back to article Firefox 106 will let you type directly into browser PDFs

Mozilla has released the latest version of the leading FOSS browser for Linux, Windows, macOS, FreeBSD and mobile OSes. Firefox version 106 isn't a big release, but it includes some welcome new features nonetheless, with notable improvements in PDF handling and cross-device sync. The built-in Javascript-based PDF viewer has …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keep up the good work

    Finally, some new features that are actually useful, instead of ugly unwanted user interface regressions.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Keep up the good work

      This is excellent, for some reason some of the regulatory forms we have to complete each year are sent out in .pdf format, so then we have to find a way to edit them, or convert them to Word and back, and it's never perfect, something always ends up being misaligned or mangled. FF to the rescue!

      1. steelpillow Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Keep up the good work

        The best ones are where they demand an electronic format with your unique signature handwritten on. When pressed, they explain that you are expected to print out their e-form, sign it and scan it back in for them. When I say "but I don't have a printer, what should I do instead?", they click a random ticked-off box and refuse to ever reply to your query.

        So I break the terms of the small print and copy-paste a scanned signature from an old tax form or somewhere. My now illegal (and hence not valid, but they don't know that) document is processed quite happily.

        1. Maryland, USA

          Re: Keep up the good work

          I, too, import a scanned signature. Don't forget to flatten the layers so it looks as though you signed a printout, then scanned it.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Keep up the good work

            I supposed "flatten the layers" is good defense-in-depth, but honestly, the businesses and government agencies I deal with can barely manage to create a PDF in the first place. I greatly doubt they'd be able to figure out I hadn't scanned a signed copy.

            The whole thing is stupid where I live anyway, since digital signatures have Been A Thing in most US states since the UETA in 1999, and the ESIGN Act in 2000 made electronic signatures valid under Federal jurisdiction. Asking for a handwritten signature is unnecessary under US law, and an indication that the entity you're doing business with is incompetent.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I imagine this will be hated by the UK DWP

    who have made it their raison d'etre to ensure applications for PIP and DLA cannot under any circumstances be electronically assisted.

    I know - I had knock on the door when I did it for a friend a couple of years back. Apparently only criminals use PDFs. Or so I was told.

    1. David Gosnell

      Re: I imagine this will be hated by the UK DWP

      Then they scan your posted printed ink-filled PDF upon receipt, and lose half the pages. At least the people on the other end of the phone there generally seem to realise how crap it all is.

    2. Bruce Ordway
      Joke

      Re: I imagine this will be hated by the UK DWP

      >>> only criminals use PDFs.

      And originally developed by...?

  3. aerogems Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Nice!

    Maybe now I can finally get rid of Foxit Reader, which sadly has been going downhill for some time. It used to be a nice alternative to Adobe's bloated monstrosity of an official app, but over time it's become more bloated itself and they keep trying to push their alternative to Acrobat and trick you into installing it if you don't pay close attention during the installation of updates or anything else. I don't begrudge them trying to make money to continue existing, but when you resort to underhanded methods like that, you tend to lose my respect and sympathy.

    This change also came at just the right time for Firefox, since once Manifest v3 lands on Chromium browsers, Firefox will be able to offer this as an added incentive to switch.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Nice!

      [Author here]

      I don't use Windows very often at all, but when I do, I use a FOSS reader called Sumatra PDF.

      https://www.sumatrapdfreader.org/free-pdf-reader

      I switched from Foxit when it had some security issues and so on and I learned it was proprietary: freeware but not Free.

      Sumatra works for the basics, and it's included on Ninite, so it's easy. One tick and done.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice!

        There is also Okular, which has a more sane user interface, even though it has its problems.

        Like why does it push me towards the store and not update the normal app. Why does it (and a lot of other programs. Office jumps to mind.) think I want a list of files or anything at all when I open a piece of software like this.

      2. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: Nice!

        A touch on the basic side, but I so rarely need to annotate PDFs these days, it'll probably work fine. Thanks. Still should give the Firefox one a try just to see what it can do.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Nice!

          "A touch on the basic side, but I so rarely need to annotate PDFs these days, it'll probably work fine."

          I don't think I've needed to annotate a .pdf in the last 5 years or more. Anything I get in .pdf format is a final published document that needs to be un-editable. The rest of the time is usually something mangled in Word for which I'll use LibreOffice to work on. Most of what I do are schematics and drawings anyway so .pdf's are fine. There are tools for people to annotate Solidworks files that don't mess with the file itself and things I am documenting from Altium need to be in a fixed format that can't be changed by others.

