Well after I typed that I clicked on your link again and got the error
that you received. Unfortunately I don't have any suggestions on how
to resolve the problem at the moment. I do have an observation. The
pdf opened in FireFox while I got an external reader window and a blank
browser screen via IE. Perhaps a client side process isn't being
cleaned up?


Hi Alec,

In my guess, it seems that you open pdf file then write to browser. But you
forget to close the pdf file. Because I can open it in the first time. Then
no matter I use IE, Firefox, or NS, I cannot open it any more.


Elton Wang

Alec MacLean

In case anyone was monitoring this thread...

I have managed to create a work-around.

In my original version, I was setting the target of the link to the display
aspx as "_new". (This is a hyperlink control set as a template column on a
datagrid). By removing this target option (leaving it blank) and setting
the output header for "Content-Disposition" to "attachment" instead of
"inline", I now get the prompt from Adobe Reader to Open or Save the target
PDF. I no longer get the blank IE window at all.

While not my original intention, this is close to my desired aim and at
least is more intuitive to use for my end-users than having two windows pop
up with one (the IE window) being empty. The menu of PDF's remains in the
background, and the Adobe Reader floats wherever they want it. Close the
reader and they still have the pdf list.


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