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Google Technology

Google Builds a Native PDF Reader Into Chrome 285

Posted by kdawson
from the hugging-adobe-harder dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google's latest Chrome 6 Developer Update comes with a few subtle GUI changes, but there is also a major update under the hood. As its ties with Adobe quite apparently grow stronger, there is not just an integrated Flash player, but also a native PDF reader in the latest version of Chrome 6. Google says the native reader will allow users to interact with PDF files just like they do with regular HTML pages. The reader is included in Chrome versions (Chromium) 6.0.437.1 and higher, and you can use the feature after you have enabled it manually in the plug-ins menu. That is, of course, if you can keep Chrome 6 alive — Windows users have reported frequent crashes, and Google has temporarily suspended the update progress to find out what is going on." The Register has some more details on the PDF plugin and a link to Google's blog post about it.
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Google Builds a Native PDF Reader Into Chrome

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  • by Meshach (578918) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @04:59PM (#32628080)
    The article contains this statement:

    PDF files will render as seamlessly as HTML

    Does this mean that the PDF pages are translated into HTML pages then displayed? I always thought that one of the main strengths of PDF was that the author has 100% control over how it is presented. Or am I misunderstanding that feature?

    • by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @05:11PM (#32628160) Homepage

      Or am I misunderstanding that feature?

      Saying "PDF files will render as seamlessly as HTML" is not the same as "PDF files will render as HTML".

      So, yes, I think you misunderstand.

    • by iammani (1392285) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @05:14PM (#32628174)
      Actually google already has an excellent online PDF viewer, it seems to display PDFs as an image, but still manages selection of words, searching and copying. Here is a sample IRS PDF [google.com] I wouldnt be surprised, if the same code was converted into a chrome plugin.
    • by maird (699535)
      There is a pretty big "seam" between clicking on a pdf link to it being usable as a document in Firefox (IE too I imagine). It wouldn't require conversion of the pdf to html to close that, just render it in-place, in-process using native pdf rendering code as is being described. Presumably it will also allow for tidy nested references to pdf documents in html where the pdf is rendered in-place. Heck, if google have form input support in their pdf code and provide some access to the field names and contents
    • by AK Marc (707885) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @06:56PM (#32628766)
      I always thought that one of the main strengths of PDF was that the author has 100% control over how it is presented. Or am I misunderstanding that feature?

      I think you are. PDFs aren't read-only. PDFs aren't secure (well, unless you have some DRM package installed, and even then it's debatable). PDFs will, in the absence of anything else, present like the author wanted. But they are easily edited, modified, redacted, and such. I know people that think "If I send it as a PDF, they won't be able to just copy the text off it, and they can't just change a couple things in it and send it on to someone else like it was mine." Both are incorrect. So yes, you are misunderstanding that feature. It is so that you know they can open it, not that you know they can't modify it. Those are unrelated issues, and it just happens that most people don't bother to get programs that let them modify PDFs and they aren't necessarily easily modified, so they aren't modified regularly in practice.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by BatsShadow (776317)
        You're misunderstanding his post. His point is that the document as the author created it should look the same to all viewers no matter what their device. The author has full, very specific, control over what the document looks like to the user. Compare this to the web where pages render differently on every device. He's not talking about security or whether or not users can edit the document.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      They translate PDF to html already - try opening a PDF attachment in gmail.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 19, 2010 @04:59PM (#32628086)

    I started using Chrome because it was an improvement over the other browsers. It was faster, it used less memory, and it was more crash-resistant. But I have not been impressed with the latest versions.

    Everyone knows about them removing http:// from the URL bar already. Their reasoning was, to put it politely, complete horseshit. That was a change they never should have made.

    Embedding Flash natively is good for YouTube, no doubt, but bad for everyone who doesn't want to support or use something that is so shitty and proprietary.

    One of the last things I ever wanted was native PDF support in my browser. Just like with Flash, I go out of my way to avoid PDFs.

    As much as I dislike proprietary software, these recent Chrome developments are driving me to Opera. Opera is faster than Chrome, manages memory better, and never crashes. While their code isn't open source, at least they embrace open and truly free standards. Until the Chrome developers get their acts together, I'm done with it.