          1. parlei

            Re: Nice!

            For us who read scientific articles, where the PDF reigns fairly supreme, the ability to annotate is nice.

            1. LionelB Silver badge

              Re: Nice!

              Nice if it worked consistently across platforms and viewers. Unfortunately it just doesn't.

        2. hammarbtyp

          Re: Nice!

          I often get PDF's that need signing for forms. My present modus operandi is to print it out, sign it, scan it and send it back.

          If I can add a jpeg instead, it could be useful

          1. daysgoby

            Re: Nice!

            You can't, this is strictly for doodling, you would have to sign it with a mouse.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: Nice!

              Nah. The mouse gave me power of attorney.

          2. LionelB Silver badge

            Re: Nice!

            There are various applications capable of doing that. On Linux I use Xournal++.

      3. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Re: Nice!

        We also use Sumatra, which is working great. No bloated functionality, just the basics and that's often enough.

        We have little problems with a few printers, for some mysterious reasons a stripe appears when printing the PDF. Going with the older version of Sumatra (3.0) solves the problem.

        == Bring us Dabbsy back! ==

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice!

        "I don't use Windows very often at all, but when I do, I use a FOSS reader called Sumatra PDF.

        https://www.sumatrapdfreader.org/free-pdf-reader"

        Thanks for the heads up ! I was after a non Adobe PDF reader for work since Edge is all I had until now and it ... sucks !

        This reader, Sumatra, seems to be blazing fast and really good, I just tried it on a 300 pages PDF. Very impressive.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice!

        Had looked at it the past but found it a bit on the slow side. Will look at it again.

        At the moment I find it easier to use the PDF viewer in Edge rather than Adobe as a lesser of two evils. (Don't judge me - work's computer)

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice!

        yes, I've used sumatra for years. It's very small, portable if need be, does the job, and isn't adobe.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: Nice!

          But alas is not and never will be available for Linux. On which I use Foxit when I need to add comments or annotations, since it does these will though it's a little slow to load.

          1. daysgoby

            Re: Nice!

            works fine with wine if you're so inclined. but on linux you have things like okular and evince.

      7. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Nice!

        I tried Sumatra some years ago and had problems with it (I no longer recall the details). But perhaps it's better now.

        I agree that FoxIt, which used to be decent, now requires a hearty beating with the Settings stick after installation. Their PDF editor is similarly usable but immediately after installation the UI is like 70% toolbars and needs massive surgery to be looked at without suffering Lovecraftian breakdown, never mind actually using the thing.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Nice!

      Yep, next time I do a fresh install of Linux on my PC (when I build a new one, about every 5-6 years) I will be able to leave Adobe Reader off it. I only kept it around for fill-in forms, though recently I've seen some PDFs that didn't work on the older Reader available on Linux, so being able to do them directly in Firefox is a win!

      Google has delayed Manifest v3 until 2024, I think they are scared about a lot of people fleeing when adblockers become much less useful. But that change was probably dictated to the Chrome team by the bigwigs who want more people to see the ads so they can keep revenue up...

  4. RobThBay

    Leave my system settings alone.

    So, when you select the latest Firefox to be your default browser it changes your system settings to declare itself as the default pdf viewer.

    They should at least ask if you'd like your settings changed!

    1. Press any key

      Re: Leave my system settings alone.

      Wait a couple of days and it will have magically changed to edge

      1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Leave my system settings alone.

        >>Wait a couple of days and it will have magically changed to edge

        or in the case of several machines here at work, IE11!

        Explosion over there ---->

        cos thats what Micorsoft deserve for resetting the default browser to their own discontinued software (even when Edge is available on the machine in question and the default, set by GPO, was Chrome)!

    2. Kobus Botes

      Re: Leave my system settings alone.

      @RobThBay

      "...declare itself as the default pdf viewer."

      I hate that!

      The first unwelcome feature I noticed was that you no longer have a choice whether you want to download or view the document; it either downloads it automatically or opens it in the case of pdf's. And only then can you download it if that is what you want to do.

      Another annoyance is that blockers seem to have stopped working. Both Adblock +, A. nd UBlock Origen allows ads through - it is as if ads have become invisible as the status panel states there are no ads to block, whilst the ads are flickering annoyingly at me.

      NoScript have also stopped working some time ago; if you right-click on it it does not give you the option to change from default (i.e . blocking everything) to temporary unblocking scripts I choose or allowinwing all scripts on the page or site.

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Re: Leave my system settings alone.

        uBlock0 and NoScript are working fine for me...

