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back to article Rid yourself of Adobe: New Firefox 19.0 gets JAVASCRIPT PDF viewer

Mozilla's Firefox web browser now includes a built-in PDF viewer - allowing users to bin plugins from Adobe and other developers. The move to run third-party PDF file readers out of town comes after security holes were discovered in closed-source add-ons from FoxIt and Adobe. The new built-in document viewer is open source, just …

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I've been trying it.

Seems to work.

Can be a bit slow.

Thumbs up for avoiding Adobe.

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Go

Re: I've been trying it.

Yep, since the Foxit issue I've been opening PDF's in Acrobat. Nice to have a light viewer back in the browser, and (naive as this may seem) I trust Mozilla's approach to security much more than Adobe or the maker of a third party reader.

Also, no speed issues at this end (so far).

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JDX
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Re: I've been trying it.

Question - how does iOS have built-in PDF functionality? Is it a special Adobe plugin baked into the OS, or Apple's bespoke PDF reader app, or what?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I've been trying it.

I see you are unaware of the dozens of memory corruption exploits firefox has been victim to.

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jai
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Re: I've been trying it.

Apple's desktops have long since had native PDF ability. Since 10.2 i think.

Because of this, not only can you view pdf files with just the system tools, but also makes it very easy for any app to render a pdf doc - hence Safari has been displaying PDFs from the web for years without needing to install a plugin. A nice side effect is that because it's part of the system, any application on a Mac that uses the default Print dialog should be able to print directly to a PDF document instead of a printer.

So i assume the same Quartz code that is baked into OS X was also included in iOS from the start as well.

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Re: I've been trying it.

I see you are unaware of the dozens of memory corruption exploits firefox has been victim to.

I see you need to read his comment again. What part of "Mozilla's approach to security" means "Mozilla has never had a security bug"?

Go away, troll.

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Re: I've been trying it. (@JDX)

The boring historical version is that PostScript was the standard for high end printers so several vendors built desktop platforms around PostScript as the description language for drawing on-screen rather than rolling their own versions of QuickDraw or GDI or whatever — Sun was one (with NeWS), Next Computer was another. PostScript is a full programming language* and when adapting NextStep into OS X Apple looked at the licensing fees for the implementation NextStep had used and decided instead to keep the same primitive drawing semantics but do away with the language.

Separately, over at Adobe they designed PDF as a record of the output of a PostScript program (so, to spend storage in order to save on complexity, at least initially). So PDF also inherits the same primitive drawing semantics as PostScript.

That made it easy for Apple to add PDF rendering and print to PDF to its operating system and all applications just work. There's no translation layer whatsoever, the drawing operations are just serialised and stored or deserialised and performed. As iOS is a close relative of OS X, with exactly the same graphics operations and frameworks, the same stuff just naturally carried over.

The same is not true of Windows because even once they were looking to do something beyond the GDI Microsoft insisted on inventing its own document format in XPS and tied WPF, its modern drawing framework, around that.

(*) trivia: the original LaserWriter — a key component in the early desktop publishing revolution — had a CPU 50% faster than the Mac it was meant to be attached to because it had to do all that high resolution rasterising.

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Re: I've been trying it.

sorry, I'm just getting my head around this statement - "since the Foxit issue I've been opening PDF's in Acrobat"!?!?!?!?

Wow - just wow

icon: we need an Epic Fail icon pls

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Re: I've been trying it.

@Chris007 - not sure what your beef is here.

I've configured Acrobat to not allow access to the internet, or use javascript, or media files, etc. If a PDF isn't just an electronic equivalent to a paper document, I don't want to know.

So here's a fail back at ya!

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Re: I've been trying it.

Not 100% sure of my facts here but I seem to remember that the Mac OS GUI is pdf native (in other words uses pdf for finder elements) so pdf is in effect part of the OS. I'm guessing... as iOS is a flavour of Mac OSX it also has the same capabilities.

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Re: I've been trying it.

I suspect it's apple's own like preview on OS X.

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Meh

Acceptable

It seems to work OK - but the character spacing is messed up, '/' characters are too close to whichever one follows, for example.

I'm not 100% sure it's the Firefox viewer that's to blame (although any affected .pdf displays fine in FoxIt).

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Re: Acceptable

That may be a font issue - if the font is not embedded in the PDF and not known to the browser, the browser will have to make do with something else, which probably won't kern in exactly the same way.

Or I might be talking rubbish. :)

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Font issue

Just tried it, and this is what it's looking like to me... original PDF contains a condensed font, the browser uses my default browser font and tries to kern to the condensed font.

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But does it work for local PDFs?

Not much use unless it opens when you double click a local PDF, you'd still need Reader or whatever.

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Holmes

Re: But does it work for local PDFs?

Just associate the extension with Firefox, no?

Or am I missing something fundamental.

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Re: But does it work for local PDFs?

Yes but there's a difference viewing a PDF in the browser using a plugin, and opening a PDF file using Reader.