    • by asvravi (1236558) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @05:06PM (#32628122)
      Whether you like it or not, use it or not, have a choice or not, the fact is both Flash and Adobe Reader will be there anyway on 99% of the PCs. Google is to be appreciated for taking them under its fold so to speak - instead of leaving them as separate addons that never get into the final browser build testing and regression testing. Integrating these and testing and deploying it as a whole package is certainly better for stability as well as security.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Nerdfest (867930)
        From a security point of view, I'd feel better if Google wrote their own PDF implementation. Far be it for me to read TFA, but I get the impression that this code comes from Adobe, whose software generally makes me nervous.
        • From a security point of view, I'd feel better if Google wrote their own PDF implementation. Far be it for me to read TFA, but I get the impression that this code comes from Adobe, whose software generally makes me nervous.

          I tend to agree. Whether or not you like Google's corporate policies, the fact is that most of their software releases are competently executed. The same cannot be said for Adobe. I've had to use their libraries in the past, and had to contact their developer support (I use the term loosely.) The responses I received were usually along the lines of "the function call operates as intended according to the documentation." The fact that it did no such thing didn't seem to make much difference. That was a few y

        • From a security point of view, I'd feel better if Google wrote their own PDF implementation. Far be it for me to read TFA, but I get the impression that this code comes from Adobe, whose software generally makes me nervous.

          Bingo! I was about to post the exact same sentiment. I don't get why people are so against PDF... it's a freaking document format, for crying out loud. That said, one of the downsides is that Adobe's implementation is typically bloated and full of bugs. Had Google gone and wrote their own PDF renderer, that would have actually been very cool and likely way more secure.

        • by Zarel (900479) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @06:32PM (#32628660)

          From a security point of view, I'd feel better if Google wrote their own PDF implementation. Far be it for me to read TFA, but I get the impression that this code comes from Adobe, whose software generally makes me nervous.

          I've read it for you. The code doesn't come from Adobe, Google wrote it themselves. It also uses Google's new sandboxed plugin API, so it would be less of a security concern even if it did.

          (I'm surprised you got two replies who also didn't RTFA.)

          • by Anonymous Coward

            because TFA doesn't explain that google wrote it themselves. Heck, even the google blog announcement doesn't explain that google wrote it themselves. Guess what, it turns out google did not write it themselves, they're using libpdf.so [chromium.org] which is libpdf [sourceforge.net]

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              I think you have the wrong library. There is no way Google used an unknown, anonymous, 9-year-old C library. Even a newbie hacker could likely exploit that with little effort.

            • by Zarel (900479) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @10:22PM (#32629704)

              because TFA doesn't explain that google wrote it themselves. Heck, even the google blog announcement doesn't explain that google wrote it themselves. Guess what, it turns out google did not write it themselves, they're using libpdf.so [chromium.org] which is libpdf [sourceforge.net]

              I was referring to the Google blog post, which is linked from the Slashdot summary and thus counts as "TFA".

              It says "Currently, we do not support 100% of the advanced PDF features found in Adobe Reader, such as certain types of embedded media" and "We would also like to work with the Adobe Reader team to bring the full PDF feature set to Chrome using the same next generation browser plug-in API", which I took to mean that:

              1. it clearly isn't being written by Adobe, and
              2. even if Google didn't write it, they are maintaining and improving it, so they "wrote it" in the same sense that Apple "wrote" WebKit.

              As for the "libpdf.so", part, I assume you're looking at the part of the code that says

              #if defined(OS_WIN)
                          cur = cur.Append(FILE_PATH_LITERAL("pdf.dll"));
              #elif defined(OS_MACOSX)
                          cur = cur.Append(FILE_PATH_LITERAL("PDF.plugin"));
              #else // Linux and Chrome OS
                          cur = cur.Append(FILE_PATH_LITERAL("libpdf.so"));
              #endif

              Which means that they're using a file called libpdf.so on Linux. As another one of your replies points out, this is doubtful to be the 9-year-old unmaintained incomplete C library you link to, and judging from the Windows and Mac filenames, this is nearly definitely a library written (or at least maintained) by Google.