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: Leave my system settings alone.

          Yup, same here, everything works, something is broken on your side.

      2. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Leave my system settings alone.

        > you no longer have a choice whether you want to download or view the document

        Me again. Your installation is definitely broken, I just tested and I still get to chose if I want to view or download a linked PDF file (as set in Settings/General/Applications).

        Exception are obviously websites which are hard coded to open PDFs whatever you say, but that's not Firefox's fault now is it.

  5. G R Goslin

    Oh, for God's sake

    Ahhhhh!. How do I get Firefox back to a rational colour system, from this garish new appearance?

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Oh, for God's sake

      [Author here]

      Yeah, it turned bright green on me. :-)

      It's under Settings or Preferences (depends on OS). One of the themes is "use OS theme".

      1. G R Goslin

        Re: Oh, for God's sake

        Thanks, sanity returns afte rfinding the entry in 'settings'. Firefox really needs a formal user manual, but, unfortunately it would have to be re-written, cover to cover after each update. I worked for many years, in IT support and it continued to amaze me, why the dev's continued to add pointless changes to the system for no practical purpose, other than to give them something to do (and presumably continue to get paid). I was the administrator of an advanced CAD package, largely since I had thirty years experience as a draughtsman. The CAD package (Medusa) , was that rarity in software, being absolutely perfect from the word go. Cambrige University, the designers didn't sell the product, merely licensed it out. Our licencee, took it on themselves to add bells and whistles to the package, which no draughtsman would ever want or use. Sadly I never saw the most wished for advance, that of an A0 high definition monitor.

        1. H in The Hague

          Re: Oh, for God's sake

          "The CAD package (Medusa) ..."

          Is that the package now marketed as M4? https://www.cad-schroer.com/products/m4-personal/

          Looks interesting and free for personal use.

          1. G R Goslin

            Re: Oh, for God's sake

            M4 it was. I'm surprised (or possibly, not) , that it hasn't gone up in issue for the past twenty years. As a draughtsman, it all went wrong, for me when they made a windows version. Not THE Windows, since it still ran on Solaris. The original, and best ran on a tablet, which held the instruction sheets, selected by a puck, rather like a passive mouse, with a joystick for navigation about the 'board'. A separate monitor and keyboard ran manual entry. In the 'windowed' version, everything was on the main monitor, where it severely restricted the amount of 'paper' space. A definitely nogo for a draughtsman. They did, too a free version, which at that time ran on Linux, my OS of choice. later they moved it to Windows, and I lost interest.

      2. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Oh, for God's sake

        > Yeah, it turned bright green on me. :-)

        How do you managed that? I guess you both toyed with the themes, so it's your fault... :-p

        I've always kept the inconspicuous "system theme", since my browser is just a container for web pages, not a fashion statement.

    2. Mooseman Silver badge

      Re: Oh, for God's sake

      "How do I get Firefox back to a rational colour system,"

      It gave me the option when updating to the latest version.

    3. daysgoby

      Re: Oh, for God's sake

      change the theme in settings

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why do I keep installing this each time I see a story like this. They haven't fixed most of the issues that got me to move away from it in the first place.

    Some rendering improvements for a format that should just get launched into the the firey inferno of the sun.

    1. Updraft102

      Firefox is far from perfect, but it's the best browser I've been able to find (since ~2001 or 2002, when it stopped being Phoenix and Firebird and reached 1.0). Haven't found a Chromium browser that is usable, though Vivaldi is giving it a lot of effort.

      This is on Linux, of course. (What else is there?)

      1. daysgoby

        It really is the best browser because it gives you control and doesn't take away adblocking like chrome is getting ready to do.

    2. daysgoby

      I've had zero problems with rendering. It's basically as good as chrome for me and has been for years. It added pdf as other browsers have the function as well.

  7. Woodnag

    Security settings?

    So if the PDF has security settings disallowing editing, commenting etc... will FF still allow it? Breaking the security PW is easy - Elcomsoft Advanced PDF Password Recovery (APDFPR) does it in a fraction of a second. Not so trivial to break a PW needed to open a PDF, mind you...

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Security settings?

      I doubt that's the case, they probably follow the API and obey the security settings.

      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: Security settings?

        A big annoyance is that many Canadian government forms that you are supposed to fill in have a default setting to prevent filling it in.

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Security settings?

          [Author here]

          I don't know if you followed the link I put in about form-filling in Firefox 93, but it uses as its examples a bunch of Canadian government forms. Perhaps this is why. Go take a look and let us know?

