November 4, 2009

Three Great Alternatives to Acrobat Reader

TechTips 239 Three Great Alternatives to Acrobat Reader
Three Great Alternatives to Acrobat Reader

By Scott Nesbitt – October 18, 2009

If there's one type of file that's become commonplace, it's the PDF (short for Portable Document Format). It's rare that you don't see files that have the extension .pdf on the Web. In the workplace. And just about everywhere else.

The most popular piece of software for viewing and printing PDF files is Acrobat Reader from Adobe. But like much software out there, Acrobat Reader has gained a bit of flab over the years. The current Windows version weighs in at just over 25 MB, while the Mac OS and Linux version tip the scales at 41 MB and 43 MB.

Let's face it: that's pretty hefty for something that's meant to display files. Sure, Acrobat Reader has some pretty nifty features but most people can live without them. Luckily, Acrobat Reader isn't the only PDF viewing software around. There are some great alternatives to Acrobat Reader and this TechTip looks at three of them for Windows.


If needs are simple and you just want to view or print a PDF file with a minimum of fuss, then SumatraPDF is the app to go with. Even though simple, does what needs to do far more quickly and just as smoothly as Acrobat Reader.

The interface is bare bones. It consists of the menu bar and a tool bar, and that's pretty much it. Even the toolbar is quite minimalistic. It contains buttons for opening a PDF file, moving between pages, jumping to a specific page, and searching for text in the PDF.


One useful feature actually maximizes your computer monitor's real estate. All PDF readers have a side pane that displays a table of contents that enables you to quickly jump around the document. Depending on the PDF reader, this pane is visible even if the table of contents is empty. When empty, the pane takes up screen space, and you need to scroll or resize the view to reader the PDF properly. SumatraPDF, on the other hand, only displays the pane if the table of contents exists. It remains hidden the rest of the time.

If you use PortableApps (a suite of Open Source applications that runs off a USB flash drive), there's a portable version of SumatraPDF. You can take it anywhere you want.


Evince is a default document viewer for the GNOME desktop under Linux. Some enterprising Open Source programmers have also written a Windows version. The Windows version is on par with its Linux cousin for features and speed.


Evince is billed as a simple document viewer. It lives up to that billing, although it's nothing to sneeze at. It opens PDFs faster than Acrobat Reader, and about on par with Sumatra PDF. It has an even more spartan interface than SumatraPDF.

As far as viewing PDF files goes, Evince does everything that SumatraPDF does. Unlike SumatraPDF, Evince allows you to open a copy of a file or view it in what's called Presentation mode. Presentation mode, which you trigger by pressing the F5 key on your keyboard, treats the PDF file like a slideshow. Each page is an individual slide, with a black buffer on each side. When giving talks, I use Presentation mode to display slides that I've converted to PDF.

Evince isn't just a PDF reader. It can also view files in a number of other formats, including Impress (sort of), Djvu, TIFF, and most common image formats. Overall, it's a very flexible application that comes in a fairly small package.

Foxit Reader

If you want an application that has many of Acrobat Reader's best features but without the bloat, you definitely want to give Foxit Reader a close look. It's probably the best alternative to Acrobat Reader on Windows. And it's free.

Foxit Reader

Foxit Reader doesn't just read PDF files. You can also email a PDF from within the application, select a portion of the screen and save it as an image, and convert a PDF to text. Foxit Reader also enables you to add notes to a PDF. The notes appear as a yellow sticky icon in the file. Just double click the icon to read or edit the note.

Remember when I said Foxit Reader was free? I wasn't lying. You can get additional features that enable you to edit PDF files — for example, adding, editing, and deleting text, drawing graphics and inserting hyperlinks — with the Foxit Reader Pro Pack. That will set you back $39.95 though.

Other options

There are a few. If you don't mind something that doesn't look incredibly pretty, check generic viagra canada out Xpdf. Originally written for UNIX and then Linux, Xpdf does a good job of opening and rendering PDF files. It's nothing fancy, but it works.

If you have a Google Docs account, you can use that to view a PDF file. Just log into Google Docs and click the Upload link on the left side of the toolbar. You can also save PDFs to Google Docs from Gmail. Once you've uploaded the PDF it appears in the documents list. Just double click the file to open it. The viewer only lets you view and print the PDF.

Google Docs

Summing up

Acrobat Reader is a big, powerful piece of software. Maybe a bit too big and powerful for the job that it does. If you don't want to deal with the bloat, there are a number of options available. You might be sacrificing some features and functions, but unless you use those features and functions regularly you probably won't miss them.

