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Applications and bundled libraries

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 4:51 UTC (Thu) by djao (guest, #4263)
In reply to: Applications and bundled libraries by yokem_55
Parent article: Applications and bundled libraries

I installed acroread the other day and I was, frankly, shocked at how good it is now. And I say this as one who strongly supports free software.

It still uses enormous amounts of memory (192M), but alternatives such as evince (147M) are not exactly efficient either. There's no embedded copy of GTK (I checked). It feels just as fast as evince, and in certain important objective respects (such as the proportion of screen space wasted by the chrome) it improves on evince by quite a large margin. In terms of stability, it's superior to the free alternatives -- I've never seen acroread crash, whereas I've seen plenty of crashes with the free pdf readers.

Finally, acroread uses system settings for font antialiasing, including subpixel antialiasing on LCD screens, which evince does not do (although my own copy of evince is patched to support this feature, because I really like it).

As I said above, I dislike the idea of proprietary software, but all things being equal, I'd much prefer acroread to be good than to be bad, and I have to admit it's getting good.

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Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 5:38 UTC (Thu) by roelofs (guest, #2599) [Link]

I've never seen acroread crash

Hoo boy, I sure have. Of course, I use an old version (37M) in preference to the JS-infested privacy disaster Adobe is currently shipping, so that probably has something to do with it. But after a few weeks or months of use, it frequently either locks up with/on an X grab or just blows itself out of the water altogether. It's not frequent enough to be a showstopper, but it is mildly annoying, and I use both Evince and xpdf as well (especially for forms).


Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 6:53 UTC (Thu) by djao (guest, #4263) [Link]

Yes, the old versions of acroread were terrible, and that's why I was surprised at the stability of the latest version.

The best software for PDF forms, without question, is flpsed. It allows arbitrary annotations, even on PDFs that don't include embedded forms. You can save your work at any time and edit it later (hardly worth advertising as a feature, except for the fact that Acrobat Reader doesn't allow it), and the resulting output files are small and correct. It's also free software (GPL) and quite robust and stable.

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 7:40 UTC (Thu) by evgeny (guest, #774) [Link]

> The best software for PDF forms, without question, is flpsed.

I suggest you take a look at xournal (<>). Although it was primarily intended for use with a tablet input, later versions also have support for entering typeset text from keyboard. I use it exclusively for PDF annotations.

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 8:10 UTC (Thu) by djao (guest, #4263) [Link]

I was not aware of xournal; thanks for the tip. I just checked it out. I find that flpsed is a better fit for my needs, for the following reasons:
  • In flpsed, you can move an existing annotation to another location on the page using the arrow keys on the keyboard, with a granularity sufficiently fine for aligning text within form boundaries, but coarser than individual pixels. Xournal requires using the mouse for moving annotations, and only aligns along pixel boundaries, which (besides being meaningless in the context of vector graphics) is too fine a granularity to achieve perfect alignment of columns or rows of text vertically or horizontally. (This is a common requirement in many situations, e.g. tax forms.)
  • Switching between typing text and moving annotations around requires a mode switch in xournal (you have to move the mouse over to the other tool and click on it), but not in flpsed (just type normally and use the arrow keys to move the block of text you just typed, no mousing required), making xournal less efficient than flpsed for the case of filling in large numbers of extremely short text entries, such as tax forms. Again, this use case is quite common, and (for me) is the most important one.
I may be wrong about xournal's capabilities, as I only tried it out for a few minutes, so please correct me if I am wrong about xournal. I'm happy to hear about it, since it is more useful than flpsed in some situations (mainly when one has to annotate a graphical page of some kind, rather than a data form).

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 8:33 UTC (Thu) by evgeny (guest, #774) [Link]

Your points are correct, but my typical use is different from yours. I really use it for _annotations_, e.g. while refereeing docs of others or proofreading. The alignment is not very important then, but highlighting and underlining really are. I also use my tablet sometimes with handwriting (that's the intended use of xournal, of course). When I do use xournal for filling in forms, I usually type the text for the whole page without worrying much about alignment and then switch to the other mode and arrange the positions of different chunks of text. I agree that using the arrow keys while entering the text would be a convenient feature.

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 9:06 UTC (Thu) by djao (guest, #4263) [Link]

Wow, it literally never occurred to me to use xournal for refereeing. That's something that I actually do, and I can see how xournal would be ideal for that task. Thanks!

I still believe, however, that flpsed is better for PDF forms, which invariably consist largely of data entry.

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 7:43 UTC (Thu) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

I use acrobat reader at work - as Okular can't be installed that easily on
windows if you don't have admin rights ;-)

But I find Okular far superior to adobe's product, mostly in the UI
department. Acrobat is just horrible, while Okular has 95% of the features
yet a clean and efficient interface. Just try using your mouse to scroll
through a page - when you hit the bottom of the page, things stop in
Acrobat. Okular just goes on, you won't even notice such features but they
matter once you have to go back to Acrobat.