      2. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: Security settings?

        The PDF binary format is well known. No API required. Moreover, this viewer is written in client-side JavaScript, which can't call native libraries.

        -A.

  8. Blackjack Silver badge

    While editing PDF is cool PDF are well quite unsafe to start with.

    1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

      when I were a lad...

      PDF was designed to be a write once system so that you could see a reasonable approximation, on your workstation, of what your printing presses would be producing.

      Sadly its usecase has been warped by time and continual abuse.

    2. daysgoby

      Unless you can point out a major breach in firefox pdf I don't think I can agree with you on that.

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      Maybe the problem isn't so much PDF

      Maybe when it isn't implemented by a company that produces such notoriously insecure code as Adobe PDF won't live down to its past reputation?

    4. ThatOne Silver badge

      > PDF are well quite unsafe to start with

      That's because they decided to add scripting to them, so you could package a nice little virus dropper with any otherwise legit PDF document. PDFs get quite secure again once you disable all those scripting and automatic virus downloading and installing features.

      (Which is what currently worries me with Firefox: I don't see any settings for that new PDF reader. I don't know if it is currently able to run scripts and automatically go silently fetch stuff behind my back, but the law of increasing bloat says it soon will, and I need to be able to tell it not to.)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the less need there is to open a PDF locally"

    Ehm, Firefox will still download and process the PDF locally. If it is safer than Acrobat and other tools is just up to the implementation.

    1. Steve Graham

      Re: "the less need there is to open a PDF locally"

      Commenter "Captain Veg" above says "written in client-side JavaScript, which can't call native libraries". That sounds safer.

  10. HkraM
    FAIL

    Stop ignore the address I type

    I'm starting to get increasingly annoyed with Firefox and finding I have to use Chrome.

    A couple of versions back Firefox stopped me accessing HTTP sites on my local network, including my router, by ignoring the address I'd typed in and using the HTTPS version of the address instead - but that doesn't exist on some devices on the network. After changing several settings in about:config I can now get to some of them, but one or two are still being blocked by Firefox.

    I just want a browser to go to the address I entered!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stop ignore the address I type

      HkraM,

      Go to 'about:preferences#privacy' in firefox

      scroll down to the section 'HTTPS-Only Mode'

      set to 'Don’t enable HTTPS-Only Mode'

      This should fix your problem.

      :)

      1. HkraM

        Re: Stop ignore the address I type

        AC - Thanks but that setting makes no difference to what I'm seeing - Firefox still goes to the HTTPS site and won't go to the HTTP site.

        1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

          Re: Stop ignore the address I type

          It's your local network, so you probably know what's going on there, but are you sure some of these sites don't implement HSTS?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stop ignore the address I type

          I would suspect that your network is set up to redirect http to https.

          (Is this at home or at work !!!???)

          Flush your local DNS Cache, just to make sure that windows is not being 'clever/dumb' !!!

          Open cmd.exe.

          run 'ipconfig /flushdns'

    2. daysgoby

      Re: Stop ignore the address I type

      you have to type http://whatever and it will work. I play with local web apps and microservices all the time and it works fine. It defaults to https and won't "gracefully degrade" to http, you have to deliberately type it

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stop ignore the address I type

        If you use an "unknown" TLD for local addresses it defaults to search for the typed text, something I find very annoying.

    3. notyetanotherid

      Re: Stop ignore the address I type

      > A couple of versions back Firefox stopped me accessing HTTP sites on my local network, including my router, by ignoring the address I'd typed in and using the HTTPS version of the address instead

      Do you have any privacy extensions installed? e.g. DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials will force https unless you add the URL to its excluded sites list.

  11. Stephen Wilkinson

    I have to use Adobe Acrobat to make PDFs digitally accessible. I don't think there's really an alternative for that.

    1. Maryland, USA

      Foxit Software's PDF Editor Pro can make a PDF accessible, natively and as an Office plug-in.

  12. Oh Homer

    Editing PDFs

    Apparently I'm the only person in our company with Acrobat Pro (personal copy), so up to now it's been left up to me to modify any PDFs where the original Doc is mysteriously missing.

    It's mostly contacts, that require somebody's name and signature inserted, and sometimes the dates or specific terms need changed.

    Mere "annotation" doesn't cut it, as often stuff actually has to be removed.

    It's a pain in the ass, tbh, but the corporate mindset has a pathological aversion to editable documents, yet otoh they keep passing me uneditable documents to edit.