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Re: But does it work for local PDFs?

My concern would be the opposite: is it still possible to use an external viewer in preference to the Firefox one for online PDFs? I am allergic to opening pretty much anything within a browser, if it can be at all avoided.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But does it work for local PDFs?

> Is it still possible to use an external viewer in preference to the Firefox one for online PDFs?

Yes. Just adjust the setting in Options->Applications.

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Re: But does it work for local PDFs?

Not much use unless it opens when you double click a local PDF, you'd still need Reader or whatever.

Depends whether you're running an OS that's bothered to include such a basic tool. Okular is installed by default on my machine, for example.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But does it work for local PDFs?

right click->open with->firefox.

try not to hurt yourself...

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Re: But does it work for local PDFs?

" is it still possible to use an external viewer in preference to the Firefox one"

Of course: just edit the PDF entry in Edit:Preferences:Applications so it uses the program of your choice. I use xpdf.

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Re: But does it work for local PDFs?

You can change the option in the Applications menu which is what I did.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But does it work for local PDFs?

There's the setting people have mentioned and then while viewing you can hit the download icon and that'll go into the usual save/open in viewer routine. (At least on Linux it does anyway).

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Now down to just two plugins

Flash and Windows Media Player, and I suspect I could live without WMP.

Flash is protected by flashblock.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Now down to just two plugins

You can, it's easy... I can barely think of anything that requires me to use WMP at all.

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Re: Now down to just two plugins

Do any websites use WMP? Given it's not supported on Linux or Mac (or at least not without uncommon extras) I'd be very surprised.

And I disabled Flash years ago, and haven't missed it at all. Probably in large part as a result of the iPad, most sites seem to have got rid of flash now.

So hurray, no plugins required!

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Re: Now down to just two plugins

It comes in handy in conjunction with TiVo Desktop to see who the guests were on a particular night when you want to edit the file title of a Charlie Rose or Tavis Smiley episode.

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Am I the only person...

..who prefers to open PDF files in an external application rather than scrunched inside the browser window? Haven't used a browser plugin for yonks. I wish there was some simple viewer software that just viewed & didn't support all the JavaScript and other crap that PDF's can now contain tho..

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JDX
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Re: Am I the only person...

I find more frustrating that some sites automatically trigger PDF loading in the browser, and others force you to download. I use Chrome and the PDF integration is really good since I don't have to both downloading files.

I imagine this being a new project, it will be worse than Adobe's version for now but if they have drawn a line in the sand, it will inevitably improve if people report bugs. Not totally convinced JS is the right tool for the job though personally; on a mobile device CPU is a precious resource.

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Re: Am I the only person...

I use Adobe Reader and turn off JavaScript in its preferences, because it sounded to me like a security hole waiting to happen, published or not.

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Boffin

Re: Am I the only person...

Chrome uses the same pdf.js library as Firefox, they just managed to get it out first.

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Re: Am I the only person...

The ONLY sensible thing to do with a PDF is download it.

I have "Safe Reading Mode" on by default in Foxit.

I don't want ever to open PDFs in a browser.

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Re: Am I the only person...

>>Chrome uses the same pdf.js library as Firefox, they just managed to get it out first.

Source? I thought Google just had deals with Adobe to integrate PDF & Flash much more deeply so they can sandbox it and get earlier access to bug-fixes?

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Re: Am I the only person...

Actually what I said was nonsense, it's not pdf.js, it's Google's own plug-in. It's not Adobe's PDF plug-in either.

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Re: Am I the only person...

You should seriously try SumatraPDF. Really small (5 megs) and simple by a fault. The option menu only a total of 7 options, including such bloated options in the "Advanced" section like "automatically check for updates" and "remember opened files," :-).

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Ctrl + O and then navigate to the local file.

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Chrome

There's also the option of a chrome plugin if you build it from source.

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Memory? better or worse?

Using the adobe plug in eats memory on my xP system.

How is this new built in reader for memory useage?

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Mixed blessing

I just tried the PDF viewer there and while it works the print functionality is a bit crap. Printing appears to render a lossy jpeg snapshot of the page into an HTML page with headers and footers and the whole lot is printed. The font kerning also looks iffy with characters not properly spaced. I hope that future versions improve on this.

So while it's okay at a pinch to use it's no substitute for a proper PDF viewer. I switched back to the Adobe plugin from the Applications options almost immediately.

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Re: Mixed blessing

Hmm. That kind of kills it really. PDFs are meant to represent actual "documents" so quite often you need to print them. When you print a PDF it should print exactly as laid out in the PDF - that's one of their major advantages compared with HTML. Not being able to print them properly kind of kills the whole point of PDF. Especially as FF is bad enough at printing web pages - I often get better results telling FF to print to a PDF then printing that from Reader...

Chrome's PDF printing is also lousy.

