The great PDF viewer debate
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  1. #1
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    The great PDF viewer debate

    I started a thread a few days ago griping about how an old version of Adobe Reader cannot be installed on Fedora 29. A number of people commented about other PDF viewers. Rather than extend that thread, I thought it would be appropriate to start a new one.

    The simple fact is that there is NO viewer for PDF files that implements the complete PDF spec and runs native on Linux - except Adobe Reader. All other PDF viewers I have tried have major failings.

    1) Any viewer that depends on the poppler library (and that means almost all of them) is VERY slow to render documents that contain many vectors. I generate documents that are maps of caves. They can contains millions of vectors. Poppler-based PDF viewers can take over 10 minutes just to open the document. Zooming in or scrolling around the maps takes another very long time. In contrast - Adobe Reader will open the documents in a few seconds. Zooms and scrolls are also accomplished in seconds. Scrolling is very smooth.

    Someone mentioned Master PDF. I installed it and gave it a try. It is WAY faster than any poppler-based viewer. It is still slower than Adobe Reader, but it is fast enough to be usable.

    2) Embedded JavaScript. Say what you will about security vulnerabilities - This is a documented feature of the PDF specification. Poppler-based viewers totally ignore embedded JavaScript. Master PDF looks like it has some support, though I have not tested it.

    3) 3D models. I have found no PDF viewer other than Adobe Reader that supports 3D models in PDF files.

    Here is a link to a cave map that demonstrates the problems dealing with large numbers of vectors.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/t05k47bm4b...Ranch.pdf?dl=0

    And a link to a document with an embedded 3D object.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/1n0abcc9jl...ation.pdf?dl=0

    Anyone who posts a suggested PDF viewer needs to try both of these files before telling me I am a fool. If the cave map opens in less than 10 seconds - If the Angel Formation file displays a rotatable view - then I am willing to take a look at the application. Otherwise - I must find a way to get that old Adobe Reader to install.

    Bill Gee

  2. #2
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    Works fine here in VM.
    So first, just grab the bin from somewhere, I got it from softpedia, but if you don't trust it, Adobe probably has the bin installer as well, ver. 9.5.5.

    In clean install of F29 (Gnome), there is of course no 32bit support by default. So just install gtk2.i686, this will bring in the bare essentials in terms of 32bit app support on X. Then install these two 32bit libs, as they are required by Adobe reader as well: gdk-pixbuf2-xlib and libxml2.
    So basically:
    Code:
    # dnf install gtk2.i686 gdk-pixbuf2-xlib.i686 libxml2.i686
    done.

    Now just chmod and run the bin installer. I tried first as root and installed in its default destination, which is /opt. Then I tried to run it as user and installing in dir where user has write permissions, works as well.

    One pic for you, hope it helps. Should you have some questions, contact my manager. When I get one that is.



  3. #3
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    BTW, when I got the two files, I tried using those pdf viewers I have to see what they do with them, or not.
    These are: qpdfview, evince, mupdf and Foxit reader.

    The 3d model file is the same problem for all of them. They all just load a white background with the text in the lower right corner.

    The cave is a bit more interesting. qpdfview hangs. evince seems to load, but I don't intend waiting till the next day.
    mupdf loads for a long time too, but eventually loads. zooming though is slow and the more zoomed in the slower it gets, till it becomes unacceptable. panning round is usable.

    Now Foxit actually loads and renders the file almost immediately, zooming and panning is very quick too. This was a bit of surprise to me, but why not. I use Foxit from time to time for one specific reason - it always renders fonts in any document I have w/o problem, while others from time to time don't, even though all needed fonts are in place.

  4. #4
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    Quote Originally Posted by Maryyy
    BTW, when I got the two files, I tried using those pdf viewers I have to see what they do with them, or not.
    These are: qpdfview, evince, mupdf and Foxit reader.

    The 3d model file is the same problem for all of them. They all just load a white background with the text in the lower right corner.

