As you are probably aware by now, almost every manual and “official” document that you find on the Internet ( and in business ) is in PDF (Portable Document Format). It was designed by Adobe Systems and ( thankfully ) in 2008 they released it as an open format. What this meant was that other companies could then legally design tools to view, edit and create PDF files without Adobe going after them for copyright/patent violations.
The reason I said “thankfully” is because although Adobe made and released a great software program that allowed one to read PDF format files ( originally called Acrobat Reader ), this at first wonderful piece of software became bogged down into newer, better, more powerful versions. Which resulted in bigger, slower, more cumbersome versions…. to the point that on some older computers the reader would take OVER a minute to load up before you could use it! It was worse than watching paint dry!
So the search was on for a PDF viewer that was faster and as powerful ( yes some of those add-ons that Adobe came out with were useful ) as the original Adobe Acrobat was, but faster…. oh please much faster….
For Windows there was a plethora of choices, but only one stood out from the pack, Foxit and I’m glad to say that it not only works fast, but gives me everything I ever really want in a PDF document viewer:
- It’s extremely small in size – only 5MB vs the 20+MB of Adobe Acrobat
- It’s extremely fast – there is no waiting time, you click on the document and it opens!
- It converts PDF text into plain text if you want to save it later for editing etc ( trust me I’ve used this feature a lot! )
- It annotates text – kinda cool – and neat that I can do that to make things easier to find after reading a large document
- Lets you search through the PDF quickly looking for keywords
- Lets you zoom in and out ( changing the text size ) with a click of the scroll wheel
- Pages up and down with no effort and again one can use the scroll wheel
It installed easily and quickly, without any problems. Foxit also offers a complete line of PDF software, both commercial and free, from editors to creators and more…. for those who are just interested in downloading the Windows version go here…. www.foxitsoftware.com/downloads
So, with Linux, or more specifically Ubuntu 9.10, the choice was no where as wide. Clicking on the Ubuntu Software Centre icon and doing a search on PDF viewer generated only four real hits.
- Document Viewer ( which I already had – it was fast but even changing pages wasn’t easy )
- Okular for multipurpose reading (which seemed okay, but with no feedback as to useage I wasn’t sure)
- Xpdf (which to be truthful does most of what I want but for some reason I just didn’t get excited with it)
- ePDFviewer ( which for lack of information I didn’t bother with )
There were several other packages but they all appeared to be for reading, cataloging etc etc ebooks…. and while they may have worked as a generic PDF viewer, I certainly didn’t want every PDF document that I read imported and cataloged into some database to haunt me for the rest of the softwares life…. which leads me to a little rant here….
I find that I really am enjoying Ubuntu 9.10, or Karmic Koala as it is called, BUT the one item that drives me a little crazy has to be the updated “Ubuntu Software Centre.” Yes it looks real pretty, put please give us back the functionality of the older software tool! I depended upon the quick synopsis and more importantly the ratings system that it had. If a product had 5 stars I knew I could pretty well count on being satisfied with the product and 3 stars meant that value may or may not be there…. but giving me just pretty pictures and a very small description really doesn’t do anything for anyone…..
I wondered if Foxit had an Ubuntu version…. as I am finding more and more that many software companies – especially those who develop software for free use – are developing releases for other platforms as well.
Some googling around showed that indeed Foxit had tried to develop a version for Ubuntu, but that it didn’t work/install very well. So I went to their website to see what the problems were and if they had made any other versions that might have improved upon the issues and found that yes indeed, they have been and still are working on many, many versions and generating new releases for several platforms! All of which can be found here…. www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/desklinux/download.html Awesome!
I downloaded the latest .deb package and let my software manager handle the installation…. which it did quite handily, without any problem, and then tested it out on several test documents and ALL worked and viewed and printed fine…. Suffice to say that for Ubuntu 9.10 at least they got all the bugs ironed out!
So my recommendations? If you want to stay within the strict Ubuntu “opensource” environment then go with Xpdf. It works fine and gives you most of the functionality that people need when viewing PDF documents. If you want a little more, and want to keep your support/software options in sync with Windows then go with the Foxit solution. It works great and is identical regardless of the platform!