Adobe Reader 8.0.0: first impressions

General

Installation on Mac OS X 10.4.8 was smooth. No privilege errors.

The Reader interface appears nice.

Rendering

Some PDFs (example) render better in Apple Preview and the Schubert|it plugin.

Amongst the MacUpdate reviews, someone suggests that:

you have to turn on CoolType and a few other settings to make your PDFs look halfway decent

and I have found Adobe’s explanation of CoolType in the context of Adobe Reader, but Adobe Help Viewer for the product makes no reference to the technology.

I improved Reader’s behaviour by changing Page Display preferences to not use local fonts.

Compatibility and usability

The Intel-only installer produces an Intel-only application. No universal binary. For system administrators, this can complicate things.

No support for Firefox, Camino, OmniWeb or Opera (I have tested each one). Safari 2.0.2 only, according to Adobe’s system requirements.

Annotations, comments

Apple Preview lets you annotate PDF.

Adobe Reader restricts your ability to comment. How many authors do you know who expressly invite comments when producing a PDF for mass consumption? In the many years that I have been using PDF, I have used commenting just once, maybe twice in workflow situations.

I don’t doubt the use of workflow-oriented comments, but the vast majority of my comments are aide-memoires, for my own benefit. Adobe’s restrictions are short-sighted.

Font size

Plugin apparently lacks a key combination to increase font size.

In Adobe Help Viewer, under Keyboard shortcuts, I found the shortcut
(Command+equal sign) but the shortcut fails.

Help

I might seek an Adobe article to explain the keyboard shortcut failure/exception, but if they know that something will fail in a common situation, shouldn’t they say something on the help page? Can’t they at least have a link from their Keyboard shortcuts page to another page that explains why something will not work?

Regarding comments, there is online help but the small graphic is illegible, so I click to view full size graphic. The area expands to present a full size white space: in my Safari, the graphic doesn’t render.

I can control-click the white space and force the grahic to render properly in a new window, and maybe the page/graphic renders OK in browsers other than the only one supported by Adobe Reader but I shouldn’t have to go to these lengths.

Come on, Adobe, please! If you’re going to offer help, it should be immediately helpful. For example: novices will not intuitively understand and accept that command—= works in Adobe Reader but not Adobe Reader plugin. If exceptions apply, make those exceptions clear, up front. Don’t obscure such information. It wastes people’s time.

Bugs and omissions

Escape key failures

I check the preference for escape key to escape from full screen view.

Escape key fails!

Unbelievable. I feel sorry for novice users who finds themselves stuck in a three-hundred page PDF. If you were not familiar with key combinations, would you enjoy clicking three hundred times to regain your screen?

Experimenting, I find that command-w (not escape) escapes from full-screen view.

Similarly, escape key does not escape from the Preferences dialogue.

No support for Services

Neither the application nor the plugin are Services-enabled.

This is a great disappointment.

Can’t pass PDF from the plugin to other applications

The plugin saves PDF temporarily to the relevant subdirectory within /private/var/tmp but there’s no proxy icon, so I can not drag from the browser window to a preferred or alternative application. If it’s technically not possible for Adobe’s plugin to present the proxy icon in Safari’s window title bar, or something akin to the proxy icon in Adobe’s toolbar, then they might at least offer a contextual menu to pass the saved file to an external application.

I can save from plugin to disk, then drag from Finder to my chosen application, but this is tedious.

I can drag text (only) from the plugin window to other applications, but this is of limited use.

Incompatible option

Reader’s Internet preferences allow me to select version 7.0.8 or 8.0.0 for displaying PDF within my browser. Fair enough: I assume that the Intel-compatible plugin works with both versions. I opt for 7.0.8, the plugin fails.

I might search for an Adobe article explaining technical reasons for the failure. I doubt that I’ll find one. As I recall, their only hint about incompatibility of the 7.0.5 plugin (at /Library/Internet Plug-Ins/) was omission of “Intel” from the system requirements. As I interpret this Adobe blog, Intel is the preferred platform for both Adobe and Apple, so:

  • it might have been more helpful, more courteous to expressly state (not simply omit) the incompatibility with their preferred platform
  • did Adobe not test version 8 on Intel Macs that have version 7.0.8 installed? If they know that an option will fail, why allow the option to appear?

Summary

It’s very disappointing that a flagship product presents omissions and bugs like these.

Alternatives

I would prefer to run Safari in Rosetta, to regain the functionality of the Schubert|it plugin, but …yes, you guessed it:

So say Adobe. I certainly found that my browser tended to crash in that mode when I tried to use Adobe’s 7.0.5 plugin to view PDF.

Today, however, when I Test Adobe Shockwave & Flash Players in Rosetta, both players work; and when I Test Adobe Flash Player in Rosetta there’s no obvious problem with my version 9,0,28,0.

Best of all, the Schubert|it PDF Browser Plugin displays PDF! This alone encourages me to keep Safari in Rosetta mode.

PDF-related recommndations

For Firefox users:

  • try the PDF Download extension, or
  • run Firefox in Rosetta and use the Schubert|it plugin.

For myself, and for other users:

  • I’ll plead nicely for Manfred Schubert to update, for Intel, his very neat plugin.

The Schubert|it plugin works across a range of browsers, and includes features that are more useful to me than Adobe’s offering. Just $69 for a site license.

I wonder whether PDFpen will gain a plugin for web browsers…

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