    I once took it on my own initiative to recreate a PDF from scratch in Word. That didn't go down well. I got a 10 minute lecture about policy compliance. They literally just want uneditable documents, and they want me to edit them.

    1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

      Re: Editing PDFs

      Print the document. Edit it with a pen. Send it back by internal mail (don't bother scanning it). After a few hundred pages they should understand.

      1. Oh Homer

        Re: Editing PDFs

        Nice try, but then I'd be scolded for violating our "paperless office" environmental policy.

        My job is basically, dig a hole, don't put your dirt in Boss #1's yard, then Boss #2 asks why I put dirt in his yard, and tells me to refill the hole, thus enraging Boss #1. But instead of a shovel and dirt, it's a PC and PDFs.

        1. DJV Silver badge

          Re: Editing PDFs

          Ah, I think I see what you're doing wrong.

          What you need to do is edit ALL the PDFs that come your way so that the only text remaining inside them is: "Fsck you, I quit!"

          Obviously, having another job lined up first might also be a good idea.

    2. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Editing PDFs

      Explain to them that your software has been upgraded and now comes with a license fee for every document opened. Since the license is in your name, you have to pay the fee yourself via your personal account with them. From now on you will have to charge the company $17.23 for each document you open, and another $28.49 for every one you then edit and save. The upgrade is not reversible.

      To the company shills - I deny that I am being even a tiny bit serious, this is just a joke. Like your company.

  13. Fred Daggy Silver badge
    Unhappy

    PDF Must Die

    PDF. What's not to hate?

    Implicit assumption is that your at a Desk/Laptop. Using PDF browser of choice. All looks the same? Well mostly the same because A4 and Letter aren't the same. Will be Letter on my screen but I may need to print it to A4 paper. Cue "PC Load Letter". Most software is getting smarter about this, but, not all. But there will still be a difference.

    But what if you're not at a desk. But using a phone, or even a smaller tablet. One is reduced to endless bouts of scroll, zoom in, scroll a little, zoom out. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

    99.99% of all PDF documents do not convert well, to say, an e-reader. Unwrapping lines is at best a guess - "Anything over x% of a full line width indicates end of paragraph".

    And really, it is just useless if one wants to automate a workflow. But, seems to have been pressed in to service to fit this use case. Most people have no idea how to make editable fields. (See also para 1, above)

    I just hates it.

  14. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Second, as malware-laden PDFs are unfortunately still a thing, the less need there is to open a PDF locally, the more it helps your system security.

    In what sense is using Firefox not "opening a PDF locally"?

    1. Tom 38

      When you view a webpage, the browser downloads the data and displays it to you. We consider that "viewing the page", even though the browser has downloaded the data to a local file or memory buffer first.

      When using an external program to view a PDF, the browser downloads the PDF to disk, and launches the external program to open that downloaded PDF file. From the security perspective of the external program, the file is opened from a local file*. This can have security implications.

      As I read it, Firefox now opens and renders the PDF like it would open and render a webpage. It's well aware that the file is not a local file, but a remote untrusted one, and can sandbox it from doing "naughty" things.

      * I know, Windows does something about marking downloaded files as downloaded.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      > In what sense is using Firefox not "opening a PDF locally"?

      Obviously the information has to be downloaded (becoming "local"), else you wouldn't be able to see it... The only alternative would be to upload yourself to the server.

  15. Tom 7

    Can we store them as HTML

    so they fit in my browser.

  16. MrZoolook
    Facepalm

    PDFs..? Haven't we moved on to better things yet?

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      When layout, font, rendering etc. are critical and must stay the same (e.g. in many scientific papers), PDF is king. You give me a better solution.

      1. nijam Silver badge

        > When layout, font, rendering etc. are critical and must stay the same (e.g. in many scientific papers), PDF is king.

        Except that it relies on you having whatever shonky/proprietary fonts that the author used. So more like a jester, usually.

        1. steelpillow Silver badge

          Kind authors save the fonts out in the PDF. Bloats it but, hey, don't ever have an open font standard with every standard font freely available on t'interweb thing via its unique URI.

          1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

            The kinder authors convert everything to vector paths so fonts don't need to be embedded.

  17. Steve Graham

    The indirect approach

    My workaround for filling in PDF forms has been to import them into GIMP at 600dpi, use the Text tool to add text, and then render the result as a new PDF file. Nobody has caught me out so far.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The indirect approach

      " ... render the result as a new PDF file. Nobody has caught me out so far."

      Remember to use 'Comic Sans' as your font when filling out the form !!!

      :)

    2. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: The indirect approach

      Inkscape would be a better choice.

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