Viewing PDFs with a Chrome Extension

Since its release, Chrome has provided several ways to improve user experience on the web, including an easy-to-use interface, short start up times, and advanced features for developers.

One of the features that has made life even easier for users is the introduction of extensions to the platform. With extensions, Chrome is now able to add features that might be of interest to users, without requiring them to be programed by Google engineers. In fact, extensions will work without even requiring the browser to restart — a big advantage when compared to Firefox standard behavior.

An extension that was recently introduced allow users to have much easier access to PDF files. PDF is the standard format for files that need to be printed, and is used everywhere. However, viewing PDFs has always been less efficient than viewing HTML, because PDF files require an external plugin, such as Adobe Acrobat reader. Although the plugin is easy to use, it doesn’t behave exactly like the browser, which may be a disadvantage to many users.

A new Chrome extension has improved this situation. The Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer extension allows PDFs to be displayed in an HTML page, just like any other document. The service is provided by Google, and the result is very easy to use.

The main advantage of using this extension to Chrome is that it will open PDFs much faster than calling a PDF reader. Also, once the page is loaded, it can be easily manipulated as any other HTML page. It doesn’t behave as a separated application inside browser: it is just the browser natively displaying a document.

If you install this extension and want to get the real PDF (for archival reasons, for example), you can still save it to the hard drive. The process is the same as for other documents: right click on the link, and select the file name where Chrome will save the document. That is all you need to get a copy of the PDF on your computer.

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About the Author

Carlos Oliveira holds a PhD in Systems Engineering and Optimization from University of Florida. He works as a software engineer, with more than 10 years of experience in developing high performance, commercial and scientific applications in C++, Java, and Objective-C. His most Recent Book is Practical C++ Financial Programming.

2 Responses to “Viewing PDFs with a Chrome Extension”

  1. Thanks for this information. I tested it out and it’s _much_ faster than adobe acrobat (on Windows) and the .pdf reader that comes with Ubuntu.
    Too bad that this plugin can’t handle .ps files
    Perhaps this is something that they’ll address in the next release?

    By Caroline on Feb 20, 2010

  2. Yes, it would be even better if it worked for ps files. Let’s hope they fix this in the next version.

    By coliveira on Feb 20, 2010

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