    The cave is a bit more interesting. qpdfview hangs. evince seems to load, but I don't intend waiting till the next day.
    mupdf loads for a long time too, but eventually loads. zooming though is slow and the more zoomed in the slower it gets, till it becomes unacceptable. panning round is usable.

    Now Foxit actually loads and renders the file almost immediately, zooming and panning is very quick too. This was a bit of surprise to me, but why not. I use Foxit from time to time for one specific reason - it always renders fonts in any document I have w/o problem, while others from time to time don't, even though all needed fonts are in place.
    And how about okular?

  5. #5
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    I don't know, I don't have it installed. I'm on CentOS7 and I use Gnome3 so I don't install KDE specific stuff much, with exception of Marble, which is just great app.
    I moved to work now, so I may try tomorrow, as I will return home rather late, it's almost 1 am here.

  6. #6
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    Okular is no good, I tried it with those two files. it didn't manage to load either whereas the first file was at least viewable in Google Chrome

    @crazycaver - also if still struggling after following the instructions in post #2 you could always run Adobe Reader through WINE

  7. #7
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    Hm, I checked Foxit website and it actually has a free 3D plugin available, but it's for Windows version only as it seems. It's some fzip file which is installed by going to help menu and selecting something like 'install updates'. That is not in linux version. Using file command with the fzip file it only says data, so it cannot be dealt with in some other way other than the Foxit app. Pity, can be cool.

    EDIT:
    Actually, there is a binary in the install dir called 'installUpdate' which if used with the fzip file actually completes without problem, but it doesn't seem to work either. I presume the update file would need to have some additional .so in it to work, but all the initial ones are present only. Nothing new seems to be in its either ~/.confg or ~/.local/sahre dirs. So, still nothing, renders same as before with text on white background. S4!t.
    Last edited by Maryyy; 3rd November 2018 at 02:16 AM.

  8. #8
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    Hi Maryyy -

    Thanks for checking things out. I was not aware that Foxit had a Linux version. Neat that they do - but it does not work for me. I downloaded and installed it to an F28 machine. It starts, but within 20 or 30 seconds it locks up. The second time I launched it, it locked my entire desktop! I had to ssh into the computer to kill the process. Once killed, the desktop came back to normal. Scratch Foxit. :-(

    The Adobe Reader bin file can be had from Adobe's site at this URL:

    http://ardownload.adobe.com/pub/adob...6linux_enu.bin

    Something has happened to my Fedora 28 computer. It no longer displays the correct 3D rendering. Here is a screen shot from a Windows computer. This is what it should look like, and you should be able to rotate and fly through it. I will give it a try on some other computers.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	ReaderSample.jpg 
Views:	7 
Size:	60.3 KB 
ID:	29882

    For everyone else who tried the map file in Okular/Evince/et.al. - It DOES load but takes time. Be patient, wait it out (5 to 10 minutes) - and then you understand why I cannot live with a viewer based on poppler!

    Bill Gee

  9. #9
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    I tried Adobe's reader on my iron in CentOS and nothing like correct rendering can be achieved here either. Basically the same thing as in the VBox screenshot from F29. I never see the textures at all. I tried all the possible view settings, fiddled with 3D settings in preferences, but nothing seems to make it work.
    What's worse, the app seems very unstable, touching some scrollbars in view can easily crash it etc.
    It's an old binary so I guess that's what we get.

    As for Foxit, it has always been perfectly stable on two machines I have it installed, never a single problem. Can you share your HW specifics and drivers used?

    A bit OT. For those hard cases, it's always good to have elephants enabled. Even the apparently complete freeze can be usually dealt with with their help, at least in terms of proper filesystem unmounting.

