back to article Firefox 119 unleashes PDF prowess and Sync sorcery

Firefox 119 is out with improved inter-device sync and PDF editing, but coming soon is a whole new ability. The latest version refines and improves some of the browser's existing abilities in PDF handling and cross-gadget synchronization. A whole new and significantly helpful feature should show up in a forthcoming version, …

  1. Filippo Silver badge

    Another thumbs up from me for Firefox's PDF viewer. It's gotten to the point where I prefer it to Adobe's.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speed is of the essence

    For one of my clients at least.

    I did trial removing Foxit Reader and making FF the default PDF viewer.

    It was too slow launching unfortunately, so had to reinstall Foxit.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Speed is of the essence

      Hmm. Without making it the default I right clicked on a 272 page PDF and select Firefox (ESR version here, 115.4) to open. The first page was on screen in less than a second. However, I'll stick with Okular as the default.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Speed is of the essence

        Firefox's PDF renderer is fine for text-based documents. But for documents with lots of vector graphics (e.g. planning applications) Forget it: Performance is dire. Just download the PDF and open it in a dedicated PDF reader. Viola - instant scroling & zooming.

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

          Re: Speed is of the essence

          [Author here]

          > But for documents with lots of vector graphics (e.g. planning applications)

          OK, I will bite. Got a link to an example we can try that demonstrates this?

          1. Mockup1974 Bronze badge

            Re: Speed is of the essence

            The tube map: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/london-rail-and-tube-services-map.pdf is quite slow when zooming or scrolling on my phone, both in Firefox and GrapheneOS's Secure PDF Viewer (based on Firefox's PDF viewer I think). On desktop Firefox it's usable.

      2. Grogan Silver badge

        Re: Speed is of the essence

        Okular is the nicest (and my favourite, ever) PDF reader in the known galaxy. Unfortunately I can't stomach the bloat of its environment (I just like simple, 20 year old window managers). I have XPDF (which just uses QT for its UI, no KDE deps) which is OK, but I just use Firefox now. If I was using KDE, there's no way I'd be using anything but Okular though.

        I tried to like using KDE Plasma, I really did. Actually I do like it (it's feature rich, with lots of eye candy) but for other people. I like playing with KDE, but I don't want to use it for work (or gaming) and don't want the dependencies on my system.

        1. RedGreen925

          Re: Speed is of the essence

          "I like playing with KDE, but I don't want to use it for work (or gaming) and don't want the dependencies on my system."

          That tired old lie again from the hater who pretends to like it while disparaging it.

          zeus@9600k:~$ df -h

          Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on

          udev 16G 0 16G 0% /dev

          tmpfs 3.2G 3.1M 3.2G 1% /run

          /dev/nvme0n1p2 40G 13G 27G 33% /

          .... snip

          A whopping 13GB TOTAL for the entire system including the KDE part which I am sure is in the minority of the space taken by it. Debian 12 Bookworm fully up to date.

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

            Re: Speed is of the essence

            [Author here]

            > A whopping 13GB TOTAL for the entire system including the KDE part

            That you seem to think this is _good_ is a damning indictment of 21st century software.

            Go try this in a VM:

            https://winworldpc.com/product/qnx/144mb-demo

            That's just under one and a half MEGABYTES of compressed code with an entire OS, a network stack, a desktop GUI, and a working web browser.

            If you connect to its IP address from another machine you'll find that it's running a web server in the background as well.

            This needs 8MB of RAM.

            Megs are 1,000 times smaller than gigs.

            This is 10,000 times smaller than your claimed modest disk footprint and has the same core functionality. I doubt your Debian + KDE install has ten thousand times the functionality of QNX.

            13GB is not efficient or praiseworthy. It's _awful_. It's why we need continual updates, and high bandwidth downlinks to fetch them all. It's why we have millions of people employed fixing this stuff and a new kernel and new browser twice every 3 months.