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 8:15 UTC (Thu) by djao (guest, #4263) [Link]

When I use Acrobat Reader, scrolling past the end of a page brings the top of the next page within view, and it displays both the bottom of the previous page and the top of the next page in a continuous scroll, similar to evince and okular. It certainly does not just "stop", unless the page in question happens to be the last page in the document, in which case all the other PDF readers also stop. The scrolling behavior of Acrobat Reader is configurable: Edit -> Preferences -> Page Display -> Automatic (or Single Page Continuous).

Perhaps you're using an old or misconfigured version of Acrobat Reader?

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 9:46 UTC (Thu) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

I didn't mean using the scrollwheel but the dragging function. Click, drag - you'll have to let go at the bottom of the page, go up again and drag again. RSI, here I come!

In Okular you can just scroll on, no extra movements needed. It's a small touch, extremely intuitive and I only figured out I was using it when someone pointed it out ;-)

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 18:33 UTC (Thu) by djao (guest, #4263) [Link]

In my version of Acrobat Reader (9.3.1 Linux), I cannot reproduce the behavior you describe. No matter how I scroll the document (scroll wheel, dragging the scrollbar, dragging the main page with the hand tool), the program scrolls continuously past the end of a page to the beginning of the next, without stopping.

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 21:34 UTC (Thu) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

It's not about the page, it is about the mouse. If you grab the page with
the mouse (keep left mouse button pressed) you can drag it to the bottom
of the screen. But then the dragging stops, doesn't it, as you've reached
the bottom of the screen... But in Okular, you can continue to drag
because it 'wraps' the screen by moving the mouse to the top of the screen
and you just drag on.

It's tiny, hard to understand (clearly) if you haven't seen it, yet
completely intuitive and unobtrusive. Just a nice touch.

Similarly nice is finding stuff in Okular, btw. I find the search bar on
the left, which only shows the pages where the search results show up so
you get a quick overview of where the term you were looking for is, far
superior to Acrobat's approach. Acrobat lacks such a simple yet effective
search - you have to go through everything with F3.

Also the automatic scrolling (shift-arrow down) is very nice, I've used
Okular a lot to read from the screen, adjusting speed with the arrow keys
(shift-arrow, again). Press shift to stop scrolling, shift again to
continue. Space to move one page further, shift-space to go back. Sure,
Acrobat offers auto scrolling with the mouse, like word and most
webbrowsers, but it's far less nice imho.

Again, tiny differences, but as I don't use any of the advanced stuff but
just read and search for stuff (and annotate sometimes) Okular is perfect.

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 22:17 UTC (Thu) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

what I've seen is that when you try to drag outside the window, it gets interpreted as a scroll request and the window starts scrolling until you move the mouse back into the window area.

I don't know if this is implemented by the window manager or by the individual app.

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 18, 2010 22:22 UTC (Thu) by djao (guest, #4263) [Link]

I have okular installed here (Fedora 12) and I cannot reproduce the behavior you describe.

One problem is that, most of the time, when I'm scrolling through a PDF, I want to read the pages from the top down (i.e. scroll forward through the file). However, in order to scroll forward by dragging the main page with the left mouse button, the mouse cursor itself actually has to move up in order for the page content to move down. So my mouse cursor never hits the bottom of the screen like you describe, unless I'm scrolling backwards, which happens very rarely. When I scroll forward, the cursor hits the top of the screen, and when it hits the top, it certainly doesn't automatically wrap the cursor to the bottom.

Since I cannot reproduce this behavior, I have to make certain assumptions about what you mean. Assuming you meant that the mouse cursor wraps from top to bottom, I can see how it would be a worthwhile option, but I would never use it myself. Most of my pdf reading occurs on a laptop, with a touchpad, in which case dragging the page is worse than useless -- it requires holding down a button as well as moving a finger along the touchpad, whereas the scrollwheel is built in to the touchpad and only requires moving a finger along the touchpad, and thus involves strictly less work. The only time I use dragging is for fine (pixel-level) scrolling control that cannot be achieved with the scroll wheel, but in such cases wraparound is unnecessary.

In addition to the lack of utility, my own opinion is that the bottom of the screen should be an absolute boundary to movement, not an invitation to wrap the cursor around to the top of the screen, no matter how worthy the justification may be. Moreover, if the PDF is displayed in a window, rather than full screen, then automatic cursor wraparound would be even more jarring, as it would jump from the top of the window to the bottom of the window rather than the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen.

Applications and bundled libraries

Posted Mar 19, 2010 17:06 UTC (Fri) by jospoortvliet (subscriber, #33164) [Link]

Interesting. Yes, you understood what I meant, it's strange that you can't reproduce it. Maybe it does depend on the windowmanager used. Either way, I haven't used it in a while now - I did use it when reading lots of PDF's while doing research for a paper. I vividly recall how I disliked Acrobat, as it was far less nice to use for reading. I actually went home behind my own computer screen to read, rather than doing it at work (where I only had windows available).

But I guess everyone's habits are different, as are preferences ;-)

I just wanted to illustrate a very small yet nice feature Okular has which makes it (to me) nicer than Acrobat. It has more of those, of course ;-)

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