      • by hkmwbz (531650)
        So you like the SeaMonkey approach, then? No need for slim browsers with few features (by default)?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        First, this isn't Adobe Reader, thank Zod. It's Google's own implementation.

        Second, I have (entirely speculative) doubts that the bundling of Flash is happening on its own merits. I suspect a quid pro quo was agreed, whereby Google bundles Flash and offers moral support against Steve Jobs, and in return Adobe extends Flash to support the new WebM video format. This extends its reach to (most) users of IE and Safari, neither of which will be adding native support.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          You've got the reasoning wrong. Google doesn't really care about Flash or Adobe. However, Google cares about security and users care about flash content. In order to please users, they bundle Flash, so it's there and it's up to date. Flash is one of the biggest security holes in a browser, and they've taken a step to minimize this hole.
      • Just because it's already there on X% of PCs, does NOT mean it's a "good thing". By the way, UPS is trying to deliver a package to you, but is unable. Please open the attached PDF.
      • by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @08:13PM (#32629144) Homepage

        The built-in PDF feature isn't available on the linux version yet.

        Some questions that I had that weren't answered by TFA:

        1. Is the PDF renderer fully open source and available under the same license as everything else, so that it can be included in nonproprietary builds of Chromium?
        2. TFA says: "The plug-in doesn't do everything that the Adobe Reader does. It can't handle, for instance, certain embedded media[...]" This is probably a good thing, IMO. The $40,000 question is whether it supports javascript embedded in PDFs, which is the huge security nightmare in Adobe Reader. If it does support it, I hope it's turned off by default. Since I run linux, I can't test this. Can any slashdotters try it and find out?
        3. Same question as #2 for embedded flash. I assume they haven't implemented it, hope they never do.
        4. What is the patent situation with the implemented and nonimplemented "embedded media," and how does this affect fully nonproprietary builds of Chromium?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bunratty (545641)

      I started using Chrome because it was an improvement over the other browsers. It was faster, it used less memory...

      Faster perhaps, but less memory? Many tests show it uses more memory than other browsers.
      http://lifehacker.com/5457242/browser-speed-tests-firefox-36-chrome-4-opera-105-and-extensions [lifehacker.com] http://dotnetperls.com/chrome-memory [dotnetperls.com]
      http://www.whoisandrewwee.com/browsers/verdict-on-google-chrome-memory-hog/ [whoisandrewwee.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mystik (38627)

        From http://dotnetperls.com/chrome-memory [dotnetperls.com]:

        Google Chrome posted the highest maximum memory usage when all chrome.exe processes were summed, reaching 1.18 gigabytes, while Firefox posted the lowest maximum memory levels of 327.65 megabytes. This means Firefox used 73% less memory during peak periods.

        Their methodology is flawed. The operating system will share identical unmodified memory pages between processes once in memory. So if they simply summed @ the total memory usage for each process, they could be

        • In Firefox, the single-process model makes it easy to measure the memory use of the process, but brings with it all it's flaws, (much easier to take out the whole session with a bad plugin)

          I don't find that to be true: when the VLC plugin locks up in Chrome, it locks even other windows (besides tabs).

    • by Zarel (900479)

      Everyone knows about them removing http:/// [http] from the URL bar already. Their reasoning was, to put it politely, complete horseshit. That was a change they never should have made.

      Erm... why not? Please, enlighten us. Personally, I find it great. If I'm at the Google.com homepage, I should see "google.com" in the address bar; everything else is just unnecessary and distracting. I don't really need "http://" there to remember that it's a web site; the fact that I'm using a web browser is kind of enough.

      • > ...the fact that I'm using a web browser is kind of enough.

        Real browsers can do more than "http://". "file://", for example. Or "ftp://". Or "gopher://".

      • by jibjibjib (889679)
        Why should they be inconsistent? Why should HTTP be hidden but HTTPS and FTP and other protocols be shown? I've never found the protocol being displayed in my browser to somehow "distract" me or reduce my productivity. Is this seriously a concern?
    • by Goaway (82658)

      Go to about:plugins, click "Disable" twice, and you are done.