        2. LionelB Silver badge

          Re: Speed is of the essence

          For an Xpdf replacement you might have a look at MuPDF - cross-platform, minimalist interface, lightning fast, good font and graphics rendering. As it stands the desktop version doesn't support annotation and form filling yet, but that is apparently on the cards. It's been my go-to PDF viewer for many years.

  3. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Wot? Actual useful new features in FF, instead of removing stuff I needed?

    It's not April 1st just yet.

    I guess I'll have to see if this will coexist with the 95.0.2 version, or if I'll need separate profiles.

  4. cornetman Silver badge

    I did try the PDF editor feature, which was new to me, for filling in a permanent residency renewal and found that it lacked support for dynamic PDFs. Which is a shame because as a Linux user myself, PDF forms support is woefully lacking. Had to drop back to Acrobat in a Windows VM which is annoying.

    Props to Mozilla for these developments although it is still weird to me that I have to go to a web browser fill in a forms PDF.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fortunately “dynamic pdfs” (XFA in the trade) have been deprecated for a few years now. Adobe liked them, everyone else loathed them. And now they’re deprecated you won’t see anyone spending the effort to add support.

  5. 43300 Silver badge

    Sounds good. I've not used the Adobe reader for quite a few years, apart from testing occasionally to confirm that it's still crap - Foxit reader is far superior. If Firefox acquires all the abilities of Foxit Reader then a separate PDF reader may not be needed at all.

    This is Windows, of course - I am aware that there are fewer options on Linux.

  6. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    It sounds as if it might be worth comparing with Foxit ... if only it wasn't a snap, because it will be a cold day in hell before I allow one of those on my system.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Megaphone

      If you don't like snaps, don't use Ubuntu. Other linux distros exist. Vanilla Debian or Linux Mint are good choices if you are migrating away from Ubuntu.

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

      [Author here]

      > if only it wasn't a snap, because it will be a cold day in hell before I allow one of those on my system.

      Mostly, what @katrinab said.

      There is nothing intrinsically wrong with snap, and I am starting to view this as another instance of irrational hatred in the Linux world... which didn't need _any_ more of that.

      But the Firefox snap is purely Canonical's version, and as I have *repeatedly* pointed out, it means Canonical can push out a single Firefox package that runs on 18.04, 20.04, 22.04, 23.04 and 23.10. (And 22.10 but that's EOL now, and in principle also on 14.04 and 16.04 which are now in paid ESM support only.)

      If you don't want the snap, then enable the mozilla-team PPA:

      https://launchpad.net/~mozillateam/+archive/ubuntu/ppa

      Or add the Ubuntuzilla 3rd party repo:

      https://sourceforge.net/projects/ubuntuzilla/

      ... and then you can run the latest Firefox, Thunderbird, and Seamonkey releases as natively-packaged .DEB files.

      1. AnAnonymousCanuck

        Nothing Wrong?

        > There is nothing intrinsically wrong with snap,

        Yes there is, the same problem as python has: duplicate, inconsistent system libraries.

        YMMV, but I'm not interested in debugging through multiple loaded dynamic libraries.

        AAC

  7. rcxb Silver badge

    Name one

    This eliminated the need for a separate PDF viewer or plugin – especially handy for operating systems that may not have one.

    Please name ONE operating system where modern Firefox runs, but which doesn't have one or more PDF viewers...

    Because I can name a huge number of the opposite... Lots of platforms can open PDFs but don't or can't have modern web browsers.

    For instance, the official Adobe Reader for Linux was discontinued after version 9 and that decade-old version doesn't install smoothly on modern Linux,

    Right, no Adobe Acrobat on Linux, but a dozen PDF readers available for sure. Ghostscript (found on practically every Linux system) is great, allowing converting anything to or from PDF, stripping password protection out, quickly lowering image resolution to shrink gigantic PDFs to reasonable sizes, etc., and that's just one common tool, not mentioning all the things you can do utilizing a few others

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

      Re: Name one

      [Author here]

      > which doesn't have one or more PDF viewers...