What's your favorite replacement for Acrobat Reader? Why not share it by leaving a comment.

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July 28, 2009

Taking a Breath of Adobe AIR

Taking a Breath of Adobe AIR

By Scott Nesbitt – Sunday, May 31, 2009

PullQuoteOne of the holy grails of software development has been to write applications that run on just about any operating system. This is called write once, run anywhere. The Java programming language tried, and almost succeeded. Almost. But the true grail is yet to be found. There's nothing worse than being a Windows user who sees a really nifty app for the Mac and finds out that there's no Windows version of it, and that there are no plans for one either.

Web comes close, and a previous TechTip looked at a way of bringing Web apps to your desktop computer. But, let's face it: the Web's not quite the desktop. That's where Adobe AIR comes in.

Air LogoWhat is AIR?

The creation of the folks at Adobe Systems, AIR is short for Adobe Integrated Runtime. A runtime is software that sits between your computer's operating system and an application, and allows the application to run by interpreting the various functions and facilities of the operating system. The concept of the runtime is a key component to making software run on different operating systems without having to create and build (code and compile is techie speak) versions for each operating system.

Applications that are written for AIR are termed Rich Internet Applications. A Rich Internet Application blurs the line between the Web and the desktop. While (as you'll see in a moment) AIR applications aren't as powerful or flexible as most desktop software, they are beefier than many Web apps.

Programs that run using Adobe Air aren't written in the usual programming languages chnologies and languages associated with Web development. Technologies and languages like Flash, AJAX, Flex, and ActionScript.

What's in it for me?

A lot, no matter who you are.

If you're a software or Web developer, you can quickly write AIR applications using the tools and technologies with which you're already familiar. You'll notice that AIR leverages a lot of Adobe's technologies cheapest generic viagra here.

If you're a user, AIR gives you access to literally hundreds of small, potentially useful applications that can make your computing easier. More on these in a moment.

Using Adobe AIR

The first step, obviously, is to download the installer for Adobe AIR runtime. It's free, and is available for Linux, Mac OS, and Windows. Once the installer is on your computer, double click it to start the installation process. If you're using Linux, you may need to go to the command line, change to the directory where you downloaded the installer, and type sudo ./AdobeAirInstaller.bin. You need to use the sudo command because the installer needs to be run as the root user.

The installation process is quick. Once the Adobe AIR software is installed, you can start using applications.
The first step, obviously, is to download a few. Adobe offers a number of interesting applications, and you can download more elsewhere on the Web (more on this later).

AIR applications have the extension .air, which is associated with the AIR software. Just double-click on the .air file, and the installer will start automatically.

If you're a Linux user, that might not always work. Depending on your distribution, links to the AIR software might be installed under your program menu. In Ubuntu, for example, you'd choose Applications > Accessories > Adobe AIR Application Installer to install an AIR application.

Sometimes, though, you can install an AIR application right off the Web. When you click a download link, you might be given the option to save or run the application.

Note that the installer gives you the option to add a shortcut icon to your desktop. It's a good idea to use that option. AIR sometimes doesn't create a Start menu item for the application.

Getting your hands on applications

There are a lot of available applications for AIR, with more being created every week. Depending on your needs, you'll probably find something that's useful to you. Most, if not all, of them are free.

As mentioned earlier, Adobe offers quite a few at its Web site. But they're not the only place you can turn to for AIR applications. Here are a few other places you can find them.

First up, airapps. It's a wiki that contains a list of almost 130 (at the time this TechTip was written) AIR applications. The applications range from photo and social media tools, to photo applications and project trackers. Another site like this is RefreshingApps. The site seems to be a bit more selective, and many of the AIR applications it features seem useful. You might also want to check out this list of over 60 useful AIR apps. It contains a mix of social networking tools, photo viewers, media players, and professional applications.

Of course, you can always turn to your favorite search engine and try to root out what you need.

Some recommended AIR apps

One of the most popular AIR applications around is Twhirl, a microblogging client that works with a number of popular microblogging services. Twhirl is compact and, once you get used to the interface, very easy to use.

Doomi is a useful little To Do list. You type a To Do item, and set a reminder for however

I know more than a few eBay users who love the eBay Desktop. It sits in the background, and watches any items you're bidding on. Instead of waiting for email notifications or having to open or refresh our browser every time you want to buy or find something on the auction site, eBay desktop sits in the background and does all the work for you. It even has a powerful search feature.