    • by gtall (79522)

      While I agree I do not care about native PDF support in my browser, if you are a scientist, just about all the papers you need to obtain to learn what others are discovering will be in PDF. Those, I can download, I need them rather in soft searchable content. Failing that, I'll take them as images. I think that is the proper use of PDF for scientists. I occasionally find a reference within a PDF as a hotlink useful. However, with adequate references, I can track it down myself. I also find that manufacturer

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      It was faster, it used less memory, and it was more crash-resistant.

      Everytime I read a post like this it always seems to come back to the same thing. "I like browsers that don't have features" Well I'm sure I can still send you a copy of an early beta for Chrome if you want.

      It's always the same. Half of the world wants the browser to be a complete window to the online world. Then a newcommer enters the market with a browser that is lacking a lot of fundamental features and half the users complain "It has no adblock plugin" or in my case "it has no colour management". The

  • Yay? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 19, 2010 @05:02PM (#32628098)

    PDF is actually a useful standard when it comes to reproducing printed or printable documents. The worst thing about PDF is Adobe's Reader implementation. Hopefully, this is a clean implementation, not based on Adobe's lousy, slow, insecure Reader code. I know they say its sandboxed, but still.

    Anyone using Safari or Firefox (extension here [mozilla.org]) on the Mac has been able to do this for some time; PDFs are a lot better without the Adobe plugin.

    • In Linux, I used Mozplugger to embed evince, but now I just open them externally.

    • by jbengt (874751)
      I agree that pdf is a useful standard, but I don't want it rendering within my browser. I want to open it in the viewer (or editor) of choice, not in the browser. I especially hate the way navigating is a muddled mix of browser and viewer controls
  • For years, GMail or Google Documents have been able to render PDF documents in HTML.

    Maybe Google simply took this server-based code and put it into Chrome...
    • Re:Old technology (Score:4, Insightful)

      by iPhr0stByt3 (1278060) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @05:24PM (#32628250)
      But Chrome is not converting anything. It's more like a plug-in that's native. This is the same way Chrome reads HTML5 natively... it doesn't first convert it to HTML4. It won't look any different than the Adobe's plug-in or FoxIt's plug-in, but you don't have to install it separately. And most awesomely, you won't have to update it separately. Of course this makes Chrome natively a little more vulnerable too... but oodles more secure than Adobe's plug-in.
  • by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @05:57PM (#32628452)
    > if you can keep Chrome 6 alive — Windows users have reported frequent crashes, and Google has temporarily suspended the update progress to find out what is going on.

    I've experienced Chrome crashes too - more frequently than IE or Firefox. And that's a big problem with Chrome: You can't turn off Automatic updates(*). You will find several hundred meg vanishing from your download quota. I guess the Google developers with their top-of-the-line hardware forget that us regular folks care about things like bandwidth, disk space (it leaves the downloaded files sitting on your hard drive - multiple versions) and quotas (because I don't want to go over my peak quota because some punk program won't take directions). It also jumps up and starts downloading and installing even if you're in the middle of something.

    I'd rather schedule my own updates to fit my own schedule - I don't want some program stuffing up when I'm in the middle of something. Chrome has some nice features - it's fast and it doesn't waste the screen space or have the memory bloat that Firefox or IE do, but Chrome crashes a lot and in the end I figured Firefox was best because it at least gives you some control over your PC. Chrome doesn't.

    * = Google do provide a way for Enterprise users to modify the groups policy because (as described in their faq) 'enterprises should be able to schedule their own updates'. But Joe Public doesn't get that luxury, and there's no checkbox to turn it up like every other software is decent enough to provide. BTW don't try the REGEDITS; they don't work. Google know about all this because there are many posts complaining about it (search for 'disable chrome automatic updates'), but in the usual corporate arrogance won't even acknowledge the problem: pesky customers! Google think they know what's best.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=disable+chrome+automatic+updates [google.com]
    • by Webz (210489)

      Where are you that you need to keep an eye on your bandwidth?

      • by bertok (226922) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @06:24PM (#32628622)

        Where are you that you need to keep an eye on your bandwidth?

        Where the hell are you that you can't even imaging having to worry about bandwith? Can I move there?