      You are missing the point.

      It is not about programs that can _view_ PDF files. It is about programs that can:

      [1] Allow you to complete PDF forms.

      [2] Allow you to annotate non-form PDFs, so you can fill in forms that were meant to be printed.

      _That_ is the differentiating factor here. Not viewing -- viewing is easy -- but *editing.* That is the hard part.

      In my previous full-time role, I needed to annotate PDFs on an almost daily basis. Last time I checked, I tried out about half a dozen PDF viewers in the distro's repos, and in desperation, some Snaps and Flatpak as well.

      Loads of viewers. Most with horrid UIs, like Evince: crippled with GNOMish CSD and no menu bar. Mint's Xviewer at least fixes that. The Mint X-apps are a hugely underrated resource.

      Most couldn't do forms and couldn't annotate. A few, worse still, could annotate, but could not view _other's annotations_ which totally destroys any workflow based on passing around annotated documents. That is quite a common thing to want to do and a perfectly reasonable request.

      The *only* Linux one I could find that could do both was Okular, which is ugly and needs hundreds of megs of KDE libraries installed.

      1. rcxb Silver badge

        Re: Name one

        It is not about programs that can _view_ PDF files. It is about programs that can: [1] Allow you to complete PDF forms. [2] Allow you to annotate non-form PDFs, so you can fill in forms that were meant to be printed.

        That's fine. By all means, point me to a platform that doesn't have applications that can handle PDF forms and annotate PDFs, but does get modern versions of Firefox.

        Personally, I've always hated the Firefox PDF viewer, as it quite often doesn't print out PDFs as they are formatted, which is the #1 feature PDFs have going for them. Disabled it across my company, to eliminate all the regular complaints that PDFs (that my program generated) were cut-off when printed, as well as terrible performance on very large PDFs. I'm happy to try it again to see if they've improved things, though I don't see any compelling reason to when the native PDF viewer works great (on all platforms).

        The *only* Linux one I could find that could do both was Okular, which is ugly and needs hundreds of megs of KDE libraries installed.

        Fortunately you found one.

        I'm not sure why you need ONE app to be able to do both, when we're talking about lightweight free apps. That sounds like the Windows mindset. In the Linux world, I'd go straight to a fully capable PDF editor, instead of using a tacked-on annotation feature in a crippled "viewer" app.

        Personally, I open PDFs in Xournal if I need to edit, erase, draw on, or annotate them. Well known and even more capable PDF editors include Inkscape, Scribus, LibreOffice Draw, and Qoppa.

      2. nightflier

        Re: Name one

        > needs hundreds of megs of KDE libraries

        Another example of "irrational hatred". In return for a few hundred megs of disk space you get a lot of functionality. Those libraries do much more than just handle PDFs.

        For best results, KDE apps should be enjoyed using a KDE centric distro. That way all the pieces can work together, adding up to more than the sum of its parts.

        1. rcxb Silver badge

          Re: Name one

          That's a valid point. System requirements for Adobe's Acrobat Reader alone are: "450MB of available hard-disk space"

      3. YetAnotherXyzzy

        Re: Name one

        I feel your pain Liam, having shared that particular boat with you, but that problem would be best solved by more PDF applications on Linux that don't suck. Bolting yet another blade onto the already 100-bladed knife that are modern web browsers takes us yet another step away from the "every tool does one job and does it well" rule that brought me to Linux in the first place.

        Reading both your article and many of the comments here does make it clear that I am a minority in that opinion however. So no hate for anyone who is enjoying the new Firefox and its improved PDF support.

        1. druck Silver badge

          Re: Name one

          I'm very much a fan of "every tool does one job and does it well", but the vast majority of PDFs I come across are on the web, and I want to display them in a tab along with all the other web content. For example bank statements, they appear in an FF tab rather than launching another application on top, or worse having to save and open then from a file manager. Should I want to do more than look at the PDF, I can always launch a separate application at that point.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like