The future

Is Adobe AIR a fad or something more? It's hard to say at the moment. It's definitely got potential, although I don't think that it will replace the desktop or Web-based applications. That said, AIR offers a wide range of useful utilities and some great ways in which to interact with popular Web services. And maybe that will be its niche: being a link between the Web and the desktop.

Have you used Adobe AIR? If so, what are your thoughts and what are your favorite applications? Feel free to leave a comment on this TechTip.

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January 23, 2009

Adobe Flash Player (IE, AOL)

Publisher: Adobe
Last updated: October 15, 2008
File Size: 1.8 MB
OS Support: Windows (all)
License: Freeware
Downloads: 30859
User Rating:   (133 votes)
Click here to begin download

Publisher's Description

Gain unprecedented creative control with expressive new features and visual performance improvements in Adobe Flash Player 10

Adobe® Flash® Player software is a cross-platform browser plug-in that delivers breakthrough web experiences and is installed on more than 98% of Internet-connected desktops.

Top features

3D effects

Create more intuitive, engaging interfaces using built-in support for 3D effects. Get started quickly without being a 3D master by designing in 2D and easily transforming and animating in 3D. Fast, extremely lightweight, and simple-to-use APIs, along with 3D tools in Adobe® Flash® CS4 Professional software, make motion that was previously accessible only to expert users via ActionScript® language or custom third-party libraries available to everyone.

Custom filters and effects

Create high-performance, real-time effects for cinematic experiences cialis mail order that quickly engage users. With new Adobe Pixel Bender™, the same technology behind many filters and effects in Adobe After Effects® software, these dynamic and interactive effects can be used both in production with After Effects CS4 and live with Flash Player 10. The Pixel Bender just-in- time (JIT) compiler can also be used to process other types of data, such as sound or mathematical functions, asynchronously in a separate thread.

Advanced text support

Take advantage of a new, flexible text layout engine that brings print-quality publishing to the web, building on more than 25 years of Adobe expertise in typography. Gain more control over text layout using an extensible library of ActionScript 3.0 text components to flow text and sophisticated typographic elements such as ligatures across multiple columns, around inline images, bidirectionally, vertically, or chained together. Create multilingual rich Internet applications (RIAs) using device fonts that can now be anti-aliased, rotated, and styled, or build your own unique text components.

Dynamic sound generation

Use enhanced sound APIs to dynamically generate audio and create new types of audio applications such as music mixers and sequencers, real-time audio for games, and even audio visualizers. Work with loaded MP3 audio at a lower level by extracting audio data and supplying it to the sound buffer. Process, filter, and mix audio in real time through the Pixel Bender JIT compiler to extend creative freedom beyond the visual experience.

Drawing API Enhanced

Perform runtime drawing more easily with restyleable properties, 3D APIs, and a new way of drawing sophisticated shapes without having to code them line by line. Developers can tweak parts of curves, change styling, replace parts, and use custom filters and effects, delivering improved throughput, creative control, and greater productivity. Enhancements to the Drawing API add the z dimension, real perspective, textured meshes in 3D space, a retained graphics model, read/write rendering, and triangle drawing with UV coordinates, while adding memory and improving performance.

Hardware acceleration Enhanced

Use the hardware processing power of the graphics card to paint SWF files into the browser and accelerate compositing calculations of bitmaps, filters, blend modes, and video overlays faster than would be performed in software.

Vector data type

Use the new typed array class for better performance, efficiency, and error checking of data.

Dynamic Streaming

Show exceptional video with streams that automatically adjust to changing network conditions. Leverage new quality-of-service metrics to provide a better streaming experience.

Speex audio codec

Take advantage of the new, high-fidelity and open source Speex voice codec, which offers a low-latency alternative for voice encoding. Flash Player also supports ADPCM, HE-AAC, MP3, and Nellymoser audio.

File upload and download APIs

Bring users into the experience by letting them load and save files from your web application. New file reference runtime access allows local processing of data without roundtripping to the server.

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November 5, 2008

Flash CS4 Professional: a first look

Elsa Wenzel CNET

Published: 23 Sep 2008

With Creative Suite 4, Adobe aims to make Flash easier for newcomers to learn and less of a hassle for veterans to use. Flash CS4 offers a fundamentally different approach to animation with object-based tweening.