  10. #10
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    what elephants enabled? I take it that was some kind of predictive text/spell checker auto-replace shenanigans at play

  11. #11
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    I of course mean SysRq 'magic key' combination. It works most of the time, when keyboard seems unresponsive and the whole system seems to be dead.
    I will not write everything about it, since I think you're kidding me anyway. But I think that Fedora has it disabled by default, CentOS too, it has to be specifically enabled to work.
    In case you're not kidding, here is what it is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_SysRq_key
    The wikipedia article mentions the REISUB combo, in case I have the problem, I mostly use RSEIUB, or to be precise, RSE as that is usually enough to bring back login manager, in case I'm on X. Which I'm most of the time. Meaning of the keys in the article.
    I should mention that their power is so great that EVERYTIME I had that kind of dead system, I was able to get out of it w/o having to touch the reset or power button.

    I needed elephants' help maybe 6-7 times in my whole Linux history of usage and most of the time, it was with Nouveau drivers. It's not exactly Nouveau's fault, people behind it are doing what they can, but since Nvidia isn't helping them much, it can get only so far.

    Windows has no such emergency measure and I still think you're kidding me, because everyone should be friends with elephants!

  12. #12
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    Hi all.

    Dears do you know that we have now a FREE OF CHARGE PDF viewer from PDF Studio Pro or not ?

    The best of best native Linux PDF editor is PDF Studio. The company launched a free of charge version (PDF viewer). The exiting is that this viewer come with a very nice set of annotations options.

    Please see these links:

    https://www.qoppa.com/

    https://www.qoppa.com/pdfstudio/

    https://www.qoppa.com/pdfstudioviewer/

    The last link is for free viewer.

    Please keep in mind that this project is completely closed source.

    It will be very nice to see this project available to us via RPMFusion repositories. But unfortunately this must done by company itself. They are not interested at all.

    Moreover, I contact them about 7 days ago asking them if they have plan to make their great program available as AppImage but they said to me that currently have no any plan for this. But they forward my request to their developers.

    PDF-XChange editor pluse (have no native Linux version) can run very nice on Linux on WineHQ. But the problem is that WineHQ return you to space of viruses & spaywares ..... In fact PDF XChange editor pluse has only cosmetic bugs on WineHQ with FULL functionality.
    Fedora 28 X64 bit Cinnamon edition on Lenovo ThinkPad e550 with Intel core i7 5500 CPU @ 2.40 GH X 2, RAM = 8 GB, HHD = 1 TB, Hybrid VGA (Intel Corporation HD Graphic 5500 + Radeon R7 M265 2GB)

  13. #13
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    Hi Maryyy -

    Nice touch about the elephants! :-) I did not try the SysRq key. I was tempted to do CTL-ALT-Backspace, but that would have aborted a number of other apps. If ssh had not worked, that was my next step. I knew the system was not completely dead because the numlock and capslock lights were still working. Pressing either key would toggle the state of the related indicator light.

    My main hardware is a Supermicro mainboard, 16gb memory and Intel i5 processor. The display is nVidia GT710 chipset running proprietary nVidia drivers. I also have a Lenovo T410 laptop (Intel display) and several VirtualBox machines. I have CentOS systems but they are all servers and do not have any kind of GUI installed.

    I tried the Adobe Reader installation on a couple of VBox VMs, both running Fedora 29. One is 64-bit and the other is 32-bit. I also tried it on the laptop which has F29 installed. In all cases the 3D rendering does not work. I am missing something ... It worked the last time I tried it. That has been (unspecified!) time ago, so it is no longer possible to tell what change made it stop.

    As for running Reader in Wine ... Yeah, that's possible. But I am not that desperate. I have a Windows virtual machine. On the rare occasions I need 3D rendering of a PDF I can use it.

    If you are interested, the 3D file we are using as a sample was created by AgiSoft PhotoScan. One of my caving buddies uses that program professionally and so has a license that lets him create PDF files of his models. There is a Linux version of PhotoScan which works quite well. It will run in demo mode forever without a license key, but is limited to viewing files. Unfortunately it will not view the PDF files it creates. It only views its own native format PSZ files.

    http://www.agisoft.com/

    The cave map was created by Therion on my Fedora system.

    https://therion.speleo.sk/

    Bill Gee

  14. #14
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    Hi user808 -

    I have never heard of Qoppa. Thanks for mentioning it! I took a quick look at their site but did not see an obvious way to download just a PDF viewer. They also want a fair bit of information - like my snail-mail address!