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Re: Mixed blessing

Better to use NO plug in and save file and use a decent PDF application OUTSIDE the browser.. PDFs are NOT web pages.

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Re: Mixed blessing

"PDFs are meant to represent actual "documents" so quite often you need to print them. "

No Tom, the point in having them electronic is that you DON'T have to print them. There are only 2 reasons why you'd print something these days, one if to sign it for a company who don't understand technology, and the other is to send it to someone who doesn't understand technology.

That someone is usually working in the public sector.

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Re: Mixed blessing

You're a student right? Nobody who has lived in the real world could be so naive surely.

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Re: Mixed blessing

No, I'm a technical architect and part of my role involves helping companies reduce their reliance on paper. If you can think of more reasons to print a PDF from a web page then go ahead, but don't accuse me of being a student just because you can't work out ways to stop people printing PDFs from the internet in your organisation.

I feel I need to spell this out to you so I will. I didn't say anything about a paperless office, or reducing printing as a whole. I just said that there are only 2 reasons to print a PDF from the internet and I stand by that.

I also happen to know lots of ways to reduce overall printing in organisations, not just PDFs, as well as the regulations people often misquote as requiring a paper copy or a signature. Unfortunately for smug forum posters like yourself, that's not what we're talking about here but I'd be glad to help you out if the users your helpdesk supports (you must work on 1st or 2nd line to be so jaded right?) insist on printing everything.

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@Lusty Re: Mixed blessing

I can give you three very good reasons for printing a document that you haven't mentioned:

One, a print copy, once made, cannot be modified or altered. The problem with electronic documents is that they can be readily altered and the change erased to suit someone's agenda - for example, to facilitate corruption, fraud or theft, or to rewrite history. This is why many companies (including ours) still maintain filing cabinets with paper records of all meeting minutes, quotes, invoices, and transactions.

Two, a paper record is human-readable without requiring any machine or power to display it. In the event of a disaster, or even a protracted power outage, paper records can be retrieved, read and acted on even if there's no power for recharging phone or tablet batteries, or running PCs.

Three, a paper record does not rely on document or media formats that may quickly become obsolete or unreadable. Many records have been lost because they were stored on things like 8" floppy disks, which you can no longer obtain drives for, or in cryptic 70s and 80s file formats that modern spreadsheets and word processors cannot read.

A paper record has a permanence that cannot be contested in the way an electronic document can. This is why law courts, for one thing, want everything on paper. If, in a trial, you were to try to hand up a tablet with a Word doc on it, the judge would throw it at you. They want solid paper records than can be filed, retained, and retrieved without question or difficulty.

In the end, it's not about "not understanding technology." It's about understanding the limitations of technology and using it in its place, just as we need to understand that paper copy also has its place and purpose, and for the reasons posited above, will continue to do so for a long time to come.

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Re: Mixed blessing

How about having a paper copy of a manual so I don't have to lug my computer into the garden when I'm trying to set up the timings on my sprinkler system (or keep swapping between the program I'm running and its oh-so-helpful pdf manual)?

Yes, I know I could get a tablet device of some description or a second monitor, but paper seems to be a low-cost alternative that works in both cases. Or do I just not understand technology?

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Re: @Lusty Mixed blessing

He wrote FROM THE INTERNET. He then followed it up with saying that he wasn't writing about the paperless office. But, you just felt like disagreeing, didn't you.

Paper: because they they hadn't invented the Internet yet.

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@AC 04:40 Re: @Lusty Mixed blessing

I'm not just being contrary here. Lusty didn't mention anything about a paperless office and neither did I, nor did I state or insinuate that he had. As for documents specifically being "from the internet", how does that invalidate my argument? My first point in particular has validity here, since documents on a website can and do change frequently, so printing one out as it was on such-and-such a date is prima facie proof that this was what the document stated on that date. This is especially true of things like ToS and EULA documents where a print copy made before an online change could make or break a court case.

Lusty stated that he could think of only two reasons for printing a document, from the internet or otherwise. I added three more reasons to explain why people print out documents. So no, I didn't just feel like disagreeing. I simply articulated the arguments that were most likely to be behind the downvotes he got (none of which are mine, BTW.)

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Re: @AC 04:40 @Lusty Mixed blessing

Unfortunately all three of your reasons still rest on someone not understanding technology. It's perfectly feasible to take a copy and lock it from being changed in electronic form. Using e-reader style technology will give you a month to get the power back on, even though in reality power outages are generally fixed in minutes and are so local that you could take a bus accross town to recharge your laptop. Finally, PDF is nearly as old as ASCII text documents and it is unlikely to stop being supported any time soon. If you don't move your stuff from your old PC to your new one then there is just no helping you, but the rest of us managed the transition from floppy to zip to CD to DVD to portable hard drive to flash just fine and I see no reason we can't all continue that tradition. Some of us have even managed that with backup tape formats and SAN with business data on - customers would be pretty pissed if I switched off their old storage and told them the information was gone because it was locked to the old format!

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