Google Chrome Integrated PDF Support
If you’re using Google Chrome browser from the so-called developer channel (i.e. beta version) now you can enjoy the improved PDF support. The thing is that with all the buzz around the PDF format (in)security a lot of companies seem to have taken some steps in providing a more secure user experience for PDF viewing. Since most of the attacks using PDF files are targeted towards the Adobe Reader we’ve seen a lot of updates for the viewer this year. Though this does not mean that all the users are security conscious and update to the latest versions. This also affects the users of the browsers as it is common to think that PDF files are safe to view when in reality some PDF files online might exploit the PDF viewer’s plugin for the browser in order to stage an attack. There are alternatives like Foxit Reader, but they’re not bullet-proof either also the creators of the browser have no control over which PDF viewer you’re using. And of cource they can’t force you to update your version for the sake of security. So Google’s idea is simple – make the browser display PDF files natively in this case they’re in control of what’s going on. Security- and performance-wise this is a good thing. Though this might not be for everyone just yet the Chrome PDF Viewer is disabled by default. In your chrome address bar enter chrome://plugins/ In the plugin list find the disabled PDF viewer and click the enable link. Now try viewing some PDF files.
- performance – PDFs are rendered as HTML though the same interaction functionality like right-clicking and viewing the source is not provided. You can zoom in/out the same way you would with any other HTML.
- security – the PDF functionality is said to be contained in a security “sandbox”. To find out more there’s an interesting paper on Chrome’s security architecture.
- Form support – if you’re using PDF functionality that goes beyond just displaying some text and graphics like submitting forms and scripting then this viewer will not be your weapon of choice.
- password protection – if you need to view PDF that are protected with a password this will be another point of failure as Chrome’s viewer doesn’t support this functionality.
- text search – even if you remove the password from the PDF file and manage to open it the text search doesn’t work.
I realize that this is the first release with PDF support and it’ll be improved later on, but for now there is no obvious reason to switch over to only using Chrome’s viewer. Good initiative though, will have to see where this goes.