    I assume you have Qoppa installed. Have you tried the two sample files I have linked above?

    Bill Gee

  15. #15
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    Re: The great PDF viewer debate

    CrazyCaver, I was able to find, download and install the Qoppa PDF Studio Viewer. Tried to open the Cave from both the Dropbox and also a downloaded file but both failed with Qoppa. Here's the 'fail':
    com.qoppa.pdf.PDFException: Invalid PDF document
    at com.qoppa.pdf.f.r.i(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.pdf.f.r.u(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.pdf.f.r.cb(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.pdf.f.r.<init>(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.bb.f.b.<init>(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.bb.c.jc(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.ib.j.n.<init>(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.bb.c.<init>(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.k.b.eld(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.k.b.ghd(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.pdfStudioViewer.c.e.csc(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.pdfStudioViewer.c.e.zpc(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.pdfStudioViewer.c.e.atc(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.pdfStudioViewer.c.c.actionPerformed(Unkn own Source)
    at com.qoppa.pdfStudio.l.c.d$_d.g(Unknown Source)
    at com.qoppa.pdfStudio.l.c.d$_d$1.mouseReleased(Unkno wn Source)
    at java.awt.Component.processMouseEvent(Component.jav a:6533)
    at javax.swing.JComponent.processMouseEvent(JComponen t.java:3324)
    at java.awt.Component.processEvent(Component.java:629 8)
    at java.awt.Container.processEvent(Container.java:223 7)
    at java.awt.Component.dispatchEventImpl(Component.jav a:4889)
    at java.awt.Container.dispatchEventImpl(Container.jav a:2295)
    at java.awt.Component.dispatchEvent(Component.java:47 11)
    at java.awt.LightweightDispatcher.retargetMouseEvent( Container.java:4889)
    at java.awt.LightweightDispatcher.processMouseEvent(C ontainer.java:4526)
    at java.awt.LightweightDispatcher.dispatchEvent(Conta iner.java:4467)
    at java.awt.Container.dispatchEventImpl(Container.jav a:2281)
    at java.awt.Window.dispatchEventImpl(Window.java:2746 )
    at java.awt.Component.dispatchEvent(Component.java:47 11)
    at java.awt.EventQueue.dispatchEventImpl(EventQueue.j ava:760)
    at java.awt.EventQueue.access$500(EventQueue.java:97)
    at java.awt.EventQueue$3.run(EventQueue.java:709)
    at java.awt.EventQueue$3.run(EventQueue.java:703)
    at java.security.AccessController.doPrivileged(Native Method)
    at java.security.ProtectionDomain$JavaSecurityAccessI mpl.doIntersectionPrivilege(ProtectionDomain.java: 80)
    at java.security.ProtectionDomain$JavaSecurityAccessI mpl.doIntersectionPrivilege(ProtectionDomain.java: 90)
    at java.awt.EventQueue$4.run(EventQueue.java:733)
    at java.awt.EventQueue$4.run(EventQueue.java:731)
    at java.security.AccessController.doPrivileged(Native Method)
    at java.security.ProtectionDomain$JavaSecurityAccessI mpl.doIntersectionPrivilege(ProtectionDomain.java: 80)
    at java.awt.EventQueue.dispatchEvent(EventQueue.java: 730)
    at java.awt.EventDispatchThread.pumpOneEventForFilter s(EventDispatchThread.java:205)
    at java.awt.EventDispatchThread.pumpEventsForFilter(E ventDispatchThread.java:116)
    at java.awt.EventDispatchThread.pumpEventsForHierarch y(EventDispatchThread.java:105)
    at java.awt.EventDispatchThread.pumpEvents(EventDispa tchThread.java:101)
    at java.awt.EventDispatchThread.pumpEvents(EventDispa tchThread.java:93)
    at java.awt.EventDispatchThread.run(EventDispatchThre ad.java:82)
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