The Grumpy Editor's guide to free
tried to assess the current state of the art in free
applications which deal with PDF files. Since the publication of that
article in December, a new player has shown up. Evince
is a GPL-licensed
GNOME viewer for a number of document formats, including PDF, PostScript,
and DVI files. When evince 0.1.1
announced, your editor decided that it was time to have a look.
Evince is built as a viewer with the ability to add backends for any file
format of interest. For PDF files, the supplied backend is based on the
xpdf code. The PostScript backend uses ghostscript, and the DVI backend
uses a built-in DVI library. Building evince requires the GNOME 2.9
libraries, but is otherwise painless; it dropped right into place on your
editor's Fedora Rawhide system.
This application is looking good - especially for a 0.1.1 release. The
rendering of PDF files is fast, and the quality is good. The zoom options
are rational, and it is easy to move around within the document. Printing
of PDF files works (that's one of the new features in 0.1.1). Evince can
display page thumbnails in a side bar; for documents with a table of
contents, that, too, can be displayed and used for navigation. Text can be
selected with the mouse and pasted into other applications.
Evince offers a search capability which appears to have potential, but
which needs a bit of work yet. Hitting "^F" will open a
firefox-style "find" bar at the bottom of the screen (search does not
appear to be available from the menus). Typing a string will highlight
occurrences of that string in the text; see the screenshot for an example.
There are "previous" and "next" buttons, but the only thing they do is
cause "find previous" or "find next" to be printed; it's nice to know that
evince is listening, but that still is probably not quite what the user had in
mind. If the string does not appear on the current page, evince will note
the next page where the string can be found - but the user must get
to that page independently.
There are a few other glitches yet. Selecting text with the mouse can be a
little unreliable; sometimes what gets pasted is not exactly the text which
was selected. There are no thumbnails for PostScript documents. The
buttons for paging through the document are labeled "Up" and "Down," which
are not the most obvious terms. There is no way to print only part of a
document. There is no man page - or other help of any sort.
All of the above notwithstanding, evince is a tool which is, even at this
early point, competitive with the other free PDF viewers. It is entirely
useful now. If development continues at the current pace, evince may well
become your editor's viewer of choice in the near future.
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