        Over here in Australia, internet connections with 1GB quotas per month are not unusual, and most mobile 3G accounts are even more restricted.

        • by hoggoth (414195)

          1GB per MONTH?! I use 1GB on a good evening.
          My weekly backup over the net is 4GB.

        • by jopsen (885607)
          I agree with GP, in what places on earth, apart from what I assume is a farm in the middle of the desert in Australia, is quotas an issue ? :) I've seen 10 GiB qoutas on 3G here (Denmark)... But who would survive on 3G only, I'd admit I haven't tried it, but I can't imagine that it's stable or fast (yes, it might give you 5Mb/s on a sunny day, but what about ping times...
          I have 5Mb/s down for about 25 USD/month no quotas... Looking a gnome-system-monitor I downloaded 2.1 GiB over the past two hours or so
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by isilrion (814117)

            I agree with GP, in what places on earth, apart from what I assume is a farm in the middle of the desert in Australia, is quotas an issue ? :)

            Cuba. My quota used to be 170 Mb/month, and I had one of the highest quotas in the university (I was the sysadmin, and I was authorized to increase my own quota, and ask for permission later, if I needed). In practice, though, I never reached that ammount... 1mbit/sec shared by 10000 users didn't make it easy, but there were professors in the 50-70 Mb/month range that had a hard time by the end of the month.

            The very first thing we had to teach users was to disable automatic updates (instead we would downloa

        • by cbhacking (979169)

          Home Internet connections in north America (I'm in the US, but it's the same in Canada) almost never have bandwidth caps, although Comcast will put on a soft cap (throttling) past 20GB or some such. 3G connections are typically soft-capped at 5GB. Don't know about Europe, but Aus and NZ are the only places that I've ever heard *everybody* has bandwidth caps.

        • by Clarious (1177725)

          Dude, I live in a 3rd world country and I only have to pay 13$/month for unlimited internet access (3 mbps ADSL). And unlimited mobile 3G is around 15$.

    • I too have experienced a lot of Chrome crashes but on OS X. I switched to Chrome a couple months ago and loved it; it had everything I needed to leave Firefox. However, it started crashing, a lot. A lot more than Firefox did and Firefox crashed a lot on my computer. Chrome also was terrible with memory usage; I've seen it using well above 1GB of RAM with only 10 tabs open. Finally I got fed up with it and switched to Safari. It's been much more stable and usable.
  • 6 already? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @07:03PM (#32628798) Homepage

    Geez, it seems like I was just upgraded to 5 last week.

  • by devent (1627873) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @08:25PM (#32629210) Homepage
    I already have an excellent PDF viewer, thank you very much. It displays my PDFs wonderful and is separated from any browser and don't even use any library that have anything to do with the internet (as far as I know). And I like it that way.

    Internet is a highly dangerous place and it's very hard, if not impossible, to secure the browser only for HTML, CSS, JavaScript and DOM. But now Google makes the same mistake like MS with the IE (with ActiveX) and includes PDF in the core browser? PDF is a monstrous standard; the hackers can even hack a stand alone PDF viewer to run code on your computer and now you want to include it in the core Chrome? What's next, ActiveX?

    Leave it in a additional Addon for that people who just can't just download a PDF and open it in the stand alone PDF viewer.
    • Internet is a highly dangerous place and it's very hard, if not impossible, to secure the browser only for HTML, CSS, JavaScript and DOM. But now Google makes the same mistake like MS with the IE (with ActiveX) and includes PDF in the core browser?

      Umm, they built it using their new "secure, sandboxed plug-ins" API. Including it by default improves security because it means fewer people will end up downloading Adobe's terribly insecure PDF reader app or plugin, because the functionality will already be there in a much more secure way.

  • by Punto (100573) <puntob.gmail@com> on Saturday June 19, 2010 @11:03PM (#32629870) Homepage

    using a browser to display documents with complex layouts, fonts, images, etc? What a novel idea, I don't know how nobody thought of this sooner. Seriously, the main reason why I hate PDF is that I need a separate program to open them, when they're just a glorified webpage.

    I wonder why they don't just build this as a native client plugin, and use it on-demand when a pdf shows up, instead of making a big deal about how it's "built in".

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