PDF In-Depth

Google Chrome gets its own slick PDF viewer

November 08, 2010

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I don't know many people who are satisfied with the experience of viewing a PDF in a web browser. The fact that a separate desktop application has to be fired up in the background and embedded within a web browser in order to display the PDF is kind of... dissatisfying. It's just not optimal.

That's why I've been very happy using the Google Docs Viewer for a while now. Just received an email in your Gmail account with a PDF attached? No problem, just click on the View link and the PDF will be displayed in the Google Docs Viewer in a new tab. It's efficient and smooth.

So this morning as I was doing the weekly finances, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Google are in the process of bringing the built-in PDF viewer experience to all Google Chrome users.

I clicked on a link to view my latest bank statement -- yes, that's right, thankfully my bank provides bank statements as a PDF these days, rather than the snail mail method.

I immediately regretted that decision.

You see, I had recently been having trouble opening PDF files from web links within Chrome. Adobe Reader would launch in the background, but the gremlins would stop it from actually displaying the PDF I had clicked on. It's the same story I hear again and again.

But as I retraced my steps and was in the process of right-clicking on the link to the bank statement (I was going to save it to the desktop and then view it) I was surprised to see that Chrome had actually gone ahead and displayed the PDF using it's own built-in PDF viewer, without the need to open Adobe Reader.

And what a pleasant surprise it was. Google Chrome's new built-in PDF viewer has a minimalist design, but don't let that fool you -- it's got some pretty nifty features. There's the predictable (scroll, zoom in, zoom out, fit width, fit page), but then there's the convenient (search text, select text, click on hyperlinks) and then there's the awesome (interactive form fields and JavaScript support -- with built-in protection against malware and security attacks directed at PDF files).

What's more, you can view PDF files that are on your desktop just by dragging them into the Chrome web browser. No need for Adobe Reader if you're just an occasional viewer of PDF files.

At the moment this built-in PDF viewer is only available in the beta version of Chrome, but according to the Google Chrome Blog, it will soon be introduced into the official version of Google's web browser after it's got a few new features and undergone a bit of polishing.

Bravo Google.

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