In addition, the workspace is more elegant and options expand to work with the latest video formats and web applications. And as with each new release, added design tools enable creative types to create more complicated-looking animation more quickly.

The cost hasn't changed since Flash CS3: £489 (ex. VAT) or £139 (ex. VAT) to upgrade. It's a better deal when included within any of the bundled CS4 suites — except for Design Standard, which excludes Flash.

Adobe has reinvented the building blocks of Flash animation, so you can get started in two steps. No longer must you create a symbol, then manually apply and adjust keyframes and tweens; Adobe defines selected items as a symbol for you. It should be easier to control and tweak animation now that it applies to an object rather than to a Timeline keyframe. Right-click on an object, select Create Motion Tween, and the time span is created automatically.

Workspace adjustments include a vertical Properties panel. Also found across Adobe Creative Suite 4, a drop-down menu makes it easier to switch among workspaces, while tabs let you hop among open documents. And panels are simpler to resize, open and close. By default, the Timeline now lines up along the bottom of the Stage. Designers should like hot-text editing, also found in Photoshop and After Effects.

The new XFL file format is supposed to help print designers or motion artists using InDesign or After Effects to dip their toes in Flash, as exported XFL content can be used in any of these programs. With this XML-based format, you can extract assets from work done in Flash. Adobe aims to phase in XFL gradually, rather than forcing saved content by default in this convention.

Content is supposed to render more quickly than in CS3, although we found this hard to measure with the rough-draft code.

The Adobe Media Encoder enables Flash developers to create H.264 content for web videos that stream quickly even on a narrow pipeline. Dropping video within Flash content is possible using several steps. You can save an MPEG4, say, rather than an FLV file, encoded as tkH.264, without needing to re-encode the video.

The capability to author Adobe AIR content lets you create web-based applications, including those with transparent backgrounds, on your desktop.

New design tools include 3D Translation and 3D Rotation, Bones and Deco. With Bones, you can create inverse kinematics animation, ideal for, say, rotating the arm of a crane or Rube Goldberg contraption to set off a reaction among related mechanical parts. The Deco tool helps you create repetitive patterns, such as blinking stars in the sky, geometric wallpaper patterns or intricate designs of vines, without messing around with ActionScript.

A library of motion presets can get you started on more sophisticated animation that could be tricky to build from scratch.

We've been toying with beta rough-draft versions of buy cialis doctor online Adobe CS4 applications for several weeks. We'll update these first impressions with rated reviews once we check out the final code.

If the gold code proves to be stable, Flash CS4 looks far more attractive than CS3, largely for its less taxing approach to animation, and newcomers might want to skip CS3 altogether. That said, first-timers still might need to pay for a how-to book or a class to learn the application in depth.

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Dreamweaver CS4: a first look

Elsa Wenzel CNET

Published: 24 Sep 2008

Some veteran users of Adobe Creative Suite may find that version 4 offers few extraordinary updates to justify the high cost. However, designers and editors who lean on Dreamweaver for complex dynamic web sites will find plenty of tweaks for editing code more easily within its WSIWYG interface.

The look and feel of this application now matches those of other Creative Suite applications. You can jump among customisable workspaces from a pull-down menu, and we find the collapsible panels more elegant to place and resize.

Dreamweaver's new Code Navigator shows the CSS rules underlying layout elements. Just hover over a footer, for instance, and double-click on the text, and the navigator can take you to the code for formatting text styles. A new CSS mode in the Properties panel provides quick access to code.

Dreamweaver's new Live View shows stuff that's otherwise tricky to spot with JavaScript running in a browser, such as image rollovers. For instance, you can freeze a view of the rollover state while you're working with code in Dreamweaver.

There's more cooperation among the Creative Suite overall. For instance, you can drag and drop SWF files into Dreamweaver pages. With Photoshop Smart Objects, you can drop PSD files into web pages without losing track of source files.

To run Dreamweaver CS4 on a Windows computer, you'll need XP SP2 or Vista with a 1GHz or greater processor and 1GB or more of disk space available. buy cialis brand Mac users must have a PowerPC G5 or Intel-based machine running at least OS X version 10.4.11, with at least 512 MB of RAM and 1.8GB of free disk space. You'll also need a DVD drive and a 1,280 by 800 display with a 16-bit video card.

The £335 (ex. VAT) cost of Dreamweaver hasn't changed since CS3. Users of earlier versions can pay the £139 (ex. VAT) upgrade fee. We'll report back with a rated review once we check out the final code, which is due later in the autumn.

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