Adobe Acrobat/PDF symbol/logo

...or; Back to the basics of PDF

I've always felt that PDF as a concept is a great idea, when used appropriately it's a great way to share and archive information. Though the last few years I've really started to dislike PDFs, the usefulness of the format haven't lessened, it's simply because Adobe's Reader have bloated into something totally unusable.

I can't say exactly when Reader turned into the bloated monster it is today, it seems to have gradually happened over the last few years. Always seemed like Adobe lost focus and forgot what most people used Reader for; displaying PDF documents. Personally I don't care if your application is the king of 3D annotations, interactive forms and various other obscure functionality that virtually no-one wants and no-one needs. When it takes (what at least feels like) forever to get past the splash screen and actually display a simple, single-page, all-text, black and white document; you've lost me. And although I haven't tried it, I sincerely doubt that the collaborative features and online services of (the recently announced) version 8 can help rectify this.

The lightning fast alternative

Foxit Reader displaying 1 of the 1236 pages of the Fifth Edition PDF Reference

A few months back I stumbled upon an alternative to Adobe's Reader; Foxit Reader! It's compatible with PDF 1.6, it's blazingly fast, it's available for multiple platforms in multiple languages and core Reader functionality is free.

It instantly opens and browses through 1000+ paged documents, with no performance issues at all. The screenshot shows Foxit Reader displaying the Fifth Edition PDF Reference, even with documents of this size (8.71MB, 1236 pages) there's no noticeable performance issues. Even the mouse wheel works smoothly.

What's nearly as impressive is the size and system requirements of Foxit Reader; It's a 2MB download, requiring less than 4MB of disc space and probably runs on any system running Windows. Adobe Reader is a 22MB download, needs up to 90MB of disc space and virtually requires 512MB of ram and a 2Ghz P4 to run acceptably "out of the box" (various tools/techniques can help squeeze some extra performance out of Adobe Reader).

To be fair, Adobe Reader probably can do a myriad of cool things with the additional bytes of code. Don't think I've never used any of it though, nor do I know much about what this extra functionality might be or what wonders it might work. It's just not how I use PDFs...

After discovering Foxit Reader I've started using PDFs more actively again. Probably for the first time I'm actually utilizing some of the benefits of the PDF format. It's sort of funny, that Adobe's Reader is the one that drives me away from PDFs (an Adobe creation) while an independent third party convinces me to